The threat to the jobs of up to 1400 workers who are employed by or rely on the fabrication company BiFab is a fight for every worker, every trade unionist and every working class community across the country. Socialist Party Scotland gives our 100% backing to this struggle.
If there is no satisfactory resolution in the next days – the full payment of wages due and a guarantee of continued employment without a loss of jobs and cuts in pay – BiFab must be brought into immediate public ownership. The trade unions directly involved, Unite and the GMB, will have the backing of the entire trade union movement in demanding that the government act now to save the jobs and skills that are so vital for the communities involved. Gary Smith, the Scottish secretary of the GMB, was correct to call on BBC Scotland this week for “public sector control” of the company to save the jobs if required.
The unions are also absolutely correct to be “staffing the gates so equipment and materials cannot be removed.” To defeat any attempts at asset-stripping the trade unions are right to organise round the clock effective trade union control of the yards. As Gary Cook, the GMB Scottish organiser, told us, “Nothing will come and go without the say so of the action committee.” And as Pat Rafferty of the Unite has also said: “Make no mistake if BiFab does go into administration the trades unions will not stand by and watch these yards being asset stripped.
The threat of BiFab entering into receivership, management claim, is due to money going unpaid to them by the main contractor, the Dutch company SHL. However, SHL are contracted by the Scottish power giant SSE who will run the Beatrice Windfarm Project the BiFab workers are employed in. With both SHL and SSE seeking to pass the buck to others, nothing less than the opening of the books of all parties involved in this project for inspection by the trade unions will do. The unions should demand full access to this information to get a real picture of what is happening.
BiFab workers have continued to work on the project this week even though wages are not currently being paid. While this tactic – “a work-in” – of course allows access to the yards, equipment and the completed work so far, if there is no swift resolution in the next couple of days consideration should be given to stopping work and occupying the yards. This would add significant pressure onto SSE, SHL and BiFab management and the government to resolve the situation in favour of the workforce.
As is the norm today in these big projects a labyrinth of contractors and sub contractors are used by big business to lower costs and increase profit. Contractors continually attempt to drive down costs, targeting wages, sick pay, holiday entitlements, safety etc. That’s why Socialist Party Scotland calls for the nationalisation of the major energy and construction firms to guarantee full rights and the rate for the job across the industry.
With renewables, oil decommissioning and waste to energy projects increasingly important for jobs, public ownership and democratic control by workers and the government is essential. We need an end to the blatant profiteering of the multi-nationals and a public owned sustainable energy sector.
On no account can the SNP-led Scottish Government fail to act. That means standing up to SSE, SHL and BiFab management and demanding answers and immediate payment to ensure full payment of wages. If this is not done, the government must act and carry though the public ownership of BiFab. Workers will also want to know how much public money – via Scottish Enterprise and others – has been given to BiFab and others involved in the project.
The communities of Fife and the Western Isles, the areas most directly affected, need and will demand action from elected politicians. The trade union movement must rally behind this campaign. The GMB and Unite and the workers involved are speaking for all facing cuts to jobs, wages, austerity and attacks on our services. This is a fight for the entire trade union movement in Scotland and beyond.
The march to the Scottish parliament on Thursday 16th November in Edinburgh should be supported by all trade unionists. Assemble 10am Johnston Terrace – march to the Scottish parliament for a rally at 11am. Trade unions and all those who support the fight for jobs should bombard MSPs and ministers with demands to act now.
- Pay up now!
- Defend every job. No cuts to pay and conditions at BiFab
- Open the books of BiFab, SHL and SSE for trade union inspection
- Scottish Government must act and bring the company into public ownership
- Workers control and occupation of the yards to stop asset-stripping
- Strike action and stoppage of work on the project if no agreement this week
- Active solidarity from all trade unions for the BiFab workers