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by Jenni Davidson
23 April 2019
Unions put concerns to MSPs over foreign companies' ‘unfair commercial advantage’ over BiFab

Unions put concerns to MSPs over foreign companies' ‘unfair commercial advantage’ over BiFab

Fabrication at BiFab - Image credit: Scottish Government

MSPs are to concerns from trade unions that Scottish manufacturers such as BiFab are missing out on vital contracts in Scotland’s expanding renewables sector due to companies abroad having an “unfair commercial advantage”.

Members of the Scottish Parliament’s Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee will hear evidence from trade unions GMB Scotland and Unite at a one-off roundtable discussion on Tuesday, which will also involve BiFab owner DF Barnes and enterprise agencies Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

GMB Scotland and Unite have written a joint letter to the First Minister raising concerns about the future of BiFab, which they also sent to the economy committee.

BiFab, a company based in Burntisland, Methil and Lewis that manufactures platforms for the offshore wind industry, was saved from collapse last year.

However, it has recently missed out on vital contracts and the unions have warned that billions of pounds worth of contracts and thousands of jobs are on the brink of being lost due to state-sponsored companies in other countries or ones in countries with lower labour standards having an “unfair commercial advantage”.

The letter to committee convener Gordon Lindhurst, they referred to the “extremely disappointing news” that offshore wind work had been awarded to fabricators outwith Scotland and asked the committee to investigate Scotland’s situation in relation to winning work for the offshore renewables industry.

The letter from the two unions says: “We are deeply concerned that the we are about to see a repeat of the failure to build an industrial supply-chain for offshore wind, just as was the case for onshore wind and we believe that there is significant public interest in both exposing this and examining what could be done to turn the situation around.

“As we set out in our letter to the First Minister, the Moray East and Kincardine offshore wind farm projects have a total value of around £2.8 billion.

“BiFab’s Canadian owners DF Barnes have actively pursued contracts from both.

“Despite these efforts to win contacts, the fabrication work for five platforms supporting the Kincardine project has been awarded by procurement firm Cobra Wind International to the Spanish state shipbuilders Navantia.

“We are therefore specifically asking that the committee consider the potential commercial advantage Navantia have through Spanish State support including the mitigation of company debts, in contrast with BiFab.

“We are highlighting, also that the awarding of the Kincardine project works has occurred in spite of an apparent commitment, which we believe was made at the time of consent, for construction, and significant fabrication, of substructures in Scotland.”

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