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Hebrides News


BiFab urged to keep Arnish on stand-by

15 February 2018

Engineering firm BiFab is being urged to place the closure-threatened Arnish engineering site on care and maintenance so it can speedily restart operations when the manufacturing market improves.


The island yard is set to be locked up and deserted before the end of March.


Production has completely ceased with the last 30 employees working out their redundancy notices.


BiFab’s order book is empty and its sole contract of 26 turbine foundations for the Beatrice offshore wind scheme is winding down.


Sites at Methil and Burntisland are due to shut in June.


Union leaders, BiFab workers, enterprise agency HIE and the comhairle discussed the issues at Arnish today.


The local authority is joining the union in urging BiFab to retain a skeleton crew to avoid a complete shutdown.


It is understood the lease requires the yard to be manned at all times even at a minimum level.


Council leader Roddie Mackay said: “BiFab has indicated it is ceasing operations here imminently.


Keeping on a small squad of local workers to look after the yard would “hopefully, when there is an upturn and when opportunities come along, the yard will be ready to go.”


GMB union official Alan Ritchie: “If a yard closes it is very, very hard to re-open.”


“We are pulling out all the stops to save every job in Arnish.”


He added: “This yard is important to the local and Scottish economy.











The remaining Lewis workers are despondent at the closure.


They pointed out Arnish consistently delivers excellent quality work on time and to specification and query why many renewable construction contracts in Scotland are going abroad to overseas manufacturers.


BiFab worker Alan Morrison said he is “very disappointed“ the firm is to close the yard “because of all the good quality workmanship” it will lose in addition to the revenue” the site pulls into the island economy.


“This is a crying shame for the island as a whole and the industry,” he added.


Arnish employee Donald Macleod is angry at the job losses while foreign firms are awarded Scottish engineering contracts.


Only three per cent of the Breatrice offshore wind farm was given to homegrown firms, he said.


“It is an absolute disgrace that the Scottish and British governments” allowed that to happen, he stressed.


Matt Bruce, chair of the local Western Isles Labour Party, highlighted: “Whilst it is a statutory 45-day notice across BiFab it is the end for the jobs at Arnish.”


He believes the crisis underlines the “lack of any long-term planning” in Scotland to promote renewable energy projects despite the islands’ huge wind resource.


BiFab says it is tendering for a number of projects in renewables and oil and gas sectors and hope to “secure further work across each of the BiFab sites and maintain continuity of employment in the business” beyond the present Beatrice contract.


The firm highlighted “securing those projects is now critical as work is coming to an end.”


Union meeting at Arnish yard today

GMB union official Alan Ritchie and council leader Roddie Mackay