Faced with the imminent threat of closure, workers employed by BiFab (Burntisland Fabrications) in the company’s yards in Fife and Arnish (Isle of Lewis) staged a work-in and mobilised a 1,000 strong demonstration outside the Scottish Parliament.
News that the company was about to call in the administrators, putting over 1,400 jobs at risk, broke on 12 November. The company faced cash flow problems on a contract for the Beatrice offshore wind farm in the Moray Firth.
The following day workers in the company’s two yards in Fife began a work-in. They continued working on the contract, even though there was no guarantee that they would be paid, and also ensured that nothing entered or left the yards without their permission.
On 16 November members of the GMB and Unite (the two unions with members in BiFab) marched on Holyrood in support of their demand for government intervention to safeguard their futures. Backed up by other trade unionists, the total turnout was around 1,000.
Within 48 hours the companies involved in the contract had reached agreement to ease BiFab’s cash flow problems. The Scottish Government subsequently guaranteed a loan of up to £15 millions to Bi-Fab, if needed.
The message from the dispute, short as it was, is: direct action works.