By Tam Burke, IMT Edinburgh, Prospect, Personal Capacity
Compared with Catalonia, South Africa or the USA, political life in Scotland for most of last year hardly set the heather on fire. Then in November came the Battle for BiFab when the workers made headlines with their successful fight for the wages they were due. A dispute last November between their employer, Burntisland Fabrication (BiFab), and its customer, Seaway Heavy Lifting (SHL), over what payment was still due, threatened the closure of the three yards, Burtisland and Methyl in Fife and Arnish, Isle of Lewis. BiFab said they’d no money coming in to pay wages, so 1400 workers would be laid off. There was no likelihood of the yards reopening. “A hammer blow to BiFab workers and communities in Fife and the Isle of Lewis” declared Gary Smith, GMB Union organiser. SHL said it’d paid BiFab on time in line with the contract. BiFab sought a Notice of Administration, giving just ten short days to find a solution before the yards fell silent. Shocked politicians at every level and of all parties condemned, denounced, exclaimed, wailed, complained and proclaimed that somehow it must not happen, but without any mitigation of the catastrophe.