Decisions made under Jim McColl’s ownership of Ferguson Marine ‘destroyed our shipyard’, say workers

Jim McColl's ownership of Ferguson Marine has been criticised by workers.

The Glen Sannox is still sitting in the shipyard at Port Glasgow on the Clyde.

By Conor Matchett in The Scotsman

Ferguson Marine shipyard was “destroyed” by Jim McColl’s leadership with the decision to bid for two ferries directly leading to its demise, workers at the yard have said.
Workers accused senior staff of prioritising work at the yard in order to receive financial bonuses, adding that events since the contract award leading to the spirit of the yard being “broken”.
They added that choices made under Mr McColl’s leadership making it “impossible” to meet the original timescales for the construction of the two vessels.

Millionaire Jim McColl and SNP Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth.

Staff also explained that the absence of an in-house design team at Ferguson’s meant it would be unable to build the two new ferries announced by transport minister, Jenny Gilruth, in what will be a political embarrassment for the government.

The comments, made at a meeting with MSPs from Holyrood’s Public Audit Committee at the shipyard on October 31, come after Nicola Sturgeon told the same committee she did not believe the yard’s former owners had yet to take their share of the blame around the fiasco.

Ferguson Marine was saved from closure by Mr McColl, who once ran a kitchen factory in Dumbarton’s Broadmeadow industrial estate, during the independence referendum campaign in 2014 after the former first minister, Alex Salmond, contacted him about a possible takeover.

The yard won the contract to build two new vessels for the Clyde and Hebrides network a year later, but fell into administration in 2019 resulting in its nationalisation.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her predecessor Alex Salmond.

The two ferries, hulls 801 and 802, are now more than £200m over budget and at least six years late and has dogged the Scottish Government. Ministers have faced accusations the contract was “rigged” in favour of Fergusons and of political interference in the procurement process.

However, workers at the yard said the decision made by managers under Mr McColl’s leadership to bid for the yard directly “destroyed our shipyard”. They claimed it was “impossible” for the yard to have built the two ferries concurrently, as the yard was never “able to accommodate” both ships.

Staff added the reconfiguration of the shipyard under McColl’s ownership led to lorries taking eight hours to unload, rather than the 20 minutes prior to the re-modelling, with the “knock everything down” approach having a “negative impact” on the operation of the yard.

They also criticised the approach of managers who did not listen to worker concerns, with the former director of FMEL’s ambition for the yard “was not informed by the people who had the experience”.

This included the purchase of a £380,000 machine which was “not fit-for-purpose” and had no service contract, resulting in production levels dropping when it had to be repaired.

Workers also accused management of finishing work on the vessels in order to receive financial and personal bonuses.
Staff said senior employees were “motivated by bonus payments”, with work at the yard “prioritised to secure these payments”.
This, the workers said, included a funnel constructed without any pipes which allowed “some managers to receive a bonus” despite the work having to be redone.

Staff also said they could “see the money getting wasted”, with one item of scrap worth £5,000 belonging to CMAL made use of after it had been identified for the scrapheap.

Workers were also told not to speak to CMAL inspectors during the construction of the ferries and faced agency staff taking over duties from existing workers, leaving them needing to “invent a job for ourselves”.

The appointment of the ‘Turnaround Director’, Tim Hair, by the Scottish Government was also criticised with workers stating they regretted not submitting a no confidence vote sooner.

The leadership of the current chief executive, David Tydeman, was praised, however. He was described as having “parked his ego at the gate” and being someone who “talks sense”.

They added hull 801 remains a “constant source of embarrassment” and led to staff refusing to tell people they work at the shipyard.

Jim McColl was contacted by The Scotsman for comment.

Leave a Reply