Scottish Daily Express: The Scottish Government has been urged to set out the future of the Port Glasgow shipyard as the workforce is now at 2019 levels amid a failure to win new work after CalMac vessels are finished
By Democrat reporter
Scotland’s SNP government has been urged to come clean over its plans for the beleaguered Ferguson Marine shipyard after it was revealed that the number of workers there has plummeted in almost two years. This workforce purge comes despite the struggle to complete two long-delayed and over-budget ferries there.
Since being nationalised after plunging into administration in 2019, the Port Glasgow shipyard has had difficulties picking up extra work outside of constructing the Glen Sannox and Hull 802 – now named Glen Rosa. Work on these vessels has been slow, with numerous issues delaying the completion dates from 2019 to late 2024.
But the Scottish Daily Express can reveal that despite the delays, the workforce at Ferguson Marine has been significantly cut down over the last year and a half, and is now at a similar level to when it was saved by the Scottish Government. While this means it is cheaper on the public purse, it could cause issues with building the two high-specification ferries.
At the time of nationalisation, there were only 150 permanent employees at the shipyard, with 172 temporary staff and 10 agency/contract workers putting this total up to 332. Then, in November 2020, the workforce grew to 424, with an increase of 173 permanent employees, 45 temps and 56 agency workers.
These figures stayed steady the year after, increasing slightly to 449, with 365 people on permanent contracts. But this then plunged to 415 last year, and now nine months on there are 354 contracted individuals at Ferguson Marine. This includes 316 permanent, 35 temporary and three agency/contract staff.
The SNP executive previously revealed plans to eventually sell on the Port Glasgow shipyard to a private buyer but have yet to officially put it up sale. However, there remains pressing financial issues in the business, with officials warning earlier this year that it could be doomed unless it wins more work.
Other than the two CalMac ferries, Ferguson Marine is understood only to have an external contract with BAE Systems and concerns have been raised about whether the yard can “competitively compete for and win new work.” The Scottish Government has already ploughed millions into the business to keep it open.
Scottish Tory shadow transport minister Graham Simpson claims that the SNP must urgently set out future plans for Ferguson Marine as doubts remain over the jobs of the 300 plus workforce. He told the Scottish Daily Express: “The onus is on the SNP Government to finally set out their future plans for the yard to secure a long-term future for Ferguson Marine workers.
“Their failure to do so has left a continued threat of job losses hanging over many of them which can be seen in the reduction of the workforce. Ministers dithering and lack of future planning means the yard is still not in a position where it would win any new orders, and the effects are felt by the workforce.”
The shipyard failed to even bid for the last CalMac contract to build two new ships to work on the Islay to Jura route with this won by Turkish outfit Cemre, who are now constructing four taxpayer-funded ferries which are set to launch next year.
David Tydeman, Chief Executive of Ferguson Marine (Port Glasgow) ,said: “As with any shipyard, the resource required to deliver on contracts fluctuates constantly. As the build of both vessels progresses, the type and number of skilled workers we need has changed.
“We are currently considering a number of strategies to enhance the future commercial prospects of Ferguson Marine and to ensure the shipyard has the right mix of skills and capabilities among the whole workforce.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government values the skilled workforce of Ferguson Marine as part of Scotland’s shipbuilding industry and supports their efforts to ensure the successful delivery of these two lifeline ferries for our island communities.
“Shipbuilding is globally competitive and recruitment remains a challenge for all shipyards. The Scottish Government is continuing to offer support to ensure the shipyard has the right mix of skills to deliver future work in line with our objectives.
“The Scottish Government’s priorities have always been the completion of the two ferries, securing a sustainable future for the yard and its workers, and supporting our island communities that rely on this type of vessel on a daily basis.”