DRINKS giant Diageo has been forced to suspend work on two multi-million pound plant in Fife on Monday after the main contractors went into administration.
The future of the £86 million project in Leven and a £65 million bio-energy plant at the Cameronbridge Distillery has been left hanging in the balance along with many others across the UK after it emerged that the building services firm Rok was in financial difficulty.
Should the administrators, Price Waterhouse Cooper (PwC) fail to find a buyer, 3800 jobs will be at risk nationwide, though it is unknown how many in Fife are in danger.
It is understood that up to 150 tradesmen are involved with the work on the new bottling plant and are all waiting to hear any developments concerning their future employment after Monday’s announcement.
On completion, the plant at Banbeath is set to create 400 new jobs in Fife and is part of greater plans to close the Jonnie Walker plant in Kilmarnock.
The construction work at Banbeath includes building a 16,500 square metre bottling hall as well as associated buildings and infrastructure for roads, drainage and utilities.
It was hoped that the Banbeath plant would be finished next summer but now the proposed completion dates are left in doubt for both Banbeath and the Cameronbridge Distillery.
A Diageo spokesperson confirmed that building work had ceased at both sites where Rok is the civil construction contractor but could not confirm how many jobs would be affected.
He said: “As a result of Rok going into administration, work has been suspended at the sites.”
“We are currently engaged in urgent talks about the next steps and looking at how we can recommence work as soon as possible.”
In response to the announcement, local, MP Lindsay Roy said it was “devastating” for Diageo, the construction industry and local firms.
He said: “Sub-contractors could be badly hit by this, and I hope that the situation can be resolved as quickly as possible to ensure that the work at Cameronbridge and Banbeath can proceed, because it has implications for jobs.
“I will be seeking a meeting with the administrators to try and see how they can move this forward and save jobs.”
Central Fife MSP Tricia Marwick did not see this recent development as a threat to the future of the Diageo’s plans. She said: “It is really sad that any company has gone into administration, but I believe the Diageo expansion will go forward despite this setback.”
The announcement comes months after Rok showed significant half-year losses and an independent review by accountants BDO revealed serious failings at the firm’s eating, plumbing and electrical business.
Mike Jervis, joint administrator and partner at PwC, said: “Employees will naturally be concerned about their position, but they attend work and perform their duties as normal.
Talks about the future of the Banbeath and Cameronbridge projects are due to continue this week.
REPORT: Clare Carswell