Oil and gas workers have joined unions and climate groups to form an ‘unlikely alliance’ as they aim to protect local jobs, communities and the environment. Their demands reflect an increasing discontent with record privatised industry profits.
Over one thousand offshore oil and gas workers in Aberdeen are calling on the Scottish Government to deliver a just transition away from fossil fuels. Oil and gas workers have joined unions and climate groups to form an ‘unlikely alliance’ as they aim to protect local jobs, communities and the environment.
Their demands reflect an increasing discontent with record privatised oil and gas profits that contrast with reported poor working conditions and little investment in workers or clean energy.
These concerns are highlighted in a new report titled “Our Power: Offshore Workers’ Demands for a Just Energy Transition” which details the frustrations and fears of many of the country’s workers in the oil and gas industry.
Among the demands being sought by workers are further Investment in renewables manufacturing hubs in the UK, an offshore training passport to help workers to retrain in the renewables sector, companies responsible for pollution to pay for the decommissioning of oil rigs, permanent Energy Excess Profits Tax, a sovereign wealth fund, and ultimately, public ownership of energy companies.
One worker Oliver*, 42, a Mud Engineer offshore for 12 years said: “The whole city is dependent on oil because there’s so many people attached to the industry. It’s noticeable in Aberdeen when there’s an oil price crash, everything’s a lot quieter, everyone is worried about their jobs, there’s not as much money about. I don’t think anyone really likes it, a lot of people who work in industry have been fed up with it for years.”
Stuart, 55, offshore for 35 years in the marine department added: “I was made redundant in June 2020. I know a lot of people who have suffered since 2014 and the last two downturns. They [the bosses] aren’t bothered about what happens to the workforce, as long as they are making money through boom and bust, they don’t care about workers thrown on the dole every 5 or 6 years. When we go into new carbon free industries, we have to get away from this cycle.”
Campaigners are calling for the Scottish Government to ‘pick up these demands and run with them’ as it develops its own Just Transition Plan for the energy sector.
The workers are backed by climate groups Platform, Uplift and Friends of the Earth Scotland, as well as unions including RMT, GMB, and Unite, who are currently balloting workers for potential industrial action in the coming weeks.
Friends of the Earth Scotland head of campaigns Mary Church, said:”Our current energy system is destroying our climate, is unaffordable to millions and is failing the people who work in it. Climate science is crystal clear that we have to rapidly phase out fossil fuels if we want a liveable future.
“Failure from politicians to properly plan and support the transition to renewables is leaving workers totally adrift on the whims of oil and gas companies, and the planet to burn. The Scottish Government must pick up these demands and run with them as part of their just transition plan for the energy sector.”
The RMT’s Regional Organiser Jake Molloy said:“The workforce must be fully engaged, involved, and empowered in the process if we are to achieve a real just transition. Politicians must wake up to the fact that we need a new model. The current lack of a real transition plan from politicians and industry is failing the existing workforce, fuelling discontent and disillusionment which is evident with the growing number of disputes and industrial action.
“These demands are the start of an energy plan that will deliver affordable and secure energy, through secure employment across the energy sector. We need an industry that protects domiciled and migrant workers, who must be paid as UK workers and not exploited for greater profit. We need a manufacturing base to support new developments and decommissioning. The voice of the workforce must be heard!”
Platform just transition campaigner Gabrielle Jeliazkov said: “The future of the UK’s energy system should be in the hands of workers and communities. Industry profiteering and government inaction has left us with soaring bills, declining working conditions and no plan for an energy transition.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are already taking action to support a just transition for our energy sector – backed by our £500m Just Transition Fund, which is helping deliver key asks from industry, such as a skills passport.
“This work will be ramped up through the actions set out in our draft Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan, setting us on a pathway to achieve a net jobs gain and deliver tremendous economic benefits for the sector and wider supply chain.
“However, this report, just like our draft Plan, also highlights the policy levers which still remain reserved – including support for carbon capture technology in Scotland, and mechanisms to allow communities to benefit directly from local renewable developments – and the UK Government must take in order to ensure we secure a truly just transition for our energy workforce.”