Workers and climate groups call for UK energy transition to be fair to all

A Coalition of offshore oil and gas workers, climate groups and trade unions In Scotland have backed a new plan that calls for a just transition away from fossil fuels to protect jobs, communities and climate.

The plan, “Our Power: offshore workers’ demands for a just energy transition” has been described by its authors as an industry first, putting workers front and centre in a plan for decarbonisation and public ownership.

It combines demands, costed proposals and case studies that show how offshore oil and gas workers can lead a just energy transition, and why they must.

The demands follow two years of workshops and research with people who work in the offshore oil and gas industry, coordinated by Friends of the Earth Scotland and Platform. The demands created by workers are published as the Scottish Government is consulting on their first Just Transition Plan for the energy sector. Campaigners are urging Scottish Ministers to ‘pick up these demands and run with them’ to help protect workers and communities currently dependent on the  oil and gas industry.

Unsurprisingly the workers surveyed demand fair pay and protections across the sector, arguing that you cannot model offshore wind in the broken image of the oil industry.

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 plan said a worker-led just transition would reinvest money in communities through a sovereign wealth fund and share the benefits of the energy system fairly. The UK is losing out on revenue that could support households and public services, while private, polluting companies profit.

“The UK Government remains legally committed to drilling every last drop of oil from UK waters but the Scottish Government has said they will end their support for this policy as part of their new Energy Strategy,” It added.  “The Scottish Government is also consulting on whether there should be a presumption against exploring for new oil and gas and limits on existing fields.  A quicker phase out of oil and gas increases the importance of a plan to manage workers through the transition.”

The authors said despite commitments by the Scottish Government to co-design their Just Transition Plan, direct involvement of oil and gas workers has been limited to an online survey. The chair of the Just Transition Commission wrote to the Minister for Just Transition, Employment and Fair Work about his “deep concern” after the Government failed to consult with them on the Plan. The Plan includes a number of Just Transition outcomes but no route map to delivering them.

Campaigners say that the demands show that the Scottish Government needs to create clear pathways out of high carbon jobs for workers, and ensure that there are plenty of local green jobs resulting from domestic renewables manufacturing.  Scottish Ministers should be urging their Westminster counterparts for enhanced rights for workers, a wage floor and better protection for whistleblowers and to ensure the benefits of energy generation are more evenly shared through excess profits tax and a sovereign wealth fund.

Platform just transition campaigner Gabrielle Jeliazkov added: “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.
“In the midst of the climate and cost of living crises, offshore oil and gas workers have developed a way forward.  Politicians must deliver on these demands. We cannot trust obstructive industry bosses to develop solutions that protect workers, communities and the climate.”