First Minister ‘fully supports’ trade union campaign to pressure EDF to keep Bifab green jobs promise

Ben Wray

Emissions from transporting wind farm parts from Indonesia to Scotland equivalent of 35,000 new cars on the road, STUC say

  • ‘Fife Ready for Renewal’ campaign launched by GMB and Unite, and backed by STUC, seeks to pressure EDF Energy to give £2 billion offshore windfarm manufacturing contracts to Fife workers
  • 1000 jobs could be supported if the contract was given to Bifab, energy manufacturing company at Fife yards which was mothballed last year
  • STUC understands that EDF currently plans to give “very little” of the NnG windfarm contract to Fife, despite the project site being just 10 miles off the Fife coast, with contracts instead going potentially as far afield as Indonesia
  • Sturgeon said she “fully supports” the campaign, but could not interfere directly in the awarding of contracts

FIRST MINISTER Nicola Sturgeon has backed a new trade union campaign to pressure energy company EDF to keep manufacturing contracts for a new offshore wind farm in Fife, with strong rumours that the company will contract firms as far afield as Indonesia for the job instead.

The unions claim promises were made by the French energy giant that the £2 billion project would contract from the Bifab workers in the Methil and Burntisland yards. Bifab was mothballed last year and it’s feared the yards will close completely if contracts from the Neart naGoaithe (NnG) wind farm, located just ten miles off the coast from Fife, are not secured.

Asked by Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard about the Fife Ready for Renewal campaign, the First Minister responded that she “fully supports the trade unions in the campaign to bring contracts and jobs to these yards”, but added that it would not be appropriate to comment any further than that given the contracts are yet to be awarded. 

In a media release, the STUC stated that it “understood that little of the work fabricating jackets for wind turbines would come to Fife” and that it “feared that contracts would be gifted to countries as far afield as Indonesia”.

READ MORE: ‘Learn from Gilets Jaunes’: STUC urge Scottish Government to fix ‘broken promises’ on new green jobs

The STUC has found that the climate emissions impact of transporting turbines produced in south-east Asia to Scotland would be the equivalent of 35,000 new cars on the road. 

Leonard urged the First Minister to be tougher on EDF, stating: “We are in a climate emergency. So what will the First Minister do to send a clear message to EDF, that if it wishes to be part of Scotland’s renewables future it must stand by the promises made to the workers and the communities of Fife?”

Sturgeon responded that she would “send the message that we want Scotland treated fairly”, but that it “would not be good for anyone” if she were to interfere directly in the awarding of contracts.

The Scottish Government took a stake in Bifab following its mothballing last year, and Sturgeon defend the Scottish Government’s record in relation to the company, stating that: “Bifab would no longer exist right now without the action the Scottish Government took.”

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The Fife Ready for Renewal campaign is a joint effort by GMB and Unite, and supported by the STUC. The General Secretary of STUC, Grahame Smith, said on Tuesday: “Sadly, it seems EDF are all talk. 

“EDF doesn’t seem to know or care about the proud industrial history of Fife, forged by energy, from the coal mines to North Sea oil and Fife is primed to help deliver the next generation of energy in the form of renewables manufacturing through its yards in Burntisland and Methil. 

“So why is EDF sub-contracting the manufacture of the NnG turbine jackets to a yard half way around the world in Indonesia?

“That’s a slap in the face for Fife and for Scotland.” 

He added: “Permission for NnG has already been granted and it now requires EDF to act in good faith.

READ MORE: Governments flouting EU state aid rules threaten BiFab jobs, MSPs told

“The Scottish Government has a part stake in BiFab and appears ready to support investment in the yard providing it is able to do so within state aid rules.  This means that a reliable and medium long term guarantee of work is required to allow the investment to take place.”

Pat Rafferty, Scottish Secretary of Unite said: “The yards here are ready and waiting to get started on work that could create jobs for over 1,000 people, unlocking much needed investment and growth for our future. 

“If the bulk of the wind turbine jackets are built in yards just ten miles from the wind farm, it would mean less shipping and significantly less carbon emissions over the lifespan of the NnG project. That’s more good news for our environment and the future of the planet.”

Gary Smith Scottish Secretary of GMB said: “Fife is ‘ready for renewal’ and NnG is the opportunity we need. We have the yards, we have the skills and we have the communities ready to play their part in tackling the climate emergency. 

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“EDF must think again and do what’s right for Fife, for Scotland and for the environment.”

Mary Church, Head of Campaigns at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “We urgently need to build the clean energy economy in Scotland to do our fair share of tackling the climate emergency. But the new clean economy must be created in a way that ensures the benefits and costs are shared fairly, both internationally and here in Scotland.

“Building turbine jackets in Indonesia for our renewable energy infrastructure means offshoring the climate-change emissions associated with manufacture, and creating significant extra emissions by shipping the turbines half way around the world.

“Crucially, it also means losing the opportunity to create decent manufacturing work in Fife, that could help kick start the badly need Just Transition for workers and communities currently dependent on high carbon industries here in Scotland.

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“EDF should think again about the real costs of sub-contracting this work far away from the shores on which the turbines will eventually stand.”

Audrey Egan, chair of the Methil Community Council said:

“It’s not just the workforce who are affected, local businesses felt the squeeze when there’s no work at the yards too. Hotels, B&Bs and shops all made a lot of revenue from the workforce and were looking forward to this new contract.

“I’d ask the EDF boss why wouldn’t Methil and Burntisland get the contract – the labour and skill set is here and waiting.”

CommonSpace reported on an STUC paper published last month found that fewer than a third of jobs promised by successive Scottish Government’s in its renewable energy sector jobs targets have been delivered.

Picture courtesy of First Minister of Scotland

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