‘Just Transition’ no more?

As furious statements from the trade unions go, the latest from the STUC on the demise of Bifab is right up there.  “The Scottish Government trumpets its support for ‘Fair Work’ and ‘workers voice’ at every opportunity, but when it comes to key issues such as the future of hundreds of workers at BiFab they […]

As furious statements from the trade unions go, the latest from the STUC on the demise of Bifab is right up there. 

“The Scottish Government trumpets its support for ‘Fair Work’ and ‘workers voice’ at every opportunity, but when it comes to key issues such as the future of hundreds of workers at BiFab they shut up shop and conspire with the Tories to keep Scottish workers out of the picture,” Dave Moxham, STUC deputy general secretary, said.

Bear in mind that the STUC is part of a joint ‘Fair Work Convention’ with the Scottish Government, as well as the ‘Just Transition Commission’. What does that say for the value the rest of us should place on these conventions and commissions? 

What has stoked the STUC’s fury is a joint statement between the UK and Scottish governments on the future of Bifab, which the unions say broke a promise from the Scottish Government to consult them on developments with the green fabrication manufacturer.

The joint statement essentially confirms that it’s all over for Bifab. Source Direct explained the details around this last month. Both governments blame majority owner of the company DF Barnes as well as EU state aid rules for the company’s demise, saying there is “no legal route” for either government to offer financial support for the company so that it can deliver on it’s contract to nearby NnG offshore wind farm for steel jackets. As a reminder: if the whole NnG windfarm contract for jackets had gone to Bifab (they were offered just eight, with the vast majority sub-contracted to an Indonesian firm), it would have supported over 1000 jobs at the Fife yards. As some sort of acknowledgement that they have a problem when it comes to failure to deliver on green jobs, the two governments announced a new “Joint Working Group to explore how existing policy measures can be used to strengthen the renewables and clean energy supply chain in Scotland”.

“Another door has been slammed on the face of Bifab’s workers,” Moxham added.  “The Scotland/UK joint government working group to be formed to consider ways to strengthen the renewables supply chain in Scotland is the thinnest of gruel.  The abject failure of both governments to do anything to support Scottish workers – despite the ‘Saudi Arabia of renewables’ boast of each – is on show for all to see.” 

Unite and GMB leaders Pat Rafferty and Gary Smith also issued a statement calling for the Scottish Government to publish the legal advice it was given on financial support to Bifab. 

Meanwhile, a new survey of North Sea oil & gas firms has found one in five expect to cut jobs next year, with around 50 per cent already cutting their workforce this year following the downturn in oil prices when the pandemic hit. What likelihood that these workers will be given a viable pathway to transition to renewables jobs in Scotland, given what we’ve seen with Bifab? 

Another survey carried out in September found that more than half of UK oil & gas workers would consider switching to renewables, but that only 9 per cent had ever heard of the phrase ‘Just Transition’. Asked what would help make that transition happen, one worker responded: “It should be a condition of getting a licence to build a wind farm in Scotland that the fabrication is awarded to a Scottish based yard.” That makes far too much sense to ever become government policy. 

———————

Source Direct is a free morning newsletter providing you with all the latest Scottish news in your inbox each morning, including:

  • Analysis of the key stories
  • A summary of what’s in the Scottish papers
  • The latest on Source
  • Interesting opinion pieces from around Scottish media

To sign-up for Source Direct, click here.