Offshore energy workers lay out their vision for the future in a just transition plan

Offshore wind farm
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Offshore oil and gas workers revealed their plan for a just transition to renewable energy in the North Sea on 6 March. As part of a coalition involving climate groups and trade unions, they released a report titled Our Power. It laid out the “workers’ visions for the future” in full.

Our Power

In an industry first, campaigners say the Our Power plan puts workers at the centre – and helm – of a transition away from offshore fossil fuel production.

The nonprofit Platform is one of the organisations involved in the initiative. Its 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. 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.

The plan includes 10 key demands. Broadly speaking, these demands cover support for workers to transition to employment in the renewables sector, strong protections for workers within the offshore renewables industry, and systemic changes to ensure that citizens – not corporations – benefit from the energy transformation.

As the Ecologist reported, workers’ accounts indicate why strong protections are necessary. They say that in the existing offshore wind sector, companies can pay less than £5 per hour to some employees. This is due to the Conservative government waving immigration salary threshold rules for the sector over the last five years.

Fossil fuel industry failing to invest

Platform and Friends of the Earth (FoE) Scotland coordinated two years of workshops and research with workers in the offshore oil and gas industry to devise the plan. Among other things, the strategy calls for:

publicly owned national and regional energy companies to build renewable energy generation projects at the pace and scale required to meet climate change targets.

The report argued that the fossil fuel industry is failing to invest in renewables at a meaningful scale in the UK, despite enjoying record-breaking profits. It highlighted that:

73% of oil and gas companies invest nothing in renewable energy production in the UK

The workers’ just transition plan calls for a rewrite of the relevant tax rules. This will increase the amount of tax revenue from existing offshore fossil fuel operations. It also demands that polluting companies bear the costs for oil rig decommissioning. Moreover, the plan presses for a permanent ‘Energy Excess Profits Tax’, in order to:

prevent excessive profiteering at the expense of the public by oil and gas and other energy corporations during crisis situations.

Essential for the climate; backed by the workers

The demands have the backing of over 1000 surveyed offshore oil and gas workers. Additionally, major unions and energy and climate organisations – such as the RMT (National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers), Unite Scotland, and Uplift – support the plan. Campaigners say that the demands are:

comprehensive in their scope, transformative in their scale, and deliverable now.

For the workers, the plan offers an opportunity to turn the energy system on its head and make it work for the public. As a rigging supervisor named Mark said in the report:

The government should be working for the British public, but they’re not. They’re working for the companies. All day, every day, everyone I know is asking how can this be the situation? How can the government let this happen?

Moreover, transitioning away from fossil fuels is urgent amid the worsening climate crisis. Head of campaigns at FoE Scotland Mary Church emphasised this, saying:

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.

Featured image via John / Wikimedia, cropped to 770×403, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

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