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Birkenhead RMT members stage 48 hour strike at Ørsted wind farm base

By Helen Wilkie - Birkenhead News, September 26, 2022

On Saturday (24 September) workers at the Ørsted site in Kings Wharf, Birkenhead, completed the first of two 48-hour strikes over a 3.5% pay offer from the Danish company, which in April this year reported profits of £664 million.

The riverfront site employs 19 highly skilled technicians, all of whom completed their apprenticeships locally or with the armed forces. Two crew boats, Braver and Boarder sail from Seacombe to the Burbo Bank wind farms every day to ensure the turbines are maintained and remain operational.

In addition to the pay dispute, the 96 nationwide RMT members are unhappy that management walked away from talks to sign a collective bargaining agreement at the last minute, and instead entered into an agreement with a different union with no workplace presence.

In a separate trade dispute with Ørsted Energy, RMT members have also voted overwhelmingly for industrial action over the victimisation of a fellow worker at the Barrow in Furness site.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said, “The obscene profits being made at Orsted show that this dispute could be settled if the company sat down with the union and negotiated in good faith. 

“Instead, they are trying to shut out the RMT and our members will not stand for it.

“Orsted workers take pride in the vital work they do but they will not be made poorer by a company that could give them a cost of living pay rise tomorrow.”

A second round of strike action will commence on Friday 30 September.

Ørsted have been approached for comment.

Liz Truss’s Overturn of Fracking Ban in Britain Is Sparking Grassroots Resistance

By Gareth Dale - Truthout, September 21, 2022

Britain will soon see the first license to drill for shale gas issued since 2019, when the practice was banned following a Magnitude 2.9 tremor at a fracking test well near Blackpool in Lancashire.

Overturning Britain’s ban on fracking was one of the first initiatives announced this month by the incoming government under Tory leader Liz Truss. It belongs to a package of demand-and-supply interventions aimed at addressing the high price of gas.

The message from Downing Street is clear: This government will not seek to lessen the hold of fossil fuel corporations over citizens’ lives by transitioning from hydrocarbons through efficiency measures (such as building insulation), rapidly ramping up renewables, and a further windfall tax on the oil and gas industry. Instead, it will arrange payment of the full-market price for gas to the energy firms while subsidizing consumer and business bills, particularly for rich, energy-profligate households. The cost, estimated at £150 billion, will be loaded onto future taxpayers and energy consumers. It is the largest single act of U.K. state intervention outside wartime.

Given Truss’s market-fundamentalist instincts, this cannot have been easy. But she has coupled it with a laissez-faire thrust on the supply side: to tear up red tape and issue licenses to drill. The market, she believes, will resolve its problems as new supply brings prices back down.

The focus is North Sea oil, but fracking is part of the program. Fracking also offers the incoming government an opportunity to throw red meat to Tory Party members and the right-wing Daily Mail tabloid. To reactionaries, Truss’s move signals that her government intends to bash the tree-huggers, goad them into setting up camps at fracking sites where the security forces will persecute and ultimately defeat them, much as Lady Thatcher did to the feminists who peace-camped at Greenham Common.

The government’s rationale for fracking, then, has an economic and a political edge. Will either succeed?

On the economic side, the prospects are sufficiently enticing to have sent the shares of some fracking companies soaring, notably Union Jack Oil. (Its very name sets Tory hearts aflutter.) Some pundits are predicting a great British gas rush. Shale extraction, claims the Daily Mail, may begin slowly, but by 2037 could “eclipse” fossil gas output from North Sea wells. At the wilder end are predictions that Britain will enjoy a U.S.-style shale revolution, contributing to lower global prices and securing mega profits for the fossil fuel sector.

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For a Transnational Fall of Struggle: Strike the Climate Crisis!

By TSS PLATFORM - Transnational Strike, September 5, 2022

Six months have passed since Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. However, the war’s social effects haven’t stopped at the Ukrainian border and are now affecting millions of people throughout Europe and beyond. In recent days, the price of gas skyrocketed to new record heights, granting huge profits to the fossil fuel majors, and condemning millions to a reality of growing poverty, inflation, and unemployment. Governments’ attempts to secure energy supplies for the winter (such as the European Save Gas for a Safe Winter plan) ensure those market sectors that cannot work without gas, while dumping these choices’ costs on people’s consumption and individual responsibility and sacrifices. This is part of the Third world war scenario we all live in and struggle against. In fact, as energy and ‘green’ policies are now deeply embedded into the war, the struggles against their material effects of impoverishment are part of our transnational politics of peace. In the last few days, the #DontPayUK campaign has been confronting both governments and the big companies that want to discharge the price of their profits and power on people’s shoulders. Committing to strike on energy bills, thousands of people are already refusing the deadly choice between “eating” or “heating,” between racking up debts or facing fuel poverty and freezing winter. We are confronted with the necessity to articulate our transnational politics of peace inside this growing international competition by fighting in the conflict between those who pay the price of the war and those who profit from it.

The third world war and specifically the energy crisis have led to a return to fossil fuels, postponing the conversion from coal to alternative energy sources. However, even before the war, we saw the European green transition neither as a way to solve the climate crisis, nor to deliver a better environment, but as an attempt to open new opportunities for capital accumulation through the exploitation, reproduction, and widening of differences and hierarchies within the European space and beyond. Now the war unmasks the European transition policies’ actual scope. Promoting new Partnership Agreements with its member states, the European Commission is fostering its “just” – digital and green – transition to face the upcoming freezing winter struggling to coordinate industrial and energy policies for years to come at the European level. This is not the climate justice that was powerfully reclaimed by the global environmental movement in the last years. As States are engaged in a run to grab as many resources as possible, gas, nuclear, and coal sectors will keep exploiting the work of thousands of people in some places, while in other countries the closure of coal-powered plants in the name of the green transition results in the loss of many jobs. In Bulgaria, such a national decision recently found the response of hundreds of workers striking not to be caught in the middle between the government’s green policies and the bosses’ profits. Their struggle is a practical contestation of the green transition in wartimes, which is part of our attempt to turn the green transition into a transnational terrain of struggle.

As workers, activists, migrants, women, and men, we refuse to suffer either the consequences of climate change, the consequences of Putin’s war, or the unsustainable costs of the capitalist green transition. Strikes and movements such as those in Bulgaria and the UK are making clear the need to foster transnational political connections that aim to overcome the artificially fabricated distinction between workers’ and climate activists’ interests. On September 23 a new climate strike is announced, which aims to reactivate the global movement for climate justice by radically opposing the logics of profit and exploitation, and the overall relations of domination, which affects our ecological, social and political environment. The meeting in Sofia organized by the TSS Platform and LevFem on 8th-11th September will be the occasion to tackle and develop these issues. Transforming the green transition into a terrain of struggle is an essential part of our effort to escape the blackmail of the climate, social, and war catastrophe that reproduces violence, exploitation, and environmental degradation. The climate, energy, and social crises won’t wait until winter comes: they are already hitting, and we need to turn this fall into a season of collective struggles.

XR UK position on Strike Action

By staff - Extinction Rebellion UK, August 25, 2022

The cost of living crisis is escalating week on week, the movement to refuse to pay energy bills is gaining momentum and workers from an increasing range of industries are voting to take strike action for livable wages and secure jobs. Railway and tube staff, bus drivers, communications workers, warehouse workers and postal workers are among those striking or staging protests in recent weeks. 

At the same time the UK just recorded it’s hottest ever temperature and Extinction Rebellion is seeing a spike in interest from people who have decided now is the time to step-up and take action – over 1000 people registered for our last Open Call and the ‘Welcome to XR’ sessions have seen a significant increase in attendees. 

In this context we need to speak clearly about the common interests of striking workers and the environmental movement.

Support for rail strikes from Just Transition Partnership

By staff - Just Transition Partnership, August 18, 2022

The Just Transition Partnership sends solidarity to RMT, TSSA and ASLEF members taking industrial action to protect their pay, jobs and working conditions, and in the wider fight for a sustainable public transport system run for people and the planet, not private greed. Billions are being cut from our transport system at a time when increasing investment is vital to ensure a fully public, affordable, integrated and sustainable transport system.

Our railways are already being impacted by the effects of climate change, putting additional demands on a stretched workforce providing an essential public service. We need a well-paid transport workforce with secure conditions and it is indefensible to expect transport and other workers to take an effective pay cut as inflation and the costs of energy rise, especially while the profits of oil companies soar.

The UK government is failing on the climate crisis and the cost of living crisis. It has no integrated transport plans, favouring private companies which make vast profits rather than making transport affordable and our air breathable; in Scotland as well as the rest of the UK train and bus services are being cut. These actions are symptomatic of disregard for the concerns of climate, environment and workers.

The solutions to these crises have the same foundations – public investment into decarbonised and high-quality services using both taxation and legal duties on private companies; all delivered by a well-paid, skilled and secure workforce. These things won’t happen without workers in their trade unions organising to defend their wages, their jobs, their future and their rights through the power of collective bargaining. The workers movement and the climate justice movement need to build our collective power if we are to defend our future, that is why we send our solidarity to the workers on strike.

What nationalising energy companies would cost; and how to do it

By Andrew Fisher - Open Democracy, August 17, 2022

When 62% of Conservative voters want energy run in the public sector, it’s fair to say the left has won the argument (75% of Labour voters agree, 68% of Lib Dems).

Yet public ownership is opposed passionately by the Conservative government, while the leader of the opposition has said he is “not in favour” of it – despite his election on a platform that committed to “bring rail, mail, water and energy into public ownership to end the great privatisation rip-off and save you money on your fares and bills”.

Public ownership is on the media’s radar, too. When Labour leader Keir Starmer announced his policy to freeze bills this week, he was asked why he wouldn’t also nationalise energy, replying that: “In a national emergency where people are struggling to pay their bills … the right choice is for every single penny to go to reducing those bills.”

But so long as energy remains privatised, every single penny won’t. Billions of pennies will keep going to shareholders instead.

The energy market was fractured under the mass privatisations of the Thatcher governments in the 1980s. It contains three sectors: producers or suppliers (those that produce energy), retailers (those that sell you energy), and distribution or transmission (the infrastructure that transports energy to your home).

It is important to bear this in mind when we’re talking about taking energy into public ownership. We need to be clear about what we want in public ownership and why.

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