Monday 23 December 2019

St Andrews Day Anti-Racism / Anti-Fascism Rally 2019

This year's rally included climate change and environmental justice as a core theme, highlighting the fact that ecological hazards and climate disasters disproportionately affect the global south – having the harshest impacts on people of color, indigenous populations and those on low incomes.
Joe Roach, Scottish youth climate striker
Joe Roach, a Scottish Youth Climate Striker addressed the rally, stressing the need for urgent action in response to the climate emergency. We don’t have a copy of his speech, unfortunately, but you can read about  the movement here

ATUC Executive Committee member and UNISON delegate Steve Gray attended the recent STUC Conference on Climate Change and Energy, and provided the following update to the rally…
A few weeks ago I attended the STUC Conference on Climate Change and Energy which included reps from the Just Transition Commission set up by the Scottish Parliament.

The Just Transition Commission has been established for a period of 2 years to investigate how the transition to a Carbon Neutral Scotland can be achieved in a socially, economically and environmentally just way.
Comrades, as trade union reps, activists within our communities and schools we know that transitions can be far from just.

Steve Gray, UNISON
Here in the North East of Scotland we have seen a massive transition to an economy based on fossil fuels .  A transition that was far from just as was demonstrated a few years ago when the oil price dropped and thousands of oil workers were sacked.  Since then pay, terms and conditions of the oil and gas sector works has been cut by the companies.  Health and safety is being compromised.
Despite increases in profits for the companies in recent years the economy of the North East of Scotland has not recovered.

Sadly at the STUC Conference evidence was offered by trade unions that the offshore renewable industry is behaving the same way as the offshore fossil fuels companies.  The ships in the Aberdeen Bay building the offshore wind turbines are administered by the UK Government.  Travel 1.5 miles offshore and the UK Government gives the renewables and the fossil fuel companies a de-regulation.

De-regulation means companies are free to bring in workers from elsewhere with no requirement to apply UK pay rates, or UK terms and conditions.  If you are from Africa and Asia you get $3 an hour!  If you are from Central or Southern Europe 6 Euros an hour!  12 hour shifts a day for a minimum of 6 weeks are the norm.  No shore leave.  Some workers are out there for 4 months. When you get home the agent takes a 25 % cut from your wages as their fee.
Hardly a bright hope for Scotland’s future.
Supporting the importing of skilled but poorly paid workers has allowed the renewables sector to avoid the industry’s training needs.  There are no training courses for offshore renewables construction in Scotland or the rest of the UK to develop the skills of young people and fossil fuels workers seeking to work in the so called “industry of tomorrow”. 
A Just Transition requires this to change.  Training in offshore and onshore renewables jobs is needed now.  The energy sector needs to be regulated offshore to provide Fair Work.

The offshore energy industry needs to support the needs of the onshore communities not the other way round.
The Climate Emergency is hitting the coastal communities now as sea levels rise, storms intensities and frequencies increase and “weather bombs” send torrents of rain water crashing through coastal villages like Gamrie, Pennan and Portsoy.  The 2 year lifetime for the Just Transition Commission is not enough.  The onshore communities like Aberdeen need a Just Transition Government Department to deliver the socially, environmentally and economically just transition for all members of society.  Business as usual is not an option.  We need to demand a Just Transition.