Last Thursday, over 130 community members, environmentalists, trade unionists and politicians packed out Buckhaven Community Education Centre all with a common aim: to get answers from EDF.
However, despite their own policies to consult with local communities, EDF failed to turn up.
Dave Moxham, Deputy General Secretary of the STUC and chair of the evening’s meeting began by highlighting the empty chair next to him on the panel. He explained that since EDF has chosen not to come to the community, the community must now pay them a visit at their Edinburgh offices and called everyone to attend a rally scheduled for the 5th of July.
Michael Sullivan, Secretary of the GMB Leven Engineering Branch, then spoke of the history of the yards. Michael himself first began working in the yards in the early 70s, and has fought many battles in attempts to ensure that work there continues. He explained his anger at EDF for stating that the yards don’t have the capability for the project, “That statement should be trashed. We do have the capability. We have the workforce with the experience to build to a high safety level. We cannot let them say otherwise.”
Our next speaker, Audrey Egan, spoke on behalf of Methil Community Council. She spoke of the positive impact on the community that EDF could have by awarding this contract to the yards, and highlighted the need for the campaign to continue.
Next we heard from Kate Whitaker from Friends of the Earth Scotland. Kate expressed Friends of the Earth Scotland’s solidarity with the campaign and highlighted that while we often speak of the “looming” climate crisis, climate change is already impacting on many countries in the Global South, with people in India currently experiencing a deadly heatwave. Kate spoke of the environmental impact of shipping turbine jackets abroad, stating, “Climate action doesn’t look like offshoring manufacturing work to other countries so we don’t have to count them in our emissions.” This highlighted the urgency of needing to have the wind turbine jackets built locally, deliver a just transition of workers into quality green jobs and start tackling climate change now.
Lastly, we heard from Jimmy Robertson, a Unite member who previously worked in the yards. Jimmy spoke highly of his experience working in the yards, “We had pride in the work – mines, fishing, oil, gas. This all created a community identity. That’s what we’re losing. Some guys from the yards have never found work since, or we have compromised – working away from home, further to travel, impacting on our families.” Jimmy spoke about workers having to compromise, and take on work in places like Amazon resulting in trained workers who can build ships, bridges and oil rigs moving parcels, “What a waste. What a waste of training and resources.”
The floor then opened for questions and comments, with many community members looking to have their say. The discussion that followed touched on many key issues facing the yards and the wider community. One audience member stated, “I was born here, I’ve witnessed my friends unable to work now because opportunities are being denied to them. Some are having to get help from foodbanks and some are having mental health problems due to the lack of work. We are being denied the opportunity for our sons and daughters to become engineers.”
The calls from the audience ranged from stressing the need for more investment into the yards to calls for the creation of a national energy company here in Scotland.
Michael Sullivan ended the evening with this statement, “I’m battle weary. I have been disillusioned. But the amount of people who have shown support tonight has lifted my spirits. We have to win this. We will need the support from everyone in here, and we can win this”
The STUC would like to thank everyone who attended the meeting and the staff at Buckhaven Community Education Centre. Further details on the rally at EDF’s offices will be announced soon.