Energy workers face turbulent times

Union’s energy group conference debates privatisation, renationalisation and hydrogen gas

Members in the energy sector are facing job losses, attacks on their terms and conditions and uncertainty about the future in what is “a turbulent time for the energy industry”, said service group chair Jenny Middleton said as she opened the group’s conference today.

The conference agenda included motions on the proposed merger of two big six energy suppliers, Npower and SSE, renationalisation of the energy industry, and a move to hydrogen gas.

Ms Middleton said that as well as facing attacks on their terms and conditions, members had to cope with “attacks on our sector from the media on a daily basis”.

The proposed cap on energy tariffs will also affect members because “if our companies don’t make a profit, we don’t have a job,” she added.

Against this turbulent background, at a time of “unparalled upheaval” for the big six suppliers, comes the proposed merger of Npower and SSE, said Tom Denver from Yorkshire and Humberside.

“The merger may be good news for customers, but where will it leave our colleagues?” he asked, moving a successful motion to ensure that UNISON works to protect the jobs, terms and conditions and pensions of members affected by the merger.

One factor behind the merger is privatisation and the move away from the big six suppliers to smaller ones.

Paul Glover, from the service group executive, said that privatisation was carried out for one reason only: “To make profits for the rich”.

Conference called on UNISON to engage with the Labour Party to promote the need to renationalise the customer and retail operations of the energy suppliers.

At the last general election, the Labour Party manifesto committed only to renationalising the energy networks, distribution and transmission.

“In our opinion this would not work,” said Mr Glover.

“Failing to renationalise the customer and retail operations would condemn UNISON members to further job insecurity. Bring power back to the people.”

Another successful motion supported the Leeds H21 hydrocarbon project, a partnership between Northern Gas Networks and Leeds City Council to pursue the conversion of Leeds to a 100% hydrocarbon city.

UNISON supports a UK-wide conversion to hydrogen gas as a way of heating homes while meeting the UK’s carbon emissions targets.