Unions and politicians call for more renewables jobs in Fife

People gathering ahead of the rally. Pic: George McLuskie.
People gathering ahead of the rally. Pic: George McLuskie.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has joined unions and local politicians in calling for more jobs and greater investment in Fife’s renewable sector.

Politicians from across the parties joined trade unionists and workers at a rally in Kirkcaldy on Saturday, organised by Fife Trade Union Council with the support of STUC.

Jeremy Corbyn speaks at the rally. Pic: George McLuskie.

Jeremy Corbyn speaks at the rally. Pic: George McLuskie.

The ‘Fife – Ready for Renewal’ rally was organised in response to the loss of jobs at the furniture makers Havelock, pay talks breaking down at whisky firm Diageo and a lack of work in the BiFab fabrication yards in Methil and Burntisland.

Talk focused on EDF’s plan for work constructing wind turbines jackets to be carried out in Indonesia rather than building them in Fife’s BiFab yards, within around 10 miles of the proposed wind farm.

“It is not credible to say that it’s the right thing to do, to build facilities which will be used for the generation of electricity, on wind farms in sight of the coast, and you’re dragging the manufactured parts for those wind turbines 8000 miles by sea,” said Mr Corbyn.

“Where is the sustainability in that? There’s sustainability in using your skills, your local knowledge, using your own manufacturing capabilities and developing your own infrastructure that goes with it.”

He said there needed to be an industrial strategy for Scotland to help avoid crises in the future and create jobs within the renewables sector.

MSP Mark Ruskell welcomed the recent announcement that the Levenmouth rail link would be reopening, but said more needed to be done.

“We need go further than that,” he told the audience.

“Simply putting £70m into Levenmouth is not enough. We need to see the docks reopened, a freight facility opened at Diageo, see growth in jobs. The wind turbines need to be built in Fife.

“There are actions both governments can take right now. The Scottish Government should not be leasing these sea beds to these companies, unless the work comes to Fife. No leases without work.

“The Westminster government should not be issuing subsidies for these companies for generating electricity, unless the work comes to Scotland. No subsidies without work.”

Michael Sullivan, a former convenor at the BiFab yards who started working at the Methil yard in 1972, said the campaign needed to continue putting pressure on EDF to secure work.

“That yard is more than capable, the workforce is more than capable, of building all the 58 jackets, and not the seven jackets they might be getting,” he said.

Prior to the discussion at the Old Kirk, dozens of people marched through Kirkcaldy calling for more jobs. Tam Kirby, chair of Fife Trade Union Council, explained the reason for the rally.

“Fife has been heavily deindustrailised,” he told the Mail. “There are only 15,000 manufacturing jobs in Fife and there are 32,000 jobs in retail, hospitality. But manufacturing produces more output per pound.

“Imagine what doubling the amount of manufacturing jobs in Fife would do to the Fife economy. We’ve got to start putting our money where our mouth is when talking about the ‘green revolution’.

“Scotland is going to be surrounded by wind turbines – and not one of them will have been manufactured in Scotland. Let’s produce real good, well-paid, high value jobs for our children.”

Local MSP David Torrance said he was showing his support for the BiFab workers, adding: “High-skilled, well-paid jobs feed a lot of money back into the local economy. It’s vital BiFab wins contracts for wind turbines.”