UK unions call for government backing of new build projects

14 September 2021

The UK's GMB union has warned that decarbonisation goals and nuclear industry jobs will both be at risk unless the government supports Sizewell C and other new build efforts. The Trade Unions Congress adopted GMB's call, and separately added that UK manufacturing jobs would suffer if decarbonisation targets are not met.

Around 6300 people work at the Hinkley Point C construction site (Image: EDF Energy)

Some 48 unions representing more than 5.5 million workers are members of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and they are currently holding their annual Congress. GMB brought a motion to the Congress saying, "Most of the UK's nuclear plants will be shut down by 2030" and there has been "a disappointing lack of progress in securing the next generation of nuclear power".

In support of "a balanced energy mix that includes renewables, nuclear, and the flexibility currently provided by gas" GMB's motion called for "the construction of new nuclear plants, benefiting communities from Sizewell to West Cumbria, and the development of small modular reactors."

The motion was seconded by the Prospect union for technical workers and supported by the ASLEF union for train drivers, the FDA union for civil servants and public service workers, and the Community union for workers in a range of sectors, including steel. It then passed a vote and was adopted by the TUC, committing it to support and campaign for those aims.

The national secretary of GMB, Andy Prendergast, said: "The labour movement has sent out a clear message: New nuclear projects like Sizewell C not only create tens of thousands of jobs - they are vital to saving the planet. If politicians of all parties are serious about the climate emergency and a green economic recovery they must invest in new nuclear."

GMB said, "Government and opposition politicians should now get on with agreeing a funding model to deliver Sizewell C and unblock stalled projects at Bradwell, Oldbury, Moorside and Wylfa Newydd."

Manufacturing jobs at risk

In a related move, the TUC has also called on the UK government to do more to provide a clear plan for decarbonisation and support industry to meet its obligations. It said that between 368,000 and 667,000 manufacturing jobs would be at risk of moving to countries either with lesser climate ambitions, or that provide more support for industry to decarbonise.

The industries with most jobs at stake are: iron and steel, glass and ceramics, and chemicals, according to the TUC.

Nuclear jobs up, for now

Prendergast said that, "There will be no net zero by 2050 without new nuclear, and there will be no 'just transition' without the tens of thousands of jobs that would be supported both directly and indirectly by the development of new nuclear capacity."

His words were echoed by the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA), which today released updated figures on employment in the UK nuclear sector. An extra 1700 jobs were created during 2020 raising the total to 61,371 the NIA said, although "urgent investment is needed to sustain that trend and ensure that nationally critical skills are not lost as the existing nuclear fleet retires."

Hinkley Point C employs around 6300 people on site, said the NIA, adding that more than 780 apprentices have been trained on the project to date. "Sizewell C would also deliver thousands of new jobs as a replica of Hinkley, but legislation for a new financing model is needed to capture those benefits," the trade association added.

Sue Ferns, the senior deputy general secretary of Prospect, as well as president of the TUC, said: "These figures show that the nuclear industry is pivotal to the government's central missions, helping to decarbonise the economy and 'levelling up' the regions of the UK by providing tens of thousands of good quality green jobs."

"We need decisive action from the government now, starting with bringing forward the legislation on the funding model for new nuclear, so that we can secure both our clean energy future and the decent employment that comes with it," Ferns concluded.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News