GMB union votes on “moral duty” to frack for UK shale gas

One of Britain’s biggest trades unions has backed its leadership in favour of fracking for UK shale gas.

GMB@WORK LOGOAt the GMB congress, meeting in Dublin, members voted in favour of a statement from the Central Executive Council that the UK should use its own shale gas to supply energy needs, rather than import. The statement read:

“If there is a plentiful supply of UK shale gas is it not a moral duty for Britain to provide for our own gas needs from those supplies rather than importing gas from elsewhere.”

Introducing the statement, the GMB national secretary, Gary Smith, said:

“The issue for Britain isn’t therefore whether we will use gas or not. We will. The real issue is where we will get our gas from, and who should take the moral responsibility for extracting and supplying the gas we use.”

He said energy-intensive industry and households needed access to affordable, secure energy and gas needed to be part of the mix.

“The debate about fracking must be based upon complete honesty about the economic realities of gas”, he said. And he asked the 500 delegates, representing 639,000 members, to consider three questions:

Is it acceptable for Britain to import gas from countries where the safety, environmental and regulatory standards are lower than in Britain?

Should gas be imported from states where there is no civil society, no right to protest and where workers are denied basic trade union rights?

Is it kinder to the environment for gas to be transported for thousands of miles across continents and oceans before we use it here in Britain?

If the industry took off, he said, the “GMB will need every ounce of our organising expertise and commitment to safeguard the workers in the industry. The CEC believes that anything less than protecting these workers from exploitation in a fledgling industry, as we did with gasworkers 126 years ago, would be a betrayal of our history and moral responsibility.”

The GMB is Britain’s third biggest trades union and a founder member of the Labour Party. Candidates for the Labour leadership are taking part in a hustings at the congress this afternoon (9th June 2015). One of the front-runners, Andy Burnham, has called for a moratorium on fracking.

Joint charter with UKOOG

At a conference fringe meeting, the union also signed a joint charter on shale gas with the industry representative organisation, UK Onshore Oil and Gas.

Both organisations said the charter was a commitment to ensuring:

  • Gas is recognized as essential to British industry and households
  • Gas has a key role in UK future energy supply and the move to a low carbon energy future
  • Increased understanding about the importance of gas and the UK’s history of onshore exploration and production
  • Establishment of an Industry Safety Forum
  • Creation of skilled jobs and local community benefits through employment and training
  • British manufacturing and other supply chains benefit from the shale gas industry.

A statement from UKOOG, said: “This agreement will help build understanding amongst local communities and further bolster the strong safety and regulatory standards of the sector.

UKOOG’s chief executive, Ken Cronin, said:

“I am delighted to be working with the GMB, their history is immersed in the gas industry and we have a lot of common interest. Natural gas from shale has the potential to generate many thousands of highly-skilled well paid jobs”.

Commenting on the charter, Gary Smith said:

“Having access to gas is a matter of national security. Our homes and large parts of British industry need gas; any suggestion to the contrary is just not real world. The truth is we are going to be using gas including shale gas for a long time to come. Given these facts we need to honestly consider the moral and environmental issues about transporting gas, including shale gas, across oceans and continents and being increasingly dependent on gas from countries with regulatory and environmental standards lower than ours.”

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