The pro-fracking GMB union said today it had written to political leaders urging them to make sure the police and judiciary took “a firm line” with protesters that targeted shale gas suppliers.
The union, along with the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, called for the protection of rights of people working in the emerging shale gas industry, while respecting the rights to peaceful protest.
In a press release about the letter, the GMB referred to plans for two weeks of direct action against supply companies, announced by Reclaim the Power, which opposes fracking and other fossil fuels. The action is scheduled to start next week on Monday 27 March 2017.
Stuart Fegan, the GMB national officer, said:
“Nobody should deny people’s right to lawful and peaceful protest but, equally, protestors should not be allowed to prevent workers from getting to and from their jobs just because they disagree that the workers’ employer has decided to legally explore the opportunities that the new onshore shale gas industry brings. “
Babs Murphy, chief executive of the chamber of commerce said:
“Whilst we agree that protestors should have their fundamental rights to peaceful and lawful protest protected, we believe that our police and judiciary must act to ensure that the rights of companies to go about their lawful business are similarly safeguarded, and are calling on our elected representatives to help make sure that’s the case.”
Opponents of Cuadrilla’s operations in Lancashire have said police have prevented them from carrying out “slow-walking protests” in front of vehicles delivering to the company’s Preston New Road site near Blackpool.
There have also been complaints that police have targeted particular protesters, usually young men and women, for arrest.
Frack Free Lancashire described the initiative as an attempt to “create further division within our community and to render legitimate protest even more difficult.”
The GMB press release said there had already been “weeks of harassment and intimidation” against businesses supplying Preston New Road. It said a group had blockaded a concrete supplier in St Annes, preventing the business from making deliveries to Cuadrilla and other unconnected customers.
The press release continued:
“The targeting of supply chain companies like this is reminiscent of tactics used by animal rights extremists.”
The press release said the letter had been signed additionally by East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, Downtown in Business, the Civil Engineering Contractors Association, IoD Lancashire, FSB Cumbria and Lancashire, the Community union and GMB Union.
DrillOrDrop asked the GMB press office for a copy of the letter and details of which political leaders had received a copy. The union’s press office has not responded to our request. This post will be updated with any reply.
A spokesperson for Frack Free Lancashire said:
“Frack Free Lancashire is perplexed by this new initiative. If protectors are acting outside of the law, then there is already provision for the police and judiciary to take whatever line they feel appropriate within that same law.
“If, as we believe, actions taken by protestors relating to companies within Cuadrilla’s supply chain have been lawful then this would appear to be yet another desperate initiative from the usual suspects to create further division within our community and to render legitimate protest even more difficult.
“If these bodies really cared for Lancashire they would be better off spending their time lobbying central government to provide funding for the policing of peaceful protests brought on by the imposition of this industry on a local community who said “No!” through their elected council.”