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Highland job losses expose sham of just transition

Monday, February 12, 2024

Redundancies at a major Highlands employer expose how the drive to create renewable energy jobs in Scotland is stalled, according to GMB Scotland.

With members across the energy sector, GMB warned up to 80 jobs being lost at SGL Carbon in Muir of Ord reveals the reality behind political rhetoric promising a “just transition” will create jobs in green power.

A downturn in the wind industry linked to energy prices has been blamed for around a third of workers losing their jobs at the plant that makes carbon fibre used in wind turbines and electric cars.

Last year, Scottish Government ministers visited the plant and hailed it as “a prime example” of how renewables would create jobs but Lesley-Anne MacAskill, GMB Scotland organiser in the Highlands, said the redundancies expose a lack of official support and investment.

She said: “SGL Carbon should be a prime example of what ministers like to call a just transition, creating well-paid, skilled jobs in renewables.

“Instead, it is a prime example of what is going wrong in Scotland where there is no transition, just or otherwise. The only thing in transition are jobs and contracts going abroad.

“We have heard many promises from the UK and Scottish governments of the thousands of jobs being created tomorrow but nothing at all about practical support and investment to protect jobs today.”

SGL Carbon, based in Germany, said production lines at Muir of Ord had to close and a third of the 220 workers made redundant after the demand for carbon fibre fell by a third last year.

A consultation period involving talks between the union and the company has, GMB said, helped reduce the number of compulsory redundancies and improved terms for workers leaving.

The cuts come less than a year after Scottish Government trade minister Ivan McKee visited the plant and hailed its work, saying: “SGL is a prime example of the positive impact inward investors can have on Scotland’s regions.”

However, according to GMB Scotland, both UK and Scottish governments have only increased uncertainty around oil and gas production in the North Sea while failing to deliver an industrial strategy capable of exploiting the economic opportunities of renewables.

All major production contracts for wind farms off the coast of Scotland have gone abroad where, the union says, other countries responded far more quickly and provided more investment and support for manufacturing and engineering linked to renewables.

The Scottish Government recently promised £500million over five years to create and bolster supply chains but MacAskill said strategic investment is years overdue.

She said: “We need practical plans that will protect jobs offshore for as long we need oil and gas while building the production capability and infrastructure needed to create well-paid jobs in renewables.

“The redundancies at SGL are a body blow to the workers involved but should shame politicians who continue to talk about just transition while failing to protect jobs and communities with practical, effective support and investment.”