Ahead of MPs debating the future of Westinghouse Springfields in Preston, Lancashire, yesterday (September 7), in Westminster Hall, representatives of Unite held a small rally on College Green outside Parliament.
Reps met MPs – including Labour’s energy spokesperson, Ed Miliband – and told them first-hand about the importance of the facility to jobs in the Preston area, as well as to maintaining skills and to reaching the country’s net zero ambitions.
Springfields is the UK’s only facility suitable for making fuel for nuclear power generation. Unite and Prospect have warned that a series of redundancies at the plant risks leaving the facility with a critical shortage of skills.
UNITElive caught up with some of the Unite members who had travelled down from Preston early that morning to add their voices to the protest. They gathered on College Green with a banner saying, ‘UK fuel for UK reactors’.
Unite convenor Damien Houlihan said the MPs debate Springfields’ future, “need to understand the importance of keeping Springfields, both for Preston and the UK. These are highly skilled and well paid jobs,” he continued.
“To get anything similar I’d probably have to move from Preston, uprooting my entire family. It’s really very concerning for all our members.
“The government needs to give us a firm commitment to UK reactors will be using UK fuel. This commitment is essential if the UK is to be meet its climate change target in 2050.”
Unite regional officer, Graham Williams added, “There are not only 800 highly skilled jobs at risk at Springfields, but around 5,000 in the local supply chain. It’s crucial that the company comes back into government ownership. Nationalisation is the best way forward.”
Addressing the members was Unite director of education, Jim Mowatt, speaking in lieu of Unite assistant general secretary, Gail Cartmail.
Mowatt said, “Today nuclear energy is recognised as an indispensable ingredient of the fuel mix to achieve our climate emergency targets. Today’s Parliamentary debate reinforces that reality. Springfields is the UK’s only suitable facility for making fuel for nuclear power generators.
“This is a big issue – not just about jobs and skills – but about the security of the UK’s electricity supply. The imminent closure of Hunterston power station and Dungerness B, all have big ramifications for the UK’s nuclear fuel supply.”
He continued, “Today in Parliament, next week at the TUC, we have to form a strategy to bridge the gap between our aspirations and achievements and the current fleet of nuclear reactors closing, and the operation of our nuclear new build.
“As Gail Cartmail, Unite assistant secretary has said, ‘Nuclear energy is a key component of this country meeting the net zero target by 2050.’
“So this rally and the debate in Westminster Hall is about 800 jobs at Springfield and the thousands of other local jobs – of course it is – we are trade unions. But it is equally about our environment and our future – and taking an intelligent, pragmatic approach which will benefit our members, but also the whole of the UK.”
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Words by Amanda Campbell, Film by Martin Scanlon, Photos by Mark Thomas