GMB votes to organise workers if fracking takes off in Britain
by Steve Sweeney in Dublin
A MAJOR union pledged yesterday to represent and organise workers in the shale gas industry if fracking takes off in Britain.
GMB national officer Gary Smith told the union’s annual conference in Dublin that it would be wrong to oppose fracking as other unions have done on the grounds that doing so could undermine worker’s pay and conditions in the controversial sector.
“Jumping on bandwagons is easy, but doing the easy thing does not mean you are doing the right thing,” he said. “It would be easy to come out against fracking, but it would be wrong for the union, and for the country.”
The union, which represents gas workers, will commission a special report to analyse the role of shale gas in meeting the country’s future requirements.
Lengthy debate at the conference led to support for moving forward with plans for the GMB to recruit and organise workers likely to be employed in the shale gas industry.
Mr Smith told the 500 delegates that gas will remain crucially important in meeting Britain’s future energy needs for many decades to come.
“The issue for Britain isn’t 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.
“The debate about fracking must be based upon complete honesty about the economic realities of gas.”
He said both the International Panel on Climate Change and the independent UK Committee on Climate Change have recognised that gas has an important part to play in reducing carbon emissions in Britain.
A statement from the GMB executive questioned whether it was acceptable to import gas from countries where the safety, environmental and regulatory standards were lower than in Britain.
However some delegates highlighted the possible dangers of fracking, such as the impact on water supplies, and earth tremors, saying there was no evidence the process of hydraulic fracturing was safe.
The government was accused of being “gung ho” about fracking and of not releasing adequate information to the public.