Friday, 20 June 2014

Public ownership of energy will transform lives

#uNDC14 Conference slammed the rise in fuel poverty which leaves many of our poorest citizens with a choice of whether to heat or eat, at the same time as energy companies have increased their profits by a massive 74%. UNISON will support an energy price freeze and will campaign actively for a re-nationalisation of the energy market.

An amendment from Bromley and Hackney, that no compensation should be paid “to the millionaires, major corporations or hedge funds” was supported with qualifications by the union leadership. Gordon McKay, Scottish NEC member said that public ownership has always been UNISON’s position, but now 52% of Tory voters also support re-nationalisation of the big six energy companies.

“You really have to wonder at just how much these companies have abused their power and ripped off and put the public at risk, that a majority of Tories now want public ownership.”

He rejected a view that nationalisation would be too costly. “A UK Government could pay the full share value and buy the big six energy companies lock, stock and barrel by one simple act. We scrap Trident and save £97 billion immediately,” said Gordon to cheers and applause.

The qualification of the NEC is that they act on this policy within international law. This states that compensation must be paid when property is nationalised. However, UN resolution 1803 states that this needs to be “appropriate” and nothing more.

“I don’t want socialist policies overturned by the courts,” said Gordon, “I want the energy companies brought into public ownership so that we can save the 24.000 elderly people who will probably die this winter because they can’t afford proper heating,” he added.

“Our members, their families and the vulnerable groups that rely on this union don’t want sound bites that keep them in poverty. They deserve socialist policies that transform their lives.

Earlier Elaine Duffy of the Scottish Electricity Branch had spoken against the amendment, expressing the same fears as Gordon, that a failure to compensate would “lead to massive legal challenges across Europe and the world making it almost impossible to do.”

The Energy Service Group Executive supports public ownership, Elaine said, but asked delegates to consider the impact on her members amidst fears that jobs would be lost.

Elaine called on the union to work together to build a decent case for public ownership and how best to achieve this, setting out the economic arguments, and taking account of the Energy Groups plan to eradicate fuel poverty, reduce carbon emissions and put people to work – “a real and proper solution.”

However, the amendment was carried.

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