The great cooling towers at Ferrybridge C have been a landmark on the Five Towns skyline for fifty years - powering jobs, services and homes across the country.
Not for much longer if owners SSE and the government get their way. The company wants to stop power generation in March - years before they need to. Alongside local trade unions, which I met up with again on Friday, I’ve been trying to persuade ministers and SSE to keep Ferrybridge C open longer.
Closing it this spring makes no sense - for national energy security, for skilled jobs and even for the environment too.
Of course we’re going to fight to keep skilled jobs. Especially as we’ve just lost good jobs at Kellingley and too often the jobs in this area that replace them are low skilled or agency work.
But it’s more than that. Experts are warning that, under this government, too many power stations are closing too fast and there just aren’t enough new sources of energy. The government doesn’t have a proper national energy plan to make sure that the lights stay on and prices don’t rocket.
It won’t help the environment either. If the government was serious about going green, they would not have ditched the pioneering clean coal technology being developed at Drax. They would have a proper plan for renewables before letting power stations close down.
Ferrybridge has already bought enough coal for another twelve months. Yet instead of using it up on site as the workforce and unions have called for, SSE is selling it off cheap.
It’s time we had a proper energy strategy for Britain - and a plan for good quality jobs in Yorkshire and the north. Right now the Tories’ so called Northern Powerhouse just seems to be closing the power down.
The Tories should also ditch their new Trade Union Bill, which will make it more difficult for trade unions to represent their members in the workplace. Unions should be part of plans to support good jobs and make sure working people aren’t exploited. That’s good for business and it’s good for the economy as well. As I know well from the union reps I talked to at Ferrybridge on Friday and the many other unions I work with, they work incredibly hard.
I’m worried that the bill will damage workers’ rights. That’s why I voted against it in Parliament. We need strong businesses and a fair deal for workers to go hand in hand. That’s the best way to get a strong Yorkshire economy for the future.