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Closure of Ferrybridge power station is 'hammer blow' for workers

The closure of Ferrybridge power station has been described as a hammer blow for the workers.

The plant is to close within a year, with the loss of more than 170 staff jobs and hundreds more contractors.

Owners SSE say the plant is simply uneconomic to run, but add they are considering reopening the gas fired station at Keadby, near Scunthorpe to create jobs.

Chris Kiddey reports:


Yvette Cooper: Ferrybridge plant closure 'awful' for all concerned

Yvette Cooper, the Labour MP for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford says the closure of Ferrybridge coal plant is 'awful' for everyone concerned.

She also said that she would hold meetings with SSE and the unions to see what can be done to help the workforce.

This is awful news, not just for the 170 people who are employed directly but also for the hundreds of contractors who are set to lose their jobs as well.

I'm seeking urgent meetings with SSE and the unions to see what can be done, especially given that Ferrybridge hasn't reached the end of its natural life. We also need the best support for the workforce. This is devastating for Ferrybridge and the area and comes on the back of job losses at Kellingley Colliery as well. There is no Government plan to support high skilled jobs - either supporting existing jobs, or promoting new high skilled jobs for the future.

– Yvette Cooper

Tata workers set for strike ballot

Thousands more workers at steel giant Tata are to be balloted for industrial action in a row over pensions.

Tata has a plant in Scunthorpe Credit: Press Association

Unite said its 6,000 members at the company will vote in the coming weeks on whether to launch a campaign of action, with the result due on June 5.

Members of Community and the GMB are already voting on strikes, with the result set to be announced next week.

Tata Steel UK has a plant in Scunthorpe.

Unite national officer for steel Paul Reuter said: "Following five months of intensive negotiations where the trade unions offered savings to the company of £850 million, Tata Steel UK has decided that it is ideologically wrong for employees, who have worked hard in an extremely strenuous and physically demanding environment, to be able to retire with the pensions that they were originally promised.

"Tata Steel UK is consulting our members on its proposal to close the pension scheme and to financially penalise workers and their families in retirement. Our members have made it clear that the proposed changes are totally unacceptable.

"Unless Tata Steel UK enters into further meaningful negotiations that would preserve the pension scheme, then the first national industrial action in the industry for 30 years would seem inevitable."

Union warns of winter blackouts after Ferrybridge plant closure

The decision to close Ferrybridge power station increases the threat of winter blackouts, trade union Prospect has warned.

It says the problem could have been avoided if more support had been available for low carbon technologies with vast export potential, including carbon capture and storage and more efficient coal plants.

Prospect official Michael Macdonald said: "This is a consequence of the lack of a coherent plan for decarbonisation. The Government's reliance on significantly higher carbon taxes than the European Union has left Ferrybridge facing a bill of £64 million more than, for example, comparable German power generators and forced the premature closure of a viable plant.

"Not only will this see the loss of 200 highly skilled jobs at the station, and the equivalent in a local economy already reeling from plans to close Kellingley colliery, the loss of a further 1GW reduces the UK capacity margin to virtually zero.

The lack of a clear road map for decarbonisation means the UK is missing out on the opportunity to reduce carbon emissions by 40% through technology that has vast export potential.

It also means large industrial consumers will have to shut down operations or switch to inefficient on-site diesel generation at times of peak demand.

If we are to continue to include gas and coal in the generation mix until 2030, we need a coherent plan for transition to a low carbon future other than further Government subsidises for generation methods that cannot guarantee baseload power and which push up the price for consumers.

– Michael Macdonald

GMB union: Ferrybridge job losses 'devastating news' for workers

An officer from the GMB union has described the job losses at Ferrybridge as 'devastating news' for the workers.

Credit: Press Association

Phil Whitehurst, national officer of the GMB union, said: "This is devastating news for Ferrybridge workers at a station that has years of life left to supply electricity at a fraction of the price of other energy suppliers.

"As things stand the only thing consumers will get from some of these suppliers are higher bills. Unlike Ferrybridge none of the components and little of the labour will be sourced from the UK."

SSE said it was committed to the Ferrybridge site, with a £300 million multi-fuel plant next to the power station due to open before the end of the year. The company has also submitted plans to build another multi-fuel station at the site.

The power station has been operational since 1966 and has two units, which are nearly 50 years old.

Unit 3 is undergoing routine servicing and maintenance and will return to service in August following completion of the planned outage which began in April.

Unit 4 was badly damaged in a serious fire at the site last year and SSE has been pursuing options to reinstate the equipment, but this activity will now stop, although the work to demolish the damaged equipment will continue.

Unit 4 will therefore be removed from service with immediate effect.

The announcement is another blow to the coal industry.


Ferrybridge closure: company statement

Ferrybridge Power Station which will close by March 2016 Credit: SSE

SSE has released the following statement about the closure of Ferrybridge.

Following a comprehensive review of its coal-fired power stations, SSE has today taken the difficult decision to close Ferrybridge Power Station by 31st March 2016.

Costs at the 48-year-old power station have been rising due its age and environmental legislation, and it is forecast to lose £100m over the next five years. This financial situation, combined with the political consensus that coal has a limited role in the future, means keeping the station open is not sustainable.

“This was a very difficult decision to take because of the impact on our Ferrybridge employees, their families and the community.

“It’s been known for many years that the UK would have to phase out coal as it moves towards a more sustainable energy mix. We’ve sought to protect jobs and invest in the site to keep it running for as long as we possibly could but ultimately we’ve had to make this regrettable decision today.

“Our team at Ferrybridge is highly skilled, dedicated, and with a strong track record of performance –and we’re keen to ensure, where possible, that staff are redeployed across other parts of the SSE group, for example the nearby Keadby power station; or across the wider business.

“We appreciate it is a concerning time for our employees and our priority is to support them over the coming weeks and months.”

– Paul Smith, SSE Managing Director, and Generation

SSE will work closely with its 172 Ferrybridge employees to redeploy them to other sites where possible, including at its nearby Keadby Gas Fired Power Station which will be returned to service; provide retraining where possible; offer voluntary release on enhanced terms; and do everything it can to avoid compulsory redundancies.

SSE remains committed to the Ferrybridge site, and the local community. The £300m Ferrybridge Multifuel 1 (FM1) project is due to be fully commercially operational towards the end of 2015, and will provide 46 full-time jobs at the site, with more created in the supply chain. It supported over 500 jobs at the peak of construction, and involved around 30 local companies. The Ferrybridge Multifuel 2 project currently being developed at the site could create similar benefits if it is granted planning consent (a planning decision is due before the end of 2015).

This announcement does not impact on existing operations at SSE’s Fiddler’s Ferry coal-fired station, which currently has a Capacity Market contract for 2018/19, and will be entered into the 2015 Capacity Market auction.

Fire proves nail in Ferrybridge coffin

A fire at Ferrybridge Power Station last year could prove to be the final nail in the plant's coffin.

Workers were told today that the damaged unit was beyond repair, an announcement most expected. But staff were said to be "stunned to silence" when they were told that the remaining power unit, which had been modernised to last until 2020, would stop electricity production by March 2016.

Duncan Wood reports on tonight's developments:

Union: Plant owners will do everything in their power to help workforce

Regional Officer for Unite, Kelvin Mawer told ITV Calendar staff were told today that the power station would close by March 2016.

Last year's fire "didn't help" says a union spokesperson

Mr Mawer said that staff had predicted a closure, because all coal stations will eventually close, but most expected at least two to two-and-a-half years before Ferrybridge would shut its doors.

"It has come as a bit of a surprise coming so early," he said, admitting that the fire at the plant last year "didn't help".

"There are about 160-170 staff involved in this. SSE work really well with Unite the Union to try and redeploy staff. I understand that Keadby (near Scunthorpe) will be brought out of mothballs so there'll be 30-40 jobs there. And there are opportunities with SSE throughout the country. They are not a company who like to make redundancies, so they'll do everything in their power to help the workforce," he said.

"We knew there was a review within SSE about their coal-fired stations but we didn't realise there'd be such an impact so quick. But when you think of the fire they had last year, to repair that knowing that the station has a finite life-span anyway - if you put two and two together you'd come up with this, but it has come earlier than expected. It is sad, it really is sad."

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