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Unions and Energy

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 


(May, 1978) In several countries workers have started questioning the energy-growth jobs link. They are beginning to realize that they are effectively terrorized by governments and energy monopolies with threats of mass unemployment unless atomic plants get built. The nuclear lobby may find this sort of blackmail less and less effective in the future. In some cases, links are starting to be established between the trade unions and the environmental and antinuke movement (previously regarded with suspicion), In an effort to find out the real relationship of energy to jobs.

Denmark: all-out campaign

Atomic power does not help to maintain jobs, it provides electricity that is used to rationalise away jobs and centralise industry .. A working party of the Danish Organisation for Information on Atomic Energy (OOA) is trying to get this message across to trade unionists. Almost all the members are themselves unionists. The group is producing a four-page paper to be sent to all unionists, and a slide series on "energy and employment". With Denmark due to decide within half a year on whether to have its first atomic power station, the aim is to mobilise trade union opposition.

Contact / Lars Andersen, OOA, Skindergade 26.1
DK-1 159 Kobenhavn, Danmank. tel. (45)1-110673

Austria: help needed

A group called "Trade unionists against atomic power stations" (Gewerkschaftler gegen Atomkraftwerke") is trying to build up resistance against the attempt to push through an Austrian nuclear programme without debate, inside or outside the unions. They push the idea that the slogan "nuclear fission creates unemployment" is the reverse of the truth. The group is anxious for contact with those in other countries thinking along the same lines

Contact/ Gewerkschaftler gegen Atomkraftwerke. Schotten ring 35 / 1 -1010 Wien - Austria phone 43-222-342693

Ireland: anti-nuke

The Irish Transport and General Workers Union is opposing the plans of the Irish government for giving Ireland its first atomic reactor.

Contact/ John Carroll, Vice-president. ITGWU, Liberty Hall, Dublin 2

Holland: moratorium demanded

The main Dutch trade union organization (NVV) has demanded a five-year moratorium on the construction of nuclear power stations. The union has also opposed Dutch participation in the Kalkar fast-breeder project, and rejected the government's plan to expand the uranium enrichment plant at Almelo.

Contact/ Industriebond NVV c/o MERO kommissie. Plein 40-45. Amsterdam. Netherlands.

Federal Germany: repression

In the federal German trade union movement a few active groups are spreading information to their comrades about atomic power and its hazards. In some cases workers who took a stand against atomic power have been treated as "trouble makers" and expelled. The expulsion of Heinz Brandt, former leader of the paper and printing workers' union was only prevented by a solidarity campaign. Heinz Brandt is one of the founders of "Life Action Group" (Aktionskreis Leben). This sets out to counter the propaganda of the "Energy Action Group" (Aktionskreis Energie), a group operating within the labour movement with strong backing from the nuclear power lobby.

Contact/ Heinz Brandt - Hammarskjöldning 14 6 Frankfurt 50 - West Germany.

Der Atomfilz Gewerkschaften und Atomkraft Olle und Wolter. Edited by Lutz Mez and Manfred Wilke. A critical look at the involvement of the Federal German trade unions with the nuclear Industry. Also carefully selected articles on atomic energy and Its economic and political impact. Full documentation on the case of Heinz Brandt.

France: cautious union

The French conservative government, confirmed in office by elections in March 1978, continues to ignore demands from the atomic energy section of the main progressive French trade union, CFDT (Confédération Française Démocratique des Travailleurs), for a six-months halt to work at the La Hague on re-processing graphite-gas reactor fuel. Last October the union also called on the government to stop signing re-processing contracts with other countries, and to cancel those already concluded. Instead, a major new contract has just been signed for treating German fuel (see below: re-processing). It is also pressing for the French electricity utility (EDF) to be prevented from starting to build new atomic plants until all the waste from the present ones can be handled.

The CFDT is not opposed to re-processing as such. In fact, it argues that it would be even more dangerous to store waste untreated, since the water of the storage tanks has to be changed and treated. On the other hand, it does oppose the French government's plans to build a new re-processing plant (UP 3) as long as the techniques used in the two present units (for fuel from the French graphite-gas reactors, and from pressurised water reactors) have not been proven industrially. The union wants short tests on the PWR waste plant (known as HAO) to see if it could work industrially, and then towards 1981 a decision on whether to go ahead with a new re-processing plant. The CFDT condemns the commercial approach of the private company (COGEMA) which has taken over the re-processing business, and is interested primarily in juicy contracts for handling foreign waste. It wants re-processing handed back to a public body, and the two plants (La Hague and Marcoule) again made part of the French atomic energy authority.

The CFDT, though not anti-nuclear, is highly critical of dangerous working conditions, and is willing to help unionists from other countries seeking to get better informed about the nuclear industry before taking a stand.

Contacts/ SNPEA - CFDT CEN Saclay BP 2 -91190 GIf sur Yvette - France 33-1-941 8000 (ext. 4127)
or GSIEN (Scientists' group for information on nuclear energy) - 2 rue Francois Villon 91 400 Orsay - France

"Condemned to succeed" (Condamnés à néussir) is the title of a 55mm colour film about the La Hague re-processing plant, made by the atomic energy section of the French union CFDT. It deals with safety, accident risks, etc., and shows what day-today working conditions are like. Workers and local inhabitants are interviewed. Text exists in English, Danish.
Film available from Ciné‚ Information Documents. 56 Boulevard Voltaire. 75011 Paris.

U.S.: Environmentalists for full employment

Environmentalists for Full Employment (United States) concentrates on studying and making known not only the increasing hazards to workers and surrounding population, but also the fact that nuclear power means more unemployment.

Environmentalists for full employment - 1101 Vermont Avenue, N.W., Suite 305. Washington D.C. 20005 - tel. 202-3475590.