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Saturday, 17 August 2013 00:00

Cuadrilla should ship out

Cuadrilla's decision to scale back its exploratory drilling operation in Balcombe is a victory for community mobilisation, but the battle against fracking has to continue.

Government, energy companies and local councils must be shown that this unwanted and potentially dangerous means of extracting oil and gas is too costly.

The fact that Sussex Police took the lead in "advising" Cuadrilla to step backwards in light of Reclaim the Power's No Dash for Gas event this weekend in Balcombe indicates its sensitivity to potential problems there.

Balcombe Parish Council chairwoman Alison Stevenson has asked people who plan to break the law to stay away from the village, which is fair enough.

But it is Cuadrilla that should be told to ship out, given that over 80 per cent of local people are opposed to its drilling.

The company suggested this week that it was "unlikely" to move from exploration to actual production in the area, so why continue with its operations?

HIH

David Cameron is gung-ho about fracking, making extravagant claims that it will bring tens of thousands of jobs, substitution of expensive energy imports by locally produced gas and lower power bills for consumers.

He claims that there is "no evidence" for fears about environmental dangers, although there is in fact even less justification for his sunshine stories.

We have heard these assertions before, not least with nuclear, which was supposed to produce energy so cheaply that metering would prove unnecessary.

How little government investigation has taken place is exemplified by Tory grandee Lord Howell's inability to say whether fracking target Blackpool was on the north-east of England or north-west.

To Howell, chairman of the Windsor Energy Group, and other businessmen, it doesn't matter where fracking takes place or what inconvenience and damage are inflicted on local areas.

Their prime concerns are corporate profit and shareholder dividends.

Just because some sparsely populated US states have backed fracking is no reason why this country should do so.

Provocative step

When workers vote 95 per cent for strike action, you can bet your boots that they are very concerned about a serious issue.

And few issues are more serious than defending jobs and a guaranteed working week.

Serco management's decision to hold a gun to the heads of 100 former Gurkha Regiment troops, telling these GMB members that their military training skills can best be delivered by switching from proper jobs next month to zero-hours contracts, is nothing less than provocative.

The company was given a £55 million contract last year to deliver Contemporary Operating Environment Force training and support.

When it bid for the contract, which should run at least until next year, Serco must have calculated the cost of a directly employed, full-time workforce.

So its belated ploy of seeking to transform its employees into casualised workers who won't know from one week to the next whether they will be earning anything must be a cynical manoeuvre to boost corporate profits.

Over a million people in Britain are already subject to this precarious arrangement that undercuts decades of acquired workplace rights and reduces workers to pawns of management.

Not every workplace will have the collective strength and solidarity of these former soldiers.

But, where possible, workers and their unions should deliver a message to the bosses that these contracts are unjust and won't be accepted.

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