On May 21st 2015 Magnox announced that 1600 jobs would be lost across its 12 UK nuclear sites. This news came as no great surprise to the workforce at Wylfa on Anglesey, which has been facing decommission for the last few years. The timeline for the final decommission of the plant has stretched considerably, originally anticipated in 2012 and now finally shutting down energy production in December 2015. However, while the news was long anticipated, this knowledge does little to soften the blow for the cohort of approximately 350 workers (out of around 600) who will be being made redundant in April/May in 2016 and entering the local labour market. Final numbers of who will be made redundant in this cohort at Wylfa are still being negotiated and Magnox are now in an initial consultation stage with the UNITE trade union who are currently “very engaged” with this process.
The Bangor University/ Leverhulme/ British Academy funded pilot project Anticipatory Responses to Mass Redundancy in the Welsh Nuclear Power Industry has been mapping stakeholder and worker responses to the forthcoming closure of Wylfa nuclear power station over the last year or so. This project builds on ‘spin off’ research undertaken as part of the WISERD localities project, which focused on the impacts of mass redundancies (roughly 400 workers) at Anglesey Aluminium (AA) in 2009. Tracing the impacts on individuals following redundancy from AA, we found that many workers staying locally had found work but predominantly in much less skilled, and well paid, positions; they were having to ‘make do and mend’ and get by, in the teeth of the recession.
While we are still in the data collection stage of our current research, there are some emerging findings. Firstly the Wylfa workforce has benefitted from a structured, pre emptive strategy to bolster the skills and training of the workforce; the Shaping the Future programme (2012-15). This ESF /match funded multi million pound programme made a number of resources available to the workforces of both Wylfa and Trawsfynydd nuclear power stations, including career coaching and funds of up to £15 000 per worker, to undertake qualifications and training which could bolster their chances of employment in the region post redundancy. There was good uptake of the programme which was also available to contract staff. On the ‘demand side’, Anglesey council and other stakeholders have been working on the ‘Energy Island’ strategy of attracting inward investment around energy, including renewables (wave wind, solar), biomass, and the new nuclear plant (Wylfa Newydd).
However, the timelines for these Energy Island initiatives has stretched and some flagship projects have fallen by the wayside. While there are signs that long term prospects for the island are good, in the short to medium term, the Wylfa workforce will still, like the AA workforce before them, be entering a depressed local labour market with few large employers left with the capacity to hire them. They will have to “mind the gap” in the labour market and the significant time gap between redundancy and new initiatives coming onstream.
We will be holding a workshop in the autumn bringing together stakeholders and academics to discuss our emerging findings and the wider context of the labour market in Wales and will keep WISERD updated with our research progress.
To hear Dr Tony Dobbins talking about our AA research on Radio 4’s ‘Thinking Allowed’, go to: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04tlfsk
To hear Dr Alex Plows talking about Anglesey’s labour market and the challenges facing the Wylfa workforce on the Today programme, go to: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02q467j
For further information about this research project contact Dr Tony Dobbins on firstname.lastname@example.org
About the author: Dr. Alexandra Plows is a part time Research Fellow working on the AHRC funded Research project Hydrocitizenship. This project is undertaking arts- based participatory approaches to issues of water and citizenship in specific localities, including a North West Wales case study. Alex is also working with Dr Tony Dobbins, Bangor Business School, on a project entitled Anticipatory Responses to Mass Redundancy in the Welsh Nuclear Power Industry , which is mapping stakeholder and worker responses to the forthcoming closure of Wylfa nuclear power station, Anglesey. She was previously a Research Fellow at WISERD (The Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods), School of Social Sciences, Bangor University.
Image source: Wyfla Power Station – Energy and Nuclear