WORKERS in heavy industry should get the support of a basic income payment as jobs are lost in the move to a zero carbon economy, the Senedd has said. 

Members yesterday backed calls for the Welsh Government’s Basic Income pilot to be extended to workers employed in heavy industries. Though the vote isn’t binding on the government it should now examine the feasibility of the suggestion. 

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Jane Dodds, who tabled the motion, said moving to net zero, where the country eliminates carbon emissions as much as possible and produces no more than it is able to offset or absorb, would cost jobs in traditional industries. 

The Mid and West Wales member said: “The question is how we support the nearly 220,000 jobs across Wales in industries that will, as a consequence of our transition to net zero, inevitably cease to exist in the future. We cannot be bystanders while workers and communities undergo the most rapid and significant change in decades.” 

READ MORE: 'A Basic Income for heavy industry could help workers on the way to net zero'

In July the Welsh Government’s basic income trial., which is paying £1,600 each month before tax to 500 care leavers in Wales, launched. 

It will run for two years and the government says it will evaluate the scheme to see how it could be extended further and how a standard payment could address poverty and unemployment as well as improving health and financial well-being. 

Carolyn Thomas said technological advances could also replace agriculture in the production of food and drink and said a basic income could also support farmers. 

The North Wales Labour MS said: “The huge farmers' protests that are currently paralysing the Netherlands show how important it is that our farming transition is just and as progressive as possible.  

“Providing a basic income to the farming industry can provide them with the headroom and opportunity to diversify their business models in preparation for a society that is less reliant on meat and dairy consumption.” 

She said she would like to see basic income expanded further and it could underwrite salaries in the “precarious” care sector. 

Alyn and Deeside Labour member Jack Sargeant said automation is another threat to future employment which a basic income could address.  

He warned: “Those jobs that we consider high skilled will be done by robots, will be done by machines. But this change is happening whether we like it or not, and whether we resist it or not. And we have to manage that transition.” 

READ MORE: Water stored in disused mines could be used to heat Welsh homes

Conservative Joel James questioned if workers in industries that would be decarbonising would be “unjustly impacted” and claimed they would likely see improvements in their working conditions and pay. 

He also claimed UK labour laws would mean “even if workers found themselves in a position where they were made unemployed as a result of decarbonisation, they would be compensated as appropriate”. 

He said as the independent Climate Change Committee, which advises governments on adapting to the impacts of climate change, had reported net zero transition “will bring real savings, as people use fewer resources and adopt cleaner, more-efficient technologies” in Wales a basic income would be “irresponsible”. 

The South Wales Central MS also argued a basic income would mean: “employers will have no incentive to increase wages and return to employees the financial benefits that come from the decarbonisation of their industries. 

Responding to the debate, on behalf of the government, social justice minister Jane Hutt said she supported the motion and that it was “in line” with the Labour adminstration. 


She also said the first policy of the government’s net zero plan is to focus on a “just transistion”. 

She said: “In creating the industries and jobs of the future, we will review the skills required for a transition to net zero and look to provide opportunities to redeploy employees from traditional industrial sectors.  

“We will engage with the workforce and industry as part of these plans. But we've also agreed to work with the Scottish Government, through their just transition policy forum, so that we can collectively share and learn from one another.” 

If you value The National's journalism, help grow our team of reporters by becoming a subscriber.