Sir Keir Starmer said he will not repeat the mistakes which “decimated” coal mining communities in the 1980s with his plan to phase out new oil and gas drilling.
The Labour leader pledged to work with unions to “seize the opportunities” of green energy to prevent mass job losses.
Starmer attempts to woo union bosses in conference speech – politics live
During a Q&A at the GMB Congress, it was put to him that his plan to end new oil and gas extraction “is a threat to Scottish jobs and UK energy security”.
But the Labour leader said: “I want to be absolutely clear: oil and gas are going to be part of the mix for decades to come, into the 2050s.
“What I will never let happen is a repeat of what happened in coal mining, where an industry came to an end and nobody had planned for the future”.
Sir Keir said the UK must “seize the next generation of jobs in nuclear, in new nuclear, in renewables across the country” or risk “repeating the mistake that was made when the coal mines were closed down”.
He quoted US President Joe Biden as he made the case that green jobs are a boon to working people.
Sir Keir told the audience: “President Biden once said: ‘When I hear climate change, I think jobs’.
“When Labour sets out our mission for Britain to become a clean energy superpower, we are thinking jobs too.”
Sir Keir’s appearance at the GMB congress in Brighton comes days after the union’s general secretary, Gary Smith, called his policy on oil and gas production “naive” and lacking in “intellectual rigour”.
In his bid to woo over union bosses, the Labour leader also vowed to strengthen the role they play in society and boost care worker pay.
He said Labour would “build a future in the interests of working people” by banning zero-hour contracts, extending parental leave, strengthening flexible working and ending fire and re-hire.
“The average British family is £8,800 poorer than in other advanced economies,” he said.
“Economies like France, Germany and the Netherlands. Economies that have better collective bargaining, have stronger workers’ rights and a fairer share of wealth across their country.
“So we will strengthen the role of trade unions and our society.
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“And like you, I want to see Amazon and businesses like it recognise trade unions.”
GMB has been trying to force Amazon to recognise the union after 700 workers in Coventry joined.
Sir Keir said he fully supports the campaign and suggested that, should he win the keys to Number 10, Labour would put terms and conditions on public contracts stating they must go to firms with unionised jobs.
Other Labour policies include closing the ethnicity pay gap and ensuring there are better working protections for pregnant women.
On care worker pay, Sir Keir said he will “strike a fair pay agreement for every care worker” in the “early days” of a Labour government, and this will “set a higher floor… with more progression, more training, more rights, better standards, and yes – fairer pay.”
He would not be drawn on what the minimum should be, saying that will be negotiated by unions as “you will know what you think is right”.
But he said once that is done the “agreement will then be binding for all care workers, including those who aren’t able to negotiate a better rate for themselves”.
“This is going to be an important part of what I hope we’ll be able to do in the very early years of the next Labour government,” he said.