Wood Group once again showed their true colours at their AGM in Aberdeen today, attempting to prevent any questions about the company’s on-going business ventures in Israel. In a dramatic change from previous years, the meeting was finished almost before it had begun, with barely 5 minutes to cover the report of the year’s finances, take questions “specifically related to motions”, and bring things to a close. However, SPSC activists inside the AGM still made their voices heard, criticising Wood Group for their poor response in previous communications and highlighting the link between the Wood Group-built power plant, the Israeli Ministry of Defence and last year’s massacre of Gaza. Despite having had much time to think about it, the Wood Group board have still not come up with anything close to meaningful answers to such questions.
The Aberdeen-based company, which won a £563 million contract to build Israel’s biggest power station in 2010, had already gone to great lengths to prevent similar scenes to the 2014 AGM when a large presence of protesters disrupted proceedings in the centre of Aberdeen. This year Wood Group moved the event 5km out of the city, to an industrial estate on the outskirts of Aberdeen.
The move to prevent questions of their policy and to move the AGM out of town follows an abysmal response from the Wood Group Chief Executive Bob Keiller just days before shareholder meeting took place. Wood Group failed to address basic questions about their links with illegal Israeli settlements and state institutions such as Mekerot (the Israeli state water company) and the Israeli Ministry of Defence. The latter was of course responsible for carrying out the 2014 massacre in Gaza, the horrific impact of which was described in a statement by Gazan activist Rafat Abushaban and read out at the AGM:
As a direct result of the recent 2014 aggression, over 100,000 people were forced to leave their homes while 22,000 families are living in unsuitable housing units. As a direct result of Israeli attacks, 2,174 Palestinians were killed including 503 children and were mostly of the civilian population while 11,100 Palestinians have been injured, and estimates indicate that up to 1,000 of the children injured will have a permanent disability”.
Wood Group are clearly affected by accusations of complicity with Israeli energy apartheid. In fact Wood Group top dog Bob Keiller went as far as saying to one Palestine solidarity activist (and Wood Group shareholder): “Why are you picking on us, why are you not outside B&Q’s door?”. At least B&Q are willing to make clear that they do not source any products from conflict zones or occupied territories, and that products from the Israeli company Keter Plastic are sourced from production sites other than illegal settlements. Unfortunately for Bob and Wood Group they are not able to make such claims; this 2012 article makes clear that from the WG constructed Ashkelon power plant in Israel is being sold directly to companies based in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
As one protester said outside the AGM: “It doesn’t cut it to say ‘We only built the power plant – we didn’t know what would happen with the electricity”. Wood Group knew exactly what kind of business they were getting involved in when they began operations in Ashkelon. If Bob Keiller and Wood Group truly had any integrity they would stop trying to hide away from difficult questions on their complicit with Israel, they would stop paying lip service to “social responsibility” and “core values”, and end all complicity with Israel and its war crimes.