At a conference in Brussels on May 15, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) released Involving trade unions in Climate action to build a Just transition, a Guide which makes the arguments for why unions should care about climate change, and provides recommendations and best practice examples from unions in the European Union. The ETUC press release summary is here, in which the ETUC General Secretary states: “The ETUC’s new guide is about the policies, initiatives and governance involved in a just transition. At the end of the day our key message is that there is no just transition without workers participation. Imposed solutions do not work, we need dialogue to make climate progress.” A YouTube summary from ETUC is here.
The 48-page guide is packed with information and examples where trade unions have made impacts on national policies. It began with a questionnaire circulated to ETUC affiliates, and also includes insights from five workshops involving experts from EU unions and “relevant institutions”, organized around five thematic areas: employment and working conditions; governance and trade union participation; education; training and skills; social protection; and internal capacity building for trade union organizations (how to mobilize and prepare unionists to engage in the transition).
The Guide offers analysis about the role of trade unions, and states that union involvement in climate change policy development is on the rise, though it varies widely across EU member countries. The main message is that a Just Transition requires workers’ participation and dialogue. Some of the specific thematic recommendations include:
Promote economic diversification in regions and industries most affected by the transition;
Negotiate agreements at sectoral and company level to map the future evolution of skills needs and the creation of sectoral skills councils, using the ETUC guide on “Restructuring and collective competences” (2013) ;
At sectoral and workplace levels, extend the scope of collective bargaining to green transition issues to discuss the impact on employment and wages of the decarbonisation process and the impacts on skills needs and health and safety at work;
Establish dialogue with all relevant stakeholders and regional authorities to identify and manage the social impacts of climate policies;
In line with the ILO guidelines on a just transition , promote the establishment of adequate social protection systems based on the principles of universality, equal treatment and continuity, providing healthcare, income security and social services;
Encourage internal union capacity and increase members’ participation by developing and strengthening a network of green representatives at the workplace level, and involve workers in concrete actions aiming to reduce the environmental footprint of their company.