ETUC Guide to best practices for union impact on EU climate change and Just Transition policies

etuc logoAt 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.

International Trade Union Confederation unveils a Just Transition Centre at COP22

marakkeshThe 22nd meeting of the United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP22) in Marrakesh Morrocco concluded on November 18, having made dogged progress despite the looming  spectre of President Donald Trump . (see “7 things you missed at COP22 while Trump hogged the headlines“).    150 trade union members from 50 countries comprised a delegation led by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).  On November 18, the ITUC released their assessment of COP22: “ Marrakech Climate Conference: Real Progress on economic diversification, transformation and just transition, but more ambition and more finance needed”   .

The  three “top line” ITUC demands  going in to the meetings can be summed up as:  greater ambition and urgency for action; commitments on climate finance, especially for vulnerable countries, and commitment to just transition for workers and communities. The summary of demands  is reproduced at the Trade Unions for Energy Democracy website and described in detail in the ITUC Frontlines Briefing: Climate Justice COP 22 Special Edition . (Note that one of the case studies in the Special Edition highlights the president of Unifor Local 707A in Fort McMurray, Alberta, who describes the union’s efforts to lobby government, to bargain for just transition provisions, and to sponsor job fairs for displaced workers.)  The union demands are  consistent with the issues  raised in Setting the Path Toward 1.5 C – A Civil Society Equity Review of Pre-2020 Ambition .  The  ITUC is a signatory to the Setting the Path document – along with dozens of other civil society groups, including  Canada Action Network,  David Suzuki Foundation, and Friends of the Earth Canada.

The ITUC Special Edition statement announced “…the ITUC and its partners are establishing a Just Transition Centre . The Centre will facilitate government, business, trade unions, communities, investors and civil society groups to collaborate in the national, industrial, workplace and community planning, agreements, technologies, investments and the necessary public policies.”  The “partners” mentioned include the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the B Team  , an international network of business executives who believe that  “the purpose of business is to become a driving force for social, environmental and economic benefit” and We Mean Business,   a coalition of business, NGO and government policy organizations promoting the transition to a low-carbon economy.

As an aside:  The CEO of We Mean Business  wrote A Just Transition to defeat the populist politicians  (Nov. 5), summing up the business point of view about Just Transition.  See excerpts here.

The European Trade Union Congress, a member of ITUC, promoted five demands in its own Position Statement ,  adopted by the Executive Committee on the 26-27 October.  The ETUC demands largely mirror those of ITUC but also call for concrete action to move  the issue of Just Transition from the Preamble of the Paris Agreement, ( where it landed by compromise ) . “The COP 22 must now urge Parties to integrate just transition elements into their national contributions, notably by mandating the Subsidiary Bodies Implementation (SBI) and for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), for they define the terms of this integration.”  The ETUC urges that the ILO   Principles for a just transition to environmentally sustainable economies and societies for all  provide an internationally recognized reference for governments and social partners concerning just transition.

The Canadian Labour Congress, Confederation des Syndicats Nationaux and Centrale des Syndicats Democratiques in Canada, and the American Federation of Labor (AFL-CIO) are ITUC affiliates.   Details, pictures, videos are posted on Twitter at #unions4climate.

Actions By International Unions: A Global Campaign for Climate Goals, and Demands for Labour Rights in TIPP Trade Agreement

On May 21, more than 50 unions representing millions of workers joined the Unions4Climate global campaign at the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) World Congress in Berlin. The sign-up launches the mobilisation campaign for industrial transformation, just transition measures to organise workers in green, decent jobs, and ultimately for a climate agreement in Paris in 2015. Hassan Yussuff, newly-elected President of the Canadian Labour Congress, and Secretary Treasurer Barb Byers attended the Berlin meeting, though the CLC is not named in the press release as one of the signatories.

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) has released a detailed position statement regarding the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement, currently under discussion between the EU and the U.S. The ETUC position includes demands for consideration of the environmental impact of tar sands and shale gas, and for protection of labour rights on both sides of the Atlantic. On May 15, 240 unionists and activists were arrested in Brussels in protest against budget austerity and the trade agreement.

LINKS

The Unions4Climate Action website, including a sign-up form for individuals, is at: http://act.equaltimes.org/unions4climate; the full Statement, Climate Change is a Trade Union Issue, is at: http://www.ituc-csi.org/IMG/pdf/en_unions4climate.pdf. The website for the 3rd Congress is at: http://congress2014.ituc-csi.org/, and includes a press release about the campaign.

“ETUC position on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership” statement from the European Trade Union Confederation is available at: http://www.etuc.org/documents/etuc-position-transatlantic-trade-and-investment-partnership#.UxX0sYW7Tm4. See also “What does the TTIP really mean for workers?” (March 10) from ETUC’s Equal Times at: http://www.equaltimes.org/what-does-the-ttip-really-mean-for?lang=en.

Sierra Club and Power Shift TTIP analysis: Energy Trade in the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership: Endangering Action on Climate Change is available at: http://sierraclub.typepad.com/compass/2014/05/exposed-transatlantic-trade-pact-endangers-action-on-climate–1.html.

“Hundreds of Protesters Arrested In Brussels as Business Leaders Debate ‘Maintaining Citizen’s Trust'” at: http://www.euractiv.com/sections/european-business-summit-2014/hundreds-protesters-arrested-brussels-business-leaders-debate.