“Bargaining language for a green agreement” , posted to the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Table Talk newsletter on July 25, is a brief article highlighting some of the innovative bargaining done by CUPE locals on the issues of environmental stewardship, transit passes, bicycle reimbursement, sustainable work practices and green procurement. The Table Talk article reproduces the actual language of the agreements; for links to the full agreements, and almost 200 others by many unions, go to the Green Collective Agreements database maintained by the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Climate Change project (ACW).
The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) and Canada Post are currently negotiating a new collective agreement, with “Canada Post hellbent on labour dispute as talks continue, union president says” in the Toronto Star (July 12). If no deal is reached by September 9, a strike or lockout is possible by September 26. An important goal has been to consolidate two agreements into one, and to achieve equity between the Rural and Suburban Mail Carriers (RSMC) unit and the Urban unit on job security, guaranteed hours of work, and wages, following an arbitration award in CUPW’s favour on June 1 . Also highly important in this round of negotiations, however, are CUPW demands related to climate change and the environment.
CUPW’s interest in environmental issues is not new. In February 2016, CUPW launched The Delivering Community Power Initiative which re-imagines the postal service by leveraging its huge retail network to provide: Charging stations for electric vehicles at post offices; postal banking, especially to rural and indigenous communities; community hubs for digital access and social innovation. In addition, the postal vehicle fleet could be converted to renewable fuels; provide consolidated last-mile delivery service that would ease congestion and pollution in urban centres; and vulnerable people in their own homes could be served with a check-in service by door-to-door mail carriers. The 2012-2016 collective agreement between CUPW and Canada Post included an Appendix T: Service Expansion and Innovation and Change Committee, which secured the right “to establish and monitor pilot projects which will test the viability of the proposals” to expand services – and from CUPW’s perspective, these could lay the groundwork for its Community Power initiatives.
In the current negotiations, CUPW’s Negotiating Update (August 2) states: “We recognize that both Canada Post and CUPW have responsibilities to work together to reduce our environmental impact. We have put forward a bold vision: Delivering Community Power. Our vision will expand services for everyone and generate more revenue while also creating new jobs. It’s interconnected: our environment demand supports the Delivering Community Power campaign, and the campaign’s massive public support will help us in bargaining. “ An updated statement of the Community Power document was released in August: Delivering Community Power: Postal Service and the Low carbon economy and in June CUPW published It’s time for a postal bank for everyone: How a bank in the post office could help you to present the advantages of postal banking and describe examples from other countries.
The specific environment–related demands, as outlined in Negotiating Program Bulletin are :
C.3: Improve Services and Standards to the Public: Expand retail services, delivery hours, banking, and internet and other services. Contract-in all work that CUPW members can perform with no contracting out of work. Maximize work in local communities.
C.22: Green Canada Post Operations and Reduce Emissions with New Services: Require CPC to take measures to reduce its environmental footprint, initiate new environmental services and negotiate joint environmental sustainability committees.
Follow CUPW updates to the current negotiations here .
CUPW’s long history with environmental concerns is outlined by Geoff Bickerton, Meg Gingrich and Sarah Ryan in Chapter 9: “Climate change and work and employment in the Canadian Postal and Courier Sector”, in the book Climate@Work (2013) . In 2016, Carla Lipsig Mumme of the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Climate Change project (ACW) made a presentation to the federal government’s Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, titled Canada Post and Environmental Leadership , which made proposals for a Green Plan for Canada Post, drawing on many of the CUPW themes. Canada Post Corporation’s latest Sustainability Report (2016) reports on existing environmental performance re fleet performance, GHG emissions, landfill waste diversion, paper consumption, and building operations and real estate.
The International Labor Organization released its annual World Employment and Social Outlook Report for 2018 on May 14, with the theme: Greening with Jobs. In an economy where global warming is limited to 2°C , the report projects job losses and job creation, both within and amongst sectors, to 2030. A net increase of approximately 18 million jobs globally will result from adoption of sustainable practices, such as changes in the energy mix, the projected growth in the use of electric vehicles, and increases in energy efficiency in existing and future buildings.
This landmark report also includes analysis and discussion of climate impacts on working conditions, job quality, and productivity, (including estimates of impacts of extreme weather conditions), and the need for social dialogue and a legal and policy framework which promotes just transition. Of particular interest is the discussion of the role of social dialogue, which includes examples of green provisions in international and national agreements – and on page 94, highlights green provisions in Canadian collective agreements, based on the database compiled by the Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Climate Change project.
Other key findings from the press release :
Of the 163 economic sectors analysed, only 14 will suffer employment losses of more than 10,000 jobs worldwide – hardest hit: petroleum extraction and petroleum refining (1 million or more jobs).
2.5 million jobs will be created in renewables-based electricity, offsetting some 400,000 jobs lost in fossil fuel-based electricity generation.
6 million jobs can be created by transitioning towards a ‘circular economy’ which includes activities like recycling, repair, rent and remanufacture.
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.