“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).
In June, the National Environment program of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE/SCFP) shared online the materials for a workshop on How to lead a workplace discussion on Climate Change . The materials consist of a 28-slide PowerPoint presentation, Speaking notes and Tips for facilitators, in English and French versions. It provides labour-focused information and interactive discussion tools on “how climate change is affecting our planet, our communities and our economy”, and although the content is specific to CUPE – presenting examples from CUPE jobs and CUPE policy statements, it offers an excellent model for other unions.
CUPE has a long history of climate change related educational materials, including: Healthy, Clean & GREEN: A Workers’ Action Guide to a Greener Workplace (2015), which encourages workplace behaviours such as waste reduction, environmental committees and environmental audits; How to form a workplace environment Committee ; and an online, interactive Eco-audit tool to workers score their workplace behaviours related to energy conservation, recycling, water use, cleaning products, transportation, and workplace meetings. A very early document was the CUPE Green Bargaining Guide , published in 2008 and which provided examples of collective agreement language on many issues, including conservation, commuting, and establishing an environment committee . Most of these examples have also been incorporated in the ACW Green Collective Agreements database, here.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE/SCFP) is Canada’s largest union, with over 650,000 members in every province, representing workers in health care, emergency services, education, early learning and child care, municipalities, social services, libraries, utilities, transportation, airlines and more. All CUPE materials are available in English or French.
More than sixty members of Unifor met federal Members of Parliament in Ottawa on May 24, to convey the union’s positions on four major issues: pharmacare, child care, public control of airports, and Just Transition. The press release is here ; the four page Just Transition backgrounder is here . In it, the union expresses its broad support of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change and carbon pricing, calls for federal policy leadership to ensure that workers do not bear the brunt of climate change-induced industrial restructuring, and offers specific recommendations.
Unifor’s Recommendations are noteworthy in that they explicitly call for a role for collective bargaining (or worker representation in non-unionized workplaces). From the text: “Unifor sees two potential avenues to finance Just Transition. The first means is through the new federal carbon tax, which need not be entirely revenue neutral. A portion of the proceeds could be used to create a ‘Green Economy Bank’ or some such fiscal mechanism. The second option is to bolster the Low Carbon Economy Fund, which is already explicitly committed to job creation, but should be geared towards good, green job creation, and widen its mission.” ….. Unifor calls for “Labour market impact assessments to monitor the emergent effects of climate related policy; Community benefit agreements, to support regions that are more heavily dependent on carbon-intensive economic activities; The promotion of green economy retraining and skills upgrading, through appropriate funding for postsecondary institutions. This includes mandatory apprenticeship ratio’s linked to college training programs and skills trades certification processes; Preferential hiring for carbon-displaced workers, including relocation assistance; Income support, employment insurance flexibility and pension bridging for workers in carbon-intensive economic regions and industries; Tax credits, accelerated depreciation, grants and/or investment support for firms and industries that bear an extraordinary burden of change; In unionized workplaces, there needs to be a role carved out for the bargaining agent in negotiating and facilitating workplace transition. In non-unionized workplaces we need to envisage a role for workers to provide input on adjustment processes and procedures.”
Unifor is Canada’s largest private sector union, with more than 315,000 members across the country in climate-vulnerable sectors such as energy, mining, fishing, as well as automobile and auto parts manufacturing. Some of its existing collective agreements, compiled in the ACW database, have long-established workplace environment committees.