Greener workplaces for a Just Transition is a toolkit published in March by the Wales Trades Union Congress, aiming to provide information, tools and ideas for union representatives working towards climate solutions. Intended as a training resource, the 202-page manual includes case studies, bargaining checklists, action plans, and sample documents which workplace reps can adapt to use for their own workplaces. Workplace issues addressed include homeworking, procurement and ethical supply chains, waste and conservation measures, financial disclosure and pension management, among others. The sample documents include a workplace survey, and a joint environment and climate change agreement, which includes language for workplace Joint Environment Committees and Green Workplace Representatives. The toolkit is quite specific to Wales, although the topics are relevant to any jurisdiction. It follows the 2020 policy publication by the Wales TUC , A Green Recovery and a Just Transition.
A November 18 press release from the North America Building Trades Unions (NABTU) and Ørsted Offshore North America announces a “Landmark MOU for U.S. Offshore Wind Workforce Transition” , which “represents a transformative moment for organized labor and the clean energy industry. This framework sets a model for labor-management cooperation and workforce development in the budding offshore wind industry.”
According to the NABTU press release, “The partnership will create a national agreement designed to transition U.S. union construction workers into the offshore wind industry in collaboration with the leadership of the 14 U.S. NABTU affiliates and the AFL-CIO.” The newly-announced MOU is based on the model of an agreement developed by the Rhode Island Building Trades for the Block Island Wind Farm project – the first offshore wind installation in the U.S. which came online in December 2016, and is now operated by Ørsted .
No text of the new agreement is available yet, but the press release specifies:
“As part of this national framework, Ørsted, along with their partners, will work together with the building trades’ unions to identify the skills necessary to accelerate an offshore wind construction workforce. The groups will match those needs against the available workforce, timelines, scopes of work, and certification requirements to fulfill Ørsted’s pipeline of projects down the East Coast, creating expansive job opportunities in a brand-new American industry for years to come and raising economics for a just transition in the renewable sector…..Ørsted and NABTU, along with their affiliates and state and local councils, have agreed to work together on long-term strategic plans for the balanced and sustainable development of Ørsted’s offshore wind projects.”
North America’s Building Trades Unions is an alliance of 14 national and international unions in the building and construction industry that collectively represent over 3 million skilled craft professionals in the United States and Canada. Previous NABTU model national agreements are available here . Labour-affiliated BlueGreen Alliance issued a press release immediately, “lauding” the agreement between NABTU and Ørsted . BlueGreen is also a partner in New England for Offshore Wind , a civil society coalition which advocates for regional collaboration in New England, and urges state Governors to make commitments to power one-third of New England with offshore wind by 2022.
The Block Island Wind Farm has been described as “a case study in high-quality job creation” by the Center for American Progress in Offshore Wind Means Blue-Collar Jobs for Coastal States (April 2018). Massachusetts Offshore Wind Workforce Assessment,(2018) is a detailed study by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Centre, focusing on job-related issues, and highlighting the experience of Block Island.
Workforce 2030 was launched in Toronto on July 23 – a cross-sectoral coalition of employers, educators, and workers in Ontario’s building sector. The press release states: “Workforce 2030’s goal is to accelerate workforce capacity by collectively impacting government policy, business practices, and education.” The Statement of Principles is here, outlining values of collaboration and accountability, and equity.
From John Cartwright, member of the Advisory Council and President of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council: “Workforce 2030 is a collaboration that will increase the capacity of the skilled trades to meet the low-carbon standards required in the built form of tomorrow. We need to continuously improve low-carbon skills for the entire sector, deepen our commitment to high-quality training, and grow our workforce through equity and inclusion.”
The Coalition is “catalyzed” by The Atmospheric Fund (TAF) and Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC), which hosts the Workforce 2030 website and whose research reports are highlighted there. The coalition will be organized into working groups, with the following themes: Green Recovery Stimulus: Advocating for Workforce Capacity Investments; Workforce Capacity for Tall Timber Residential New Construction; Low-carbon Workforce Readiness: In-depth skills gaps assessment and industry co-developed action plan; Equitable and Inclusive Recruitment and Training; and Workforce Capacity for Retrofits.
The 14-person Advisory Board includes Julia Langer, (CEO, The Atmospheric Fund (TAF)); Akua Schatz, Canada Green Building Council; John Cartwright, President, Toronto and York Region Labour Council; Sandro Perruzza, CEO of Ontario Society of Professional Engineers; Rosemarie Powell, Executive Director, Toronto Community Benefits Network; Steven Martin, Business Manager, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 353; Mike Yorke, President, Carpenters District Council of Ontario; and Corey Diamond, Executive Director, Efficiency Canada , among others.
The Trades Union Congress (TUC), the labour union central in the United Kingdom, published A just transition to a greener, fairer economy in July. According to the accompanying press release , the document sets out principles “to take the whole trade union family towards that new economy.” (This seems to be a reference to the divisive nature of the Just Transition debate during the 2018 TUC Congress, reported by the WCR here ).
These excerpts from A just transition to a greener, fairer economy summarize the main demands:
“Companies and organisations moving to a lower carbon model should put in place Transition Agreements – agreed with unions – that cover a range of issues, including the overall number of jobs or workers employed, pay and conditions, job security, working time, job descriptions, duties assigned to job roles, training and skills, apprenticeships, retirement policy, monitoring and surveillance, performance management, health and safety implications and equal opportunities. Companies should also work with unions to identify and deliver best environmental practice at a workplace level.”
….”we’re calling for a cross-party commission on long term energy strategy, involving affected workers, unions, industries and consumers, to set out the path towards clean, affordable and reliable energy. The commission should study the social impacts of the transition, its regional impacts and necessary mitigation measures. Investment – in infrastructure, in new skills for workers, and in services such as public transport – is vital.”
…“Government has a key role in making this happen, as a funder and procurer of new energy and broader infrastructure. When government invests in new infrastructure it should use its procurement powers to ensure that jobs generated benefit workers in the local community and throughout the supply chain. It must also insist that jobs created provide workers with trade union recognition, and that employers have fair recruitment, industrial relations and pay policies for all workers. Companies winning government contracts must adhere to agreed standards of corporate behaviour; for example, contracts should not go to companies based in tax havens and companies must be registered in and pay tax in the UK.”
Trades Union Congress passes resolutions on Just Transition, endorses Student Strike on Sept. 20
The 151st Congress of the Trades Union Congress was held from September 8 to 11, 2019 . Understandably, debate about Brexit loomed large over the meetings, but there were several motions related to climate change, most notably Composite Motion 02 Climate crisis and a Just Transition, which was approved on September 10, and resolves: “that the TUC calls for a 30-minute workday campaign action to coincide with the global school strike on 20 September. 2. to campaign for national and regional Just Transition Commissions including full union and education representation to develop, monitor and implement the process.” An article in The Guardian also summarizes the Congress vote; the TUC press release on student strikes is here; the University and Colleges Union position on the student climate strike is here;
Other climate change related motions at the TUC Congress: “Buses and a green transport system” moved by ASLEF ; “Public ownership of energy” moved by Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union ; and Securing Green UK Jobs, moved by GMB.
New training module on Just Transition available
Discussions and panels were held at the Fringe Meetings , most notably by the Greener Jobs Alliance , which used the occasion to launch their new, free, online Just Transition Training Module . Other Fringe sessions included: How Can We Grow The UK’s Aviation Sector whilst Meeting Climate Change Targets?; Action on the Climate Emergency: How Should Trade Unions Respond?; sponsored by the Campaign Against Climate Change, Trade Unionists And Climate Strikes: Responding to the Climate Emergency.
The Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Climate Change research project has released two papers relating to the built environment, and more specifically, the accomplishments of one labour union in British Columbia to promote major climate change improvements in the construction industry. Evaluating the Impact of the BC Insulators’ Union Campaign to Promote Improved Mechanical Insulation Standards in BC’s Construction Industry (April 2016) described the campaign by BC Insulators union Local 118 to encourage municipalities in B.C. to require higher insulation standards in their building requirements and procurement contract tenders. To do this, the union “funded independent, technical research papers, commissioned best practice manuals with detailed guidelines on installing MI and initiated an extensive and carefully organized public education campaign to pressure industry and government to raise standards. It approached municipalities, building contractors, government officials, property developers, industry professionals and trade organizations to alert them to the importance of reducing the energy footprint of buildings. It pressured governments to raise MI standards in procurement of new and refurbished buildings and implement tougher requirements in their building codes. And it introduced climate change literacy into the curriculum of the apprenticeship system it oversees.”
The climate literacy curriculum is the subject of a new report released in April 2017: Promoting Climate Literacy in British Columbia’s Apprenticeship System: Evaluating One Union’s Efforts to Overcome Attitudinal Barriers to Low Carbon Construction describes the ‘Green Awareness’ course the union provides as part of the apprenticeship training for all mechanical insulation trades workers in British Columbia. The two-module course was introduced in 2011 and is taught over the course of the first two years of the four-year program. After conducting a review of the ‘Green Awareness’ course content, the research team performed qualitative interviews with a cohort of 2nd and 4th year apprentices to determine how effective the training had been. These findings indicate the need for further refinements in the content and delivery of the ‘Green Awareness’ course material. The authors conclude that incorporating climate change-related course content into the training process is an important step in fostering climate literacy within the industry and should be encouraged in other trades. They caution, however, that its degree of impact will be limited unless more sweeping changes are made to the organization and culture of the construction industry itself.
Both papers were authored by John Calvert and Corinne Tallon. The evaluation of the climate literacy program was presented at the International Labour Process Conference (ILPC), Sheffield, United Kingdom, April 4 – 6, 2017.