Jobs and a safe climate - report from TUC fringe meeting
The TUC conference this year was uplifting for those who have long argued that trade unions should take the lead on climate change.
An ambitious motion from the Bakers' Union, passed unanimously, brought trade unions much closer to the vision on energy and industrial strategy set out in Labour's election manifesto. A dozen delegates, from unions including CWU, FBU, Prospect, Unison, USDAW, RMT, PCS, Unite and TSSA took to the rostrum, urging the TUC to campaign for the UK's rigged energy system to return to democratic control, and to work with unions on a cross-sector industrial strategy to tackle 'the irrefutable evidence that dangerous climate change is driving unprecedented changes to our environment.' Full motion here.
The Campaign against Climate Change trade union group pulled off perhaps the best ever green fringe meeting in Brighton: Another world is possible: jobs and a safe climate
Unions spoke passionately about how they saw their union, and the labour movement, can provide the leadership so lacking in government. And the Campaign against Climate Change chair, Suzanne Jeffrey, set out plans for a national conference on Climate and Jobs - another world is possible on 10 March 2018 (note date in your diary!). She said the renewed TUC commitment to tackle climate change provided an opportunity for progressive new policies for the labour movement.
So, here's how union leaders spoke of the need to tackle climate change:
Sarah Woolley, BFAWU regional secretary: 'We need to know much more about the impacts of climate change and explain it to our members. We need to be at the forefront, getting our members trained as environmental reps in the workplace.' Tackling fuel poverty and bringing energy back into our ownership were two key priorities.
Diana Holland, Unite's Assistant General Secretary: 'Jobs and a safe climate...We have to deal with both...we have to make those words Just Transition really mean something for union members.' We cannot protect transport workers' jobs without acknowledging the impacts of transport on the environment. For example, Unite is tackling diesel emissions as a workplace health and safety through its Diesel Emissions Exposure register
'Because we work in so-called environmentally damaging industries, doesn't mean we aren't in the game.' The union is taking various steps to raise awareness among union members and engaging them in consultations with employers.
Chris Baugh, Assistant General Secretary PCS: 12 months ago, the TUC voted down a wide-ranging motion on climate change. 'We have come a long way in past year, by focussing on the core issues of just transition and energy democracy.' In PCS, in Lancashire, PCS members are challenging claims that fracking will create a jobs bonanza, when there are abundant opportunities in other sectors. And at Heathrow, a PCS study on jobs in aviation has helped informed the debate on the real economic benefits of expanding aviation capacity.
During the debate, Graham Petersen said the online environmental education courses provided by the Greener Jobs Alliance, including a new unit on air quality, was filling a gap in mainstream trade union education programmes. And Sean Sweeney from Trade Unions for Energy Democracy said that there's a growing community of unions pushing for public ownership and control of energy as a means of controlling climate breakdown
Unions have called on the TUC to campaign for a modern, low carbon industrial strategy and for the UK’s rigged energy market to return to public and democratic control. Helpfully, a new opinion survey shows that more than three quarters of the public say that water, electricity, gas and railways should be in the hands of the public sector. Great then that unions have caught the new public mood.
As Chris Baugh of PCS said, we must make those words 'just transition' really mean something to our members. This is our next challenge