Just Transition and Trade Unions



Climate change is one of the most urgent challenges we face.  A transition away from a high carbon fossil fuel economy is an opportunity for sustainable Scottish jobs.

A recent headline in the Herald stated “Britain’s oil industry could lose a further 45,000 jobs this year, a senior figure in the sector has warned.  Sir Ian Wood said that 150 jobs are being lost on a daily basis and cautioned that the rate of losses this year was comparable to 2015.”

In a recent European Greens article, “The carbon bubble begins to deflate”, it starts by saying “In order to meet the ambitious goals set out in the Paris climate agreement, between 60 and 80 percent of oil, coal and gas reserves cannot be exploited.” and ends with “divestment from fossil fuels continues to be so important.”

Both articles confirm what everyone in the party should know: that a shift to a lower carbon/greener sustainable economy is not just necessary but increasingly inevitable.

Both articles confirm the view that Scotland needs to undergo a transition from a high carbon dependent economy to a diverse economy supporting a wider range of sustainable employment opportunities.

Scottish Green Party Pledge

Maggie Chapman, the party co-convenor has said “Scotland has a great future in generating clean energy and in other new industries and the creative economy.  Greens have a plan to create this new economy, and will be working hard to ensure that we can deliver this much needed transformation.”

The Scottish Greens have pledged to deliver more than 200,000 “clean green” jobs when they launched their election campaign.  Research commissioned by the party outlines how a planned transition from fossil fuels to green energy could create these jobs by investing in green industries, such as renewables, decommissioning, energy efficiency measures and sustainable forestry.

The report also gives a wide range of ideas on how to build Scotland’s green energy future, including:

  • Creating a publicly-owned renewables company to encourage offshore wind, tidal and wave developments;
  • Prioritising North Sea decommissioning work;
  • Launching a national insulation retrofit programme;
  • Launching a large-scale reforesting programme; and
  • Making available support packages for fossil fuel workers to aid their transition to new sectors.

The report ends “The next steps will require workers, unions and governments to come together to plan a just transition. The benefits of which will be a secure sustainable economy for workers of the future.”

Scottish Green Party Policy

The current Just Transition policy (tucked away under Workers’ Rights) is:

  • A just transition to a sustainable economy includes the collective participation, through their trades unions, of workers who are currently dependent on unjust, unsustainable and exploitative employment, in order to ensure that they do not suffer from the transition.
  • The just transition should identify opportunities for the skills and contributions of workers to be redeployed and enhanced in diversified industries which produce and distribute goods and services which are socially just and ecologically sustainable.

Just Transition Principles

The five Just Transition principles for managing process of change to a sustainable future are based on the principles of fairness and equity:

  1. Consultation:  Consultation between representatives from trade unions, business, government, regional bodies and voluntary organisations, on the shift to a green, low carbon economy, from the workplace to national government.
  2. Green and Decent Jobs:  Investing in the technologies and infrastructure to meet the sustainability challenges for a low carbon, resource- efficient future while creating quality jobs.
  3. Green Skills:  Government-led investments in education/training and skills programmes, from the workplace to national levels, to equip students and the workforce with the skills for a low carbon, resource-efficient economy. Promoting individual worker rights to training to ensure access for all workers.
  4. Respect for labour & human rights:  Democratic decision-making and respect for human and labour rights are essential in order to ensure the fair representation of workers’ and communities’ interests. Strengthening worker information, consultation and participation rights to matters concerning sustainable development.
  5. Social protection:  Strong and efficient social protection systems in the transition to a low carbon economy.

Just Transition and Trade Unions

Trade Unions are at the forefront of campaigning for a just transition to a low carbon future – in the UK, the EU and internationally.

The trade union movement has long campaigned for a shift to a green economy, but it also recognises that for this to happen the creation of replacement jobs, redeployment to alternative employment and diversification of skills is required.

However, it should also be acknowledged that the diversity of employment areas means unions deal with thousands of members across all sectors of the economy and in a range of industries.  A just transition to alternative sustainable long term employment is not going to happen overnight, so until it happens the retention and enhancement of skills and employment protection it still needed.

Just Transition is a framework that has been developed by the trade union movement to encompass a range of social interventions needed to secure workers’ jobs and livelihoods when economies are shifting to a sustainable green economy.

Just Transition represents one of the trade union movement’s core values of defending workers in a changing world.  It encapsulates ensuring quality employment, safe workplaces, informing and educating members and bargaining for the retraining and up-skilling of workers to meet the demands of a changing world.

That said, a Just Transition will not happen by itself and the so-called free market will not deliver it. It requires intense lobbying and discourse with high carbon industry organisations, employers and governments.  Trade unions must be actively involved in the decision making and the implementation of change, creating green and decent jobs with equivalent pay and conditions and, where necessary, training for new green skills. This way the move to a green economy will not damage livelihoods and working lives.

The Scottish Green Party Trade Union Group (TUG) was established in 2015 to promote and develop green policies and practices related to trades unions, just transition and diversification.  The TUG is a representative group within the party which both brings together trade unionists within the Green movement and connects Greens with the wider trade union movement.  Together we will all play a vital role in the Just Transition to a green economy.

In Conclusion

The “Jobs in Scotland’s New Economy” report commissioned by the party demonstrates that a just transition towards a low carbon economy is possible, and can make climate action a driver for sustainable economic growth and social progress.

The shift to a green economy is an opportunity to secure the well-being of future generations, and to support sustainable and high quality employment.

Unions need to be at the centre of this transition as they and their members will play a crucial role in building the new economy in Scotland, both as individuals with essential skills and as collective groups.

Get Involved

Scottish Green Party Facebook page
If you are a Trade Union member: To join the TUG, log into the Members section of the Scottish Greens website > Under More Services, select Membership Admin > Groups > Trade Union Group > Join this Group

Further reading

Trade Union Congress, A Green and Fair Future: For a Just Transition to a Low Carbon Economy
International Trade Union Confederation, What’s Just Transition?
Friends of the Earth, Just Transition

Image originally from http://alternativefuelkoval.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/alternatives-of-fossil-fuels.html 


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