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Public and Commerical Services Union (PCS)

WANTED: a debate on climate policy in the Trade Union movement

By Tahir Latif - Greener Jobs Alliance, October 16, 2022

On 8th October, our colleagues in Campaign Against Climate Change held a day’s conference titled ‘Urgent action, long term solutions: cost of living, climate and industrial action’. One of the sessions, for which I was Chair, had the title ‘Winning climate arguments in trade unions’ and included excellent contributions from Sam Mason (PCS and Trade Unions for Energy Democracy), Mel Mullings (RMT) and Suzanne Jeffery (Chair, CACCTU).

There was also a great contribution from Pablo John, a GMB worker and a member of GMB for a Green New Deal, and Pablo has written a follow-up piece that appears alongside this article as part of the debate thread we hope to initiate around trade union policy and climate.

At such a critical moment for the country we desperately need a sensible, well-thought-out debate about how trade unions deal with the climate crisis and serve the long-term interest of their members. That means recognising first that what many GJA supporters will see as a worrying trend towards regressive policies (support for fracking, oil and gas drilling, more nuclear) is a response to the fact that we have a government that is promoting those very industries and therefore that’s where the jobs would be.

My own counter to that would be that, as climate catastrophe approaches, those industries become increasingly untenable and our energy strategy will have to change and change more abruptly and dramatically the longer we leave it. But it is difficult to sustain that argument when union leaders only have to look around to see that their members’ current jobs are ‘real’ while the point I’ve just made is ‘notional’. The ask of those trade unions would be, even while supporting ‘regressive’ policies, at least come to the table to talk about the future, and what the workforce will look like, or else when the catastrophe strikes, as everyone knows it will, the change will be done to you not by you.

Labour and Climate Activists Protest Against Anti-union Laws

By staff - Free Our Unions, October 12, 2022

Around 80 activists from a range of campaign groups and unions protested outside the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) on 10 October, as part of an action called by Free Our Unions and Earth Strike UK’s Empower the Unions initiative. As far as we know, this is the first piece of direct action called specifically to protest the Truss government’s plans for new anti-union laws since Truss revealed the policy.

BEIS was chosen because it will likely be central to developing the legislation for new restrictions on strikes, and because it is a key department in terms of climate policy. Free Our Unions has sought active coordination with activists from the climate movement, and Earth Strike UK’s Empower the Unions initiative seeks to highlight the specific ways in which anti-union laws constrain workers’ ability to take action in defence of the climate.

Speakers at the protest included Mark Boothroyd (A&E nurse and Unite activist); Sab (Earth Strike UK activist and Industrial Workers of the World organier); Ruth Cashman (Lambeth Unison); Jared Wood (RMT London Transport Regional Organiser); Ria Patel (Green Party Equality and Diversity spokesperson); EC (PCS rep); Andy Warren (firefighter and local rep for the FBU); Hamish (Exctinction Rebellion Trade Unionists); and Benedict Flexen (Earth Strike UK: Empower the Unions).

Speeches were punctuated by chanting, accompanied by drumming from the Extinction Rebellion samba band.

Following the protest, an assembly took place in a venue nearby, discussing various aspects of the politics of anti-union laws, and proposals for campaigning on the issue forward in our workplaces and unions.

Global Climate Jobs Conference: From resistance to a just transition

Global Climate Jobs Conference: Building Climate Jobs Campaigns

The UK Government's Nuclear Scam

On Inflation and Working Class Struggle

By anonymous - angryworkers.org, June 17, 2022

On Saturday 18th of June, (there was) a national TUC demo in London, and as part of the build up, we were invited to sit on a panel hosted by the People’s Assembly called ‘Wages Up, Bills Down, Tories Out’. We were joined by six other panelists from the RMT, Bristol Co-operative Alliance and the Tribune, Bristol Trades Council and the NEU, the TUC and PCS, the Green and Labour Councillors for Ashley Ward, and the Secretary for Unite South West, who chaired the meeting.

Below is the transcript of the input from one AngryWorkers comrade about the current crisis, followed by a report from a comrade on the meeting in general.

I work as a housekeeper at Southmead hospital and I am a GMB rep there. I previously worked for several years in warehouses and food factories. I can see every day how people who earn around the minimum wage are struggling more.

I think we’re in a crisis in more ways than one. It’s a cost of living crisis, yes. It’s also coinciding with a long-running crisis of working class organisation and militancy (e.g. the fact that NHS workers can’t even enforce an actual pay rise, despite all the public support and the fact that we slogged our guts out in the pandemic, says a lot). And it’s also a crisis of the system where there aren’t any obvious answers.

Labour movement agendas in conflict over decarbonisation pathways

By Les Levidow - Greener Jobs Alliance, June 7, 2022

The Just Transition concept has sought to avoid socially unjust means and consequences of a low-carbon transition. Alternatives could provide the basis for a common agenda of the labour movement. Yet trade unions have had divergent perspectives on decarbonisation pathways, especially as regards the potential role of technological solutions. 

Such conflict has focused on Carbon Capture & Storage (CCS). This is favourably called ‘carbon abatement’ or pejoratively called a ‘technofix’. As one reason for US trade-unions supporting CCS and thus the fossil fuel industry, often they have achieved relatively greater job security and wages there; such gains may seem jeopardised by substituting renewable energy.

UK CCS agendas focus on the prospect to decarbonise natural gas into hydrogen. This agenda unites the UK ‘energy unions’ with their members’ employers, as a cross-class alliance for a CCS fix. From a critical perspective, this seeks to accumulate capital by perpetuating natural gas, while undermining or delaying its renewable competitors.

Trade-union divergences have arisen in many ways. For a Just Transition, ITUC has advocated phasing out ‘unabated coal’, implying that coal with CCS could continue indefinitely. In the name of climate justice, the TUC has advocated CCS as a means to continue fossil fuels within a ‘balanced energy’ policy. By contrast, according to the PCS, CCS ‘is not yet a proven technology at scale’, and we don’t have the luxury to wait; it counterposes a strategy of energy democracy.

Such political divergences within the labour movement have arisen around Just Transition proposals at TUC conferences, likewise around agendas for a Green New Deal. In 2019 these were promoted within the US Democratic Party and UK Labour Party. Both underwent internal conflicts over decarbonisation pathways, expressing conflicts within the labour movement. 

(TUED Working Paper #14) Beyond Disruption: How Reclaimed Utilities Can Help Cities Meet Their Climate Goals - Video Discussion

By Sean Sweeney, et. al. - Labor Network for Sustainability, May 31, 2022

Web Editor's Note: this webinar discussion focuses on TUED Working Paper #14. Some of the arguments made by the presenters seem to frame advocates of locally controlled, decentralized distributed energy as "unwittingly plaing into the hands of neoliberalism", which is a debatable position (and one that some of the other attendeees push back on). 

Unions crucial to development of climate movement

By staff - Public and Commercial Services Union, May 25, 2022

The trade union movement is crucial to the development of a climate movement, PCS conference heard in a debate on the impact and aftermath of COP26.

Motion A41, moved by Mairtin from DWP Glasgow branch on Wednesday (25) afternoon, criticised the government for greenwashing by promoting market mechanisms as the central plank to solve the climate emergency through emissions trading or carbon offsetting or some other accountancy trick. But leaving solutions to the market will not work.

Mairtin said we will take no lectures from the government on environmental issues: “We’ve been taking notice of environmental issues and talking about diversification for decades. We represent the poorest and most marginalised in society who will be most affected by the environmental disaster.

“We live in the ravages of the environmental crisis and we are the ones who will rebuild our communities.”

That COP26 – the UN Climate Change Conference which took place in Glasgow last year, marked a new level of mass campaigning over the environmental crisis. There was praise for the COP26 Coalition, a coalition of groups and individuals mobilising around climate justice during COP26, for becoming a “dynamic movement involving environmental campaigns, religious organisations, trade unions and the left.”

The motion, which was carried unanimously, said that there are confusions and disagreements that need to be engaged with, such as the belief that moving away from a carbon-based economy will lead to job losses.

Angus from DWP Cambridgeshire who seconded the motion, said COP26 was a ‘cop-out 26’.

“PCS has led the way promoting the green agenda, this needs to continue and we also need to provide more support for our environmental reps,” he said.

The motion said that climate action must take account of the inequality of carbon emissions with the biggest emitters compensating the lowest emitters for climate change, recognised by COP18 in Doha, 2012 as the ‘climate debt’.

Jackie Green, supporting the motion on behalf of the NEC, highlighted how our union is developing a network of green reps nationally.

“As we look to move into a different phase after COP26, we look to mobilise around key events, including the TUC demo on 18 June,” she said.

The motion called on the NEC to:

  • Commit to engage fully with any new coalition that emerges out of the COP26 coalition.
  • Develop a network of green reps and equip them with the knowledge they need through dedicated training that happens on a regular basis.
  • Aim to build regional networks of reps based across different civil service departments.
  • Work in the wider trade union movement to engage other trade unions on this issue and develop cross-union networks.
  • Use those networks and work with the successor to the COP26 coalition to organise a trade union conference around the demand for a Just Transition to a more sustainable economy.

Aiming for the Sky: A Just Transition for the Aviation Industry

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