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Trades Union Congress (TUC)

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.

TUC Cost of Living Demo: Nationalise to De-Carbonise Energy and Transport

By various - London Green Left Blog and Red Green Labor, June 10, 2022

This is the text of Ecosocialist Alliance leaflet which will be circulated on the TUC demo on Saturday18 June, 11am start, Portland Place, London, W1. Come along and support us if you can, look out for the banner pictured above. Ecosocialism not Extinction!

The media is full of headlines about crises: cost of living, energy prices, health and social care, pandemics - and, less frequently, climate collapse. Mainstream politicians see these as separate crises, while ecosocialists recognise these are interrelated crises of the capitalist system itself.

Insulate Britain activists have been jailed for trying to get the Westminster government to begin a massive programme to insulate homes and Just Stop Oil activists also face jail for their protests outside the Kingsbury oil depot.

Simple measures like insulation and renewable energy would take millions of people out of fuel poverty and would greatly reduce the numbers dying each year because they cannot afford to heat their homes. Britain has the worst record in Europe for this: in 2020, fuel poverty charities estimated such deaths as around 10,000 a year.

Government funded insulation programmes, combined with putting taxpayers' money into renewable energy, would greatly reduce our carbon emissions as well as create thousands of good green jobs.. In addition, our reliance on the profiteering and polluting fossilfuel giants – posting record profits, while continuing to drive the climate and ecological crises – would be massively reduced.

The Tories' record is appalling with millions of working families living below the poverty line. The hike in energy prices will see well over 25% of UK households – 15m people – in fuel poverty. Johnson and Sunak’s subsidies and rebates barely touch the sides.

The British government gives the fossil fuel industry £10 billion a year in tax breaks and subsidies.

The Tories finally bowed to pressure for a windfall tax on dirty fuel producers but we would go much further. All subsidies to oil and gas companies must end now and be switched to renewables. We must take energy companies and road and rail infrastructure into public ownership and rapidly de-carbonise the whole economy. We stand for a rapid ecosocialist transition led by, and in the interests of, working people.

Ecosocialist Alliance is a network of organisations and individuals. We campaign for ecosocialist and ecofeminist solutions to the multiple crises of the system. We are internationalist: the climate crisis will not be solved by any one country, but by collective global action.

We stand firmly with the global south in seeking ecological and social justice.

We reject green capitalist “solutions”, which are unworkable under a capitalist system of infinite growth and accumulation. The planet will only be saved by disposing of this system and replacing it with ecosocialism.

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. 

Two enemies, one fight: climate disaster and frightful energy bills

By Simon Pirani - People and Nature, May 16, 2022

Two clouds darken the sky. A close-up one: gas and electricity bills have shot up since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and millions of families are struggling to pay. And a bigger, darker, higher one: the climate disaster, and politicians’ refusal to tackle it.

Ultimately, both these threats have a single cause: fossil fuels and the systems of wealth and power that depend on them. We need social movements to link the fight to protect families from unaffordable bills with the fight to move beyond fossil fuels, and in that way turn back global warming.

Here I suggest ways to develop such a movement in the UK, starting by demanding action on home heating.

Workers' want more government action on climate change, TUC poll finds

By Matt Trinder - Morning Star, February 10, 2022

Working people want more government action on climate change but only a quarter believe that plans from Tory ministers will create many new green jobs in their local area, a TUC poll finds.

Today’s research, published ahead of next week’s release of official statistics on jobs in Britain’s green industries, suggests that 86 per cent of workers support the transition to a low-carbon economy.

The vast majority — 78 per cent — agree that the government should invest in retraining and reskilling people to achieve this, with 3 per cent objecting.

But just 26 per cent think that ministers are doing enough to make the necessary changes, compared to four in 10 who believe the government’s response has been inadequate.

Two in three feel it is important that their employer is actively helping to tackle climate change, but only a third say bosses are addressing the issue.

And just 13 per cent report being given the opportunity to participate in making the business they work for greener, despite 71 per cent wanting management to consult them.

The proportion left out of the loop drops to one in 10 for those earning less than £29,000 a year.   

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said:  “Changing our economy and society to deal with climate change gives us the chance to create millions of new, good, green jobs.

“Workers are ready, but ministers are doing nowhere near enough to create good new jobs and future-proof the industries that are delivering good jobs now.

“Workers and unions are coming together to innovate and create worker-led decarbonisation plans.

“Ministers and employers need to get with the programme — and deliver the just transition we all need.”

Workers Can’t Wait: Just Transition Now – Building Global Labour Power For Climate Justice

Phased down and out at COP26

By Stephen Smellie - Unison, November 15, 2021

As proceedings ended at COP26 late on Saturday night, the Glasgow Climate Pact joined a long list of previous agreements, arrived at by world leaders, that have failed to ensure global temperatures stop rising.

The sum of all the commitments given before and during the two-week jamboree is that the Earth is heading for a 2.4 degree increase rather than being held back to 1.5 degrees. This, according to the prime minister of Barbados, will be a death sentence for many small island communities.

COP president Alok Sharma claims that the 1.5 target is still alive; but as many people have said, it is on life support and slipping away.

The hopes for COP26 were high. The stakes were even higher. The science is clear – if we do not cut the emission of greenhouse gases such as CO2 and methane by significant amounts by 2030 we will not meet the target of being net zero by 2050 and the planet will overshoot 1.5 by some way.

As an official observer at COP26 with the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), I was privileged to spend the second week in the COP26 blue zone, working with a team of trade unionists from across the globe.

The ITUC’s aims were to lobby the government representatives to ensure that the historic commitment in the Paris Agreement to “ensure Just Transitions that promote sustainable development and eradication of poverty, and the creation of decent work and quality jobs” was retained in the final Glasgow agreement. That was achieved.

However, the lobbying of the ITUC, along with other NGOs and many Global South countries, to secure the $100 billion for mitigation and adaptation in the developing countries by 2020, a mechanism for paying for loss and damage for the impact of climate change that is already happening, and a clear intention to reduce emissions, was not successful.

It is true that the Glasgow Climate Pact recognises, for the first time, the need to address the use of fossil fuels, but it does not set any targets, relying on countries to improve on their existing plans to reduce the burning of climate changing fossil fuels. However, in the final hours, even the limited commitment to “phase-out the use of unabated coal” was watered down by an amendment from China and India to change “phase out” to “phase down”.

Climate talks are leaving workers ‘out in the cold’ warn unions

By staff - Unison, November 10, 2021

UNISON adds its voice to concerns that the UK’s own COP president is ignoring ‘just transition’ in the COP26 negotiations.

UNISON has joined the TUC and others in warning COP26 president Alok Sharma that he is “putting progress at risk” during this month’s climate talks by neglecting international commitments to a just transition in the move towards low-carbon economies.

The Paris Agreement in 2015 committed nations to taking account of “the imperatives of a just transition of the workforce and the creation of decent work and quality jobs in accordance with nationally defined development priorities”.

However, trade union delegates within the climate conference, including UNISON’s Stephen Smellie, fear that just transition is being sidelined in the negotiations.

Reflecting their concerns, the TUC, Scottish TUC and Wales TUC, with support from affiliated unions, have made a joint statement calling on the UK Presidency to build on the commitment made in Paris.

Their statement says: “The UK COP pPresident Alok Sharma MP has repeatedly committed to just transition as an essential component in rapidly moving the world away from fossil fuels.

“But so far, the UK presidency has invested little political capital in including just transition in the climate agreement negotiations – leaving workers around the globe out in the cold.”

The statement applauded the presidency’s role in preparing last week’s conference declaration supporting just transition, but added that this was separate to any binding agreements currently being discussed.

“Similar efforts need to be made to incorporate just transition and labour rights into the official COP26 negotiations,” it says.

Making COP26 Count: How investing in public transport this decade can protect our jobs, our climate, our future

By staff - International Transport Workers Federation and C40 Cities Leadership Group, November 10, 2021

Transport is currently responsible for a quarter of CO2 emissions. To combat this, a global shift to public transport, walking and cycling is needed, reducing car use alongside a transition to zero-emission vehicles. The proportion of public transport journeys in the world’s cities must double in this decade to bring global emissions down, in line with keeping the temperature rise to 1.5°C. Without this action, it will simply not be possible for countries to deliver on the global goal to at least halve emissions within this decade.

Climate protection cannot work without a modal shift. Local transport must become a good alternative to cars … above all, people must be taken along.

Robert Seifert, young vehicle maintenance worker, Berlin Doubling public transport usage as part of a green recovery would, by 2030, create tens of millions of jobs in cities around the world (4.6 million new jobs in the nearly 100 C40 cities alone), cut urban transport emissions by more than half, and reduce air pollution from transport by up to 45%2. It would protect lower-income and service-sector workers and connect city residents to work, education and community.

Read the text (PDF).

Just Transition and the Energy Crisis

By Ada Colau, et, al. - C40 Cities, November 4, 2021

This joint statement puts forward a united front of mayors, unions and businesses, calling for government leadership on two crises urban residents and workers are facing in this current moment: the climate crisis and spiralling energy prices.

The next months could bring a long, cold, unjust and expensive winter to millions of people globally, suffering from unprecedented levels of energy poverty. 

Energy poverty is a key challenge facing people living in cities in all regions, and one which risks exacerbating poverty and inequality by limiting access of the most vulnerable to lighting, cooling and refrigeration, clean cooking and heating. Cities often experience energy poverty due to issues such as size of populations, unstable and informal labour with low wages coupled with higher urban costs of living, varied types of building stock, lack of formal connection to viable energy networks and/or informal settlements being disconnected from basic service provision. This has been starkly worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic which has worsened inequalities and created insecurity for many people.

Being affected by energy poverty can have severe implications for vulnerable, low-income and marginalised groups on service access, health, wellbeing, social inclusion, economic opportunity and quality of life. Families should not need to choose between food and paying their energy bills. 

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