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Eco Socialism: The Only Way To Save Our World?

Working for Climate Justice: Trade unions in the front line against climate change

By Ben Crawford and David Whyte - Institute of Employment Rights: Centre for Climate Crime and Climate Justice, November 23, 2023

For further background, visit this site.

Co-authors of the report, David Whyte, Queen Mary University of London and Ben Crawford, The London School of Economics, argue that the transition away from a carbon-based economy relies on the collective action of workers and their organisations, challenging an economic system focused on extracting value at any cost. While the primary analysis addresses the British context, the authors acknowledge the global nature of ecological sustainability and its transformation of social existence both within and outside the workplace.

Focusing on the economic sphere of production as the engine of climate change, the authors contend that the future of the planet relies heavily on workers' power and collective action. Contrary to decisions made in boardrooms and cabinets, they stress that a sustainable transition depends on workers and their communities organising a new social and economic system.

Co-author of report Professor David Whyte, and Director of the Centre for Climate Crime and Climate Justice, Queen Mary University of London explains: “Time is running out for us. We don’t have time to wait politely until employers decide to do the right thing. This is why a transition to a low carbon economy has to be led by workers taking action in their workplaces. A sustainable planet has to be based on sustainable jobs and sustainable ways of working and living.”

Trade unions, historically not prioritising climate change in bargaining, have a rich history of environmentalism and struggles against the commodification of labour. The pamphlet argues for a "secret solidarity" between workers and nature, emphasising the shared interest in slowing down production processes causing social and environmental harm.

To achieve a transition at the necessary scale and pace, the pamphlet proposes priorities for the trade-union movement:

  1. Empowering Members: Workers must put climate change on an industrial footing, building a grassroots power base through coordinated workplace representatives and political education.
  2. Integrating Climate Bargaining: Climate bargaining should be integrated into campaigns for employment rights, demanding a statutory basis for the right to bargain on climate and ecology.
  3. Allocating Resources: Trade unions must allocate greater resources to climate campaigning, countering the false dichotomy between jobs and a green economy and advocating for public ownership of key sectors.
  4. Engaging Globally: Unions should organise and recruit along global supply chains, recognising the need for international coordination and bargaining.

The report concludes by urging a transformative approach to just transition, where workers and trade unionists rethink the production and purpose of value, ensuring products and services align with socially useful and sustainable goals. The call is clear: workers must harness their collective power to lead the way towards a low-carbon economy.

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

Rail Privatisation: 30 years of waste and rising fares

By staff - National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), November 5, 2023

As Britain ‘celebrates’ 30 years of rail privatisation, RMT reveals that the three-decade debacle has seen at least £31 billion leak out of the system, mostly into shareholders pockets, while passengers are paying 8% more in real terms to travel on a deteriorating system.

  • Renationalising the railway and creating a single, integrated publicly owned railway company would save around £1.5 billion every year which could be used to cut fares by 18%, helping to encourage more people back onto Britain’s railways.
  • At least £1.5 billion and very likely more leaks out of Britain’s railways every year in the form of profits extracted by train operating companies, rolling stock leasing companies, subcontractors and other costs that arise the fragmentation of the railways.1 Throughout privatisation, the annual outflow of funds would have enabled, on average, a cut of 14% in fares (Table 1.)
  • If the railways were nationalised now and the flow of funds into the private sector was cut off, the money saved would fund a cut of 18% in fares.
  • The cost of travelling by rail is now almost 8% higher in real terms than it was in 1995, before privatisation. This figure has dropped in the last two years only as inflation as risen above 13%. Until the cost-of-living crisis, when fare increases were decoupled from RPI inflation, fares were consistently 15-20% higher in real terms than before privatisation.

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

The Fight for Steel: A Workers’ Plan for Port Talbot

By staff - UNITE, November 2023

For further background, visit this site.

We are at the crossroads. There are two paths on offer, and it’s time to choose. On the one hand, there is a path of cuts: further decimating our steel industry and the town. On the other, a path of growth: an immediate gateway to rebuilding the industry.

The current plan from Tata is a hammer blow. It would severely shrink the plant: cutting production capacity by another 40%, with thousands of job losses. Another well-meaning proposal from the consultants Syndex also involves cutting capacity. It would also mean thousands of job losses: some immediately, and some in the longer term.

Why can’t we have another option? A path that would deliver profitability in the long term, and safeguard every job now. That’s the Unite plan. The cuts path wouldn’t just cost thousands of jobs on the site. It would also have massive knock-on effects on contractors, downstream sites, and the town and local economy of Port Talbot.

Our industry has suffered decades of decline. We don’t forget the impacts of the mine closures, or of the steel works at Ebbw Vale. We must not let Port Talbot be next. It is time to stop this vicious cycle.

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

A Manifesto for Food, Farming and Forestry

By staff - Land Workers Alliance, October 9, 2023

In the face of multiple but intersecting crises – from global warming and biodiversity loss, to public health and inequality – the urgency to build a more equitable and resilient food, farming and land-use system that works for both people and planet has never been greater. 

The manifesto, launched today to coincide with the 2024 Labour Party Conference, urges political parties to adopt policies and legislation which will help the UK build a food and land-use system rooted in food sovereignty and agroecology.

We believe that there is a golden opportunity, and a responsibility, for a new UK government to reboot the UK’s food, farming and land-use system, and implement policies that will support farmers and landworkers, regenerate nature, and provide affordable, nutritious food for all.

Throughout 2024 we will be working to build relationships with MPs to promote the manifesto and gather support for our key policy asks for a new government:

  1. Dynamic Public Procurement 
  2. Horticulture Strategy for England
  3. A Comprehensive New Entrants to Farming Support Scheme 
  4. Local Food Infrastructure Fund
  5. Continued Development of ELMS in England
  6. Trade Rules That Protect Farmer Livelihoods
  7. Investing in the Ecological Forestry Sector 
  8. Climate Finance for Agroecology 
  9. Land-use Strategy
  10. A Legally Enshrined Right to Food

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

The Climate Contradictions of Gary Smith

By Paul Atkin - Greener Jobs Alliance, September 21, 2023

In agreeing to be interviewed by the Spectator under the title the folly of Net Zero GMB General Secretary Gary Smith lets his members down; not least because remarks like these from a leading trade unionist help give Rishi Sunak encouragement to accelerate his retreat from the government’s already inadequate climate targets.

The phrase “the folly of Net Zero” makes as much sense as “the folly of getting into the lifeboats when the ship is sinking”

Difficulties in making a transition to sustainability does not mean that making it isn’t essential, and the faster we move the less damage is done. We can see that damage all around us even now. 

Gary doesn’t seem to get this, any more than Rishi Sunak does, and he latches on to some of the same lines as the PM does, albeit with a more pungent turn of phrase. To go through these point by point, quotes are either directly from Gary Smith or the Spectator.

Unite: Plan to delay ban on petrol car sales is ‘kicking the can down the road’

By Sharon Graham and Ryan Fletcher - UNITE, September 20, 2023

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Kicking the can down the road on petrol car sales is no substitute for a proper industrial strategy setting out a just transition to net zero. Instead, we get ever more uncertainty for workers, industry and consumers from a government that deals in piecemeal policies delivered on the hoof.

“If Rishi Sunak was truly motivated to deliver for working people and communities, he would be putting forward a serious plan to bring down costs and boost critical industries, such as automotive and energy, as well as safeguarding jobs in exposed sectors.

“For automotive this strategy should include repurposing combustion supply chain businesses and reskilling workers for electrification as well as clarifying the status of hybrid cars after the ban. It should also contain a programme for installing charging points across the entire road network, cutting costs by bringing energy into public hands and investment in critical industry infrastructure and tech, such as green hydrogen and gigafactories.”

Class Politics in a Warming World

Debt, Migration, and Exploitation: The Seasonal Worker Visa and the Degradation of Working Conditions in UK Horticulture

By Catherine McAndrew, Oliver Fisher, Clark McAllister, and Christian Jaccarini - Landworkers Alliance, et. al., July 10, 2023

The report ‘Debt, Migration and Exploitation: The Seasonal Worker Visa and the Degradation of Working Conditions in UK Horticulture’ has been written in collaboration with the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, New Economics Foundation, Focus on Labour Exploitation, Sustain and a farmer solidarity network of former migrant seasonal workers.

Seasonal work plays a significant role in UK agriculture. The government estimates that between 50,000 and 60,000 seasonal workers are needed annually to bring in the wider harvest across the UK, and these workers are almost entirely recruited from outside the UK.

Many of these workers are recruited via the new Seasonal Worker Visa scheme, a temporary migration programme introduced in 2019 to alleviate post-Brexit labour shortages, but a series of recent media exposés have revealed that visa holders are facing mounting issues including low wages, wage theft, excessive hours, debt bondage, and abuse by supervisors.

Our new report adds to this mounting body of evidence, and lays bare the legal and economic structures that facilitate the exploitation of farmworkers by the industrial food system, giving a platform for farmworkers to share their own account of life on the UK’s farms and develop solutions to the abuses they have faced.

The report also includes a supply chain analysis carried out by the New Economics Foundation, which reveals that migrant seasonal workers picking soft fruit retain on average just 7.6% of the total retail price of the produce.

Furthermore, the report outlines how workers who have to pay illegal broker fees (money paid by migrant workers to recruitment agencies in their home countries) can result in negative earnings. This means that after accommodation, subsistence and travel costs, some workers are essentially left out of pocket and end up paying more to come to the UK and work, than they keep as retained income to take home.

Another chapter in the report features an extended testimony from a former migrant seasonal worker from Nepal, in which they describe the exploitation of recruitment agencies, the debt associated with taking out loans to pay for agency fees and the need for the UK Government to design a more safe and secure seasonal visa scheme.

In response to issues raised in previous chapters relating to the supply chain, workers’ rights violations, and lack of redress, the final section of the report explores alternative approaches to labour rights, based on worker-led social responsibility (WSR), using the experience of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and Fair Food Program (FFP) in Florida as a case study.

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

Green Jobs or Dangerous Greenwash?

By Tahir Latif, Claire James, Ellen Robottom, Don Naylor, and Katy Brown - Working People, July 7, 2023

Greenwash is not always easy to challenge: the claims to offer climate solutions; the PR offensive in local communities; and promises of 'green jobs' that in reality are neither as numerous or as environmentally friendly as promised.

But whether it’s a ‘zero carbon’ coal mine, heating homes with hydrogen, importing wood to burn in power stations, ‘sustainable aviation growth’ or offsetting, there are common themes that can give a reality check on greenwash claims and misleading jobs promises.

Speakers:

  • Claire James, Campaign against Climate Change
  • Ellen Robottom, Campaign against Climate Change trade union group
  • Don Naylor, HyNot (campaigning against HyNet greenwash and the Whitby hydrogen village)
  • Katy Brown, Biofuelwatch (using slides from Stuart Boothman, Stop Burning Trees Coalition who was unable to make it).

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