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Trade Unions For Energy Democracy: Asia-Pacific Regional meeting

By staff - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, August 29, 2017


Chair: Lance McCallum (National Campaign Coordinator, Australian Council of Trade Unions)

1. Sean Sweeney (Director, Trade Unions for Energy Democracy) :
A. Keystone USA: Calling from Nebraska: testifying against jobs claims for Keystone pipeline, strong movement in republican state also from first nations and environment groups
B. USA: Positive TUED presence at recent People’s Summit in Chicago – good traction in USA and support from Bernie Sanders supporting unions for TUED – this is against the spilt over energy in unions in the USA
C. UK: Labour party has adopted platform of energy democracy – Corbyn’s excellent result is encouraging–the platform is not straightforward nationalisation rather focused on initiatives like municipal control and procurement. Further movement from the Trade Union Council (UK) through recent motion to split up big power utility companies
D. Europe: Successful first meeting in Geneva that brought together cross section of European unions including – France, UK and Basque region. Resolved to produce framing statement for COP 23 when in Bonn.
E. South Africa: NUMSA and new national centre (SAFTU) undertaking strike action against the closure of coal and adoption of privatised renewable energy. Potential to strike at 6 power stations currently. Potential for NUMSA and SAFTU to embark on campaign for nationwide just transition campaigns (which would be first of such scale)
F. Australia: impressed by latest video on social media by ACTU starting a conversation about nationalising electricity system.

Colin Long: TUED presence at COP 23: Yes TUED is applying to host side event, have presence as part of union contingent, potential street protests. ITUC contact is Annabel Rosenberg – organising ITUC event.

2. Kate Lee ( Executive Officer: Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA)
a. India trip: End of November, 2017
TNI India is organising conference for unions, academics and state governments to explore climate impacts and energy democracy opportunities in India. Sean Sweeney will attend and speak with good opportunities for more discussion regarding the TUED analysis. There will also be an opportunity to link with a global unions meeting in the region. Following this Sean will be able to visit Nepal to visit TUED unions there for further discussions. Interested unions are welcome to participate – contact Kate for further details
b. Tom Reddington’s position
Tom has recently started working at Union Aid Abroad –APHEDA as the climate justice and energy democracy organiser. He has capacity to support the TUED Asia-Pacific network. He is progressing the mapping exercise from the recent New York meeting and will be distributing a short survey for members to complete soon.
Greg Mclean will send Kate Lee contacts re. Energy democracy and unions in India (Prayas and Raman Khan)
Colin Long: interested in bringing Bangladeshi unionist to Australia to discuss new coal projects (e.g. Adani) from their perspective and worker exploitation

3. Colin Long (Secretary, National Tertiary Education Union – Australia):
a. Cooperative Power Australia :
7 Australian unions, eNGOs and co-ops are currently establishing a co-op that will offer affordable and clean electricity to its members. The project looks to grow a new red + green alliance, encourage organising and create a solidarity economy to further support the growth of sustainable jobs. Currently the co-op is on track to be providing members with electricity by end of the year. The project has been led by the NUW who have responded to their membership identifying rising electricity prices having a large impact on household budgets. Many unions are interested in joining and further information (also general background / feasibility study / business plan) can be shared by contacting Colin Long or Tom Reddington.

4. Lance McCallum (National Campaign Coordinator, Australian Council of Trade Unions):
a. Update re energy and climate policy in Australia
– Recent review of energy system proposing market based approach including a clean energy target has dominated recent debate. This also proposed a 3 year closure period for power stations – only because effect on gird (rather than workers – there was also in passing mention of skills development) Generally this review very poor for just transition or challenging neo-liberal paradigm
– Australian government reviewing climate policy ahead of considering 2030 targets – these are extremely weak and poor for high income country such as Australia.
– Positive collaboration with eNGO over poor renewable energy employers ( poor wages and conditions) – focused on including this in respective campaigns (generally renewable energy private companies provide poor conditions for workers)
– ACTU created a video and shared on Facebook asking supporters to provide input to the idea of nationalising Australia’s energy system. Positive response so far.
b. ITUC : organising unions for climate meeting in Singapore 31 Aug and 1 sept
c. Coal closure case study: Worker transfer scheme Hazelwood, Victoria
– Example of enacting ACTU just transitions policy adopted end of last year. After Hazelwood’s owners Engie( French Multinational) announced closure with few months’ notice (and redundancy of 750 direct workers) – unions worked with employers, government to create MOU worker transfer scheme ( 22million) this allowed 150 workers made redundant to transfer to nearby power stations and older workers to take early retirement packages. Please contact Lance for further information as it was a good case study / innovative approach


Colin Long: Earth worker Cooperative is also working in that area to establish a union, worker owned cooperative to manufacture solar hot water. Looking for 1 million in start-up capital currently and keen to continue to work with Victorian unions to make the project happen – also happy to share ideas as opportunity to support renewables manufacturing in coal communities.

5. Josua Mata (General Sectary, SENTRO – Philippines) is apology:
Tom Reddington (Union aid abroad – APHEDA) gave quick update about SENTRO research project into using the cooperative utilities to enter into renewable energy generation and defend public ownership from pressure for privatisation. SENTRO are holding a national conference Manila focused on Energy issues on 25 and 26th August.

6. General business
a. Shankar Lamichhane Ramesh (President, UNI Nepal Liaison Council)
New issue for unions in Nepal – as such currently consulting key stakeholders and determine possible actions. Looking forward to the visit at end of November from Sean (TUED) and Union aid abroad – APHEDA staff to discuss further)
b. Ramesh Badal (Foreign Secretary, GEFONT)
Investigating opportunities to organise workers in hydro power as well as ensuring labour rights and organising workers in new hydro power construction
c. Dipa Bharadwaj (Coordinator, CLASS Nepal)
Since the NY TUED meeting this year has been working with all unions on future plans and has got agreement on participation in the space, specifically all centres have agreed to prioritise issue going forward. Also have begun a lobby campaign to government and currently creating a “roster of experts” to present research.
d. NZ update
– Gary ( Unite, NZ)
Even for fast food workers union climate is issue – with number of workers almost dying in recent floods for example.
Focusing on just transition motion for upcoming national congress – key climate issue include diary industry (positive support from Labour party to restrict water to industry with is eNGO strategy for climate as they can’t expand without water), highest electricity prices in world – despite 80% hydro power NZ could be test case it what a transition should not look like with the system being privately owned (e.g. very difficult for solar), miners’ union A2 inspired by Hazelwood worker transfer system in Aus
– Marcus (First Union)
Recently visited Borneo and shared ideas to first nation’s resistance to deforestation. Climate great example of capitalist ideology versus first nation beliefs
– Sandy ( postal union and NZ)
Also is coordinator and working to map all fossil fuel projects in NZ
e. Edward Miller

Sorry, my microphone is on strike right now. I’m travelling to Bangladesh in a few weeks where we will be developing a campaign to have the 30,000 strong member union in the Bangladesh Rural Electrification Board recognised so they can begin collective bargaining. Will also touch base with our affiliates there on the expanding influence of Chinese infrastructure diplomacy there, with a bunch of major coal projects being pushed, and encourage them to develop a campaign working around the TUED framework.

f. Sean Sweeney (Director, Trade Unions for Energy Democracy)
– South Korea – please look at latest TUED newsletter documenting this ( also noted apology for Wol-San today)
– New members – please send Sean an email to be added to list
– UK – Labour party- shadow energy minister meeting with TUED unions in October
TUED: Sean and John just finished new TUED paper: Preparing a Public Pathway – look forward to further reading (105 pp.)
g. Greg Mclean (PSI , Australia)
– Recent Australian Labor Party Conference of NSW – a motion was passed for the government to increase its shares in the respective state electricity distributors so that it holds a majority share exceeding 50%. (Labor party currently in opposition however shows willingness to oppose privatisation and pro-public ownership trajectory)

7. Next meeting + chair?
– Next meeting : Mid Sep – Early Oct ( before COP 23 so we can discuss position / actions )
– Colin Long (NTEU, Australia) is next chair

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