Debby Cobbett reports
This conference was billed as ‘a forum to share knowledge, plan and strategise for the future of climate justice organising both in and around the workplace.’ It brought together members of unions including UCU, Unite, Unison, NUJ and Equity who had travelled from all over this island, from Aberdeen to Kent, and from Cardiff to Essex.
We heard first of all about Just Transition, meaning the shift to a decarbonised economy in a just way, protecting livelihoods in a fairer economy. This is making significant progress in Scotland, where Friends of the Earth Scotland and Scottish TUC set up the Just Transition Partnership in 2016, and are doing great work. We heard that bosses in high-emitting industries such as North Sea oil and gas claim to be providing good jobs, but what do workers say? In Aberdeen, offshore oil and gas workers were surveyed by Friends of the Earth Scotland about their feelings on transferring to other work. Because of horrendous ‘flexible’ working conditions in this fragmented, under-unionised industry, there was little attachment to existing jobs but the barrier to transfer to off-shore renewables is the need for further qualifications and the exorbitant cost of privately-provided training. As similar problems exist in other sectors, it’s important to understand training needs and fight for them to be met. For example, Unite workers not only fought closure at Rolls Royce in Barnoldswick but for a new training centre to ‘develop the advanced manufacturing skills necessary to meet the challenges of climate change’. More here. Other examples around just transition can develop from worker-led planning for diversification rather than redundancy, inspired by the Lucas Plan in 1976 which is still very relevant to just transition.
Sessions on local organising included an account of building a campaign around energy bills in Glasgow. It began with a demo outside Scottish Power and led to work with debt advisers to help local people and then a day school and demands put to local government and then at Holyrood. We heard that new faces at demos do not mean more activists without working together on projects such as this to build capacity within our movements.
From regional TUC, Jenny Patient spoke about her work in Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission, with Bill Adams meeting with Drax, Better Buses campaigners, Sheffield Needs a Pay Rise, decarbonising schools, Acorn and tenants’ groups among others. There is also work on a climate pledge for local businesses. Jenny is hoping to set up a retrofit event through Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission, but here’s one coming up soon with input from some London Councillors on 18 November: Working together with local authorities for publicly accountable social housing retrofitting, see this link..
There is a Global Day of Action for Climate Justice on Saturday 12 November at 12 noon in Sheffield, at Barker’s Pool, details here. York Environment Forum’s November meeting will focus on the same theme, details from email@example.com