Debates at the STUC’s 2022 Congress displayed the depth of engagement with just transition by unions in Scotland and the breadth of contributions to the struggle for climate justice across the world. This can be seen in the speeches of delegates which are available via links on this page, starting with Richard Hardy speaking for the STUC General Council, who ended by saying:
“Scotland’s unions each have a different stake in this debate, but we are clear that market-driven policies are not the answer. We need huge levels of investment in the green economy. But it must come with strict conditions on companies, collective bargaining structures, and a fundamental change in patterns of ownership in our economy”. .
One of the highlights was the one hour International Just Transition session in which Sharan Burrow, the General Secretary of the International TUC, thanked the STUC for the leadership which it gave on just transition at COP26. The delegates heard live from Ozzie Warwick from Trinidad and Tobago Oil Workers’ Union, Boitumelo Molete from COSATU in South Africa and Josua Mata of CENTRO in the Phillipines. Asked at the end which one demand they think is key, Ozzie called for system change through public ownership of energy, Boitumelo for the rich countries to deliver on their promises of climate finance and Josua said ‘climate jobs – put up the money for jobs to lower carbon emissions’.
The STUC’s debate about the economy was framed around just transition, starting with ‘Industrial Strategy for a Just Transition’ based on a motion from the General Council. This included calling for ‘public ownership of our energy system to tackle both the climate and the cost-of-living crises’; and support for workers developing their own worker-led decarbonisation plans – to highlight just two points. It applauded ‘the unity achieved between trade unionists in dispute and climate justice campaigners during COP26’.
It was followed by ‘Workplace Action Post-COP26’ based on a motion from UNISON. Moving it, Stephen Smellie celebrated the trade unions’ contribution at the COP and the 150,000 strong march – the trade union block was, he said, “one of the biggest trade union mobilisations we have seen for many years making our class demands known – for Climate Justice and Jobs – as part of a wider massive mobilisation”. He ended by saying “The climate crisis isn’t going to go away and we must ensure that our voices demanding climate justice for all doesn’t go away”.
Bread for all, and roses too
Alison Hancock of the Royal College of Podiatry addressed the vital issues of workplace organisation and the need for Workplace Green Committees and Green Reps, backed by legislation: “as workers we need to ensure that our employers take this seriously and by working together, we can make the changes required in our workplace”.
In an inspiring and broad-ranging contribution, Layla-Roxanne Hill for the STUC Black Workers Committee reminded Congress that “The climate crisis, imperialism, colonialism, race, class, gender and ability are linked …”, concluding “Now is the time for our movement to educate, agitate and organise to ensure that the green and net-zero industries and institutions of the future, both here and wherever our business interests are held, provide Bread for all, and Roses too”.
In other motions, there was a strong focus just transition in transport, especially shipping and buses; and on retrofitting houses; and throughout, speakers made reference to the core tasks for trade unions – to develop worker-led transition plans and reach sectoral agreements over the process to guarantee re-employment and protection of pay and conditions for workers whose jobs may be impacted by policies to cut carbon emissions.
A strong foundation of policy and action for just transition is being built within Scotland’s trade union movement, and, as Richard Hardy said, “the STUC and its affiliates are building alliances with environmentalists and communities on the ground”.
There is work to be done! As Issy Sutherland of Unite said “There is no greater issue facing the planet. Central to this debate is alternative high quality jobs in the communities which have been based around fossil fuel emitting industries. However, while as trade unions we can help provide that lead, it must also come from the UK and Scottish Governments. To date, both governments have been sadly lacking in creating and supporting a ‘just transition’ in order to achieve net zero emissions”.