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Greening the Workplace

November 26, 2018 10:38 PM
By Kevin Daws

Trade Union GroupAs both an advocate and a practitioner of Community Politics it has never ceased to amaze me that as both a Party and as Green Liberal Democrats we have overlooked either the most important or the second most important community in most people's lives - the workplace community.

Why aren't we looking for opportunities to utilise community politics in the workplace not so much to promote the Liberal Democrats or the Green Liberal Democrats but to share and promote our core principles and policies?

Like many people within the Liberal Democrats I am a member of a trade union. I am also an active trade unionist who has served as Branch Secretary in 2 different trade unions and I am currently the Union Learning Representative and Equalities Officer for my branch.

Trade unions have woken up to the 'green agenda but I am not sure that all trade union leaders fully understand the agenda. In the latest issue of Unite Work there is an article entitled Power Surge: electric cars - the race is on. In this article it is emphasized that Britain needs to be at the fore front of developing this new technology. However, to achieve this the Government must be prepared to invest. The article quotes David Bailey, Professor of Industrial Strategy at Aston Business School as saying: "we need to be able to re-equip workers with new skills, but that is something we have not been very good at."

As Green Liberal Democrats we need to consider how we make the case that the development and production of electric cars will require investment in new technology which will provide high-skilled, secure jobs on decent pay. This is just one small example of how trade unions can promote the Green agenda.

If we look at what trade unions can do in the workplace then I would suggest that you read the TUC publication 'The Union Effect: greening the workplace' which was produced following a TUC seminar in June 2017. This publication provides 6 case studies that reflect the experiences of six organisations which have made a serious effort to lessen the impact of their operations on the environment and, in particular, to reduce their carbon footprint. It looks at the measurable progress that has been made, and the role of unions in that progress. The six case studies cover the public and private sectors, as well as a range of industries: • Allianz Insurance: a financial services company •Defra (York): a central government department • EDF Energy: one of the big six energy companies • Furzedown Low Carbon Zone: a community project based on a further education college • Great Ormond Street Hospital, an NHS Trust •The Port of Felixstowe, the largest in the UK. Although there are differences in the way that environmental improvements are being introduced - power stations and a port face very different challenges to hospitals and offices - there are also similarities.

I should also point out that as long ago as 1998 the TUC set up at national level the Trade Union Sustainable Development Advisory Committee (TUSDAC) to bring unions and government together in a forum for consultation on sustainable development and environmental issues. TUSDAC has advised the government that "the issue of climate change must not only involve energy and industrial policy initiatives, but employee involvement, at the workplace, regionally and nationally" However the current Government shows minimal interest in that route!

There is also an international committee of Trade Unions which is advisory to the OECD on environmental issues

Climate Change

This weekend many of Green Liberal Democrats will be joining the Protest: Together for Climate Justice and one thing we should remember is that the trade unions were instrumental in setting up the Campaign Against Climate Change. The Campaign Against Climate Change has a trade union group One Million Climate Jobshttps://www.cacctu.org.uk/tu_climate_research where you can access resources such as the One Millions Jobs Campaign which produced a report called One Millions Jobs: Tackling the Environmental and Economic Crisis. This campaign is supported by a variety of trade unions including the Public and Commercial Services Union, the Communication Workers Union, the University and College Union, the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association, the Fire Brigade Union, Unite the Union, The Bakers, Food and Allied Workers' Union and the National Union of Students

The Campaign against Climate Change has produced a report entitled Trade unions in the UK: engagement with climate change which can be downloaded here https://www.cacctu.org.uk/sites/data/files/sites/data/files/Docs/tu_in_the_uk_and_climate_change.pdf

Trade Union Motions

The Campaign Against Climate Change is encouraging trade unions and trade union branches to pass motions opposing fracking and they provide a link to the Frack Free Ryedale website for these motions and the link is https://frackfreeryedale.org/unionmotions/ One Million Climate Change Jobs

They also provide a link to a Trade Union Briefing on Divestment which can be found here https://platformlondon.org/p-publications/trade-union-divest-reinvest-briefing/

Unite the Union are running a campaign called Diesel Can Kill and they are encouraging their members to take a couple of minutes to fill out the Unite diesel exhaust emissions register which can be found here https://unitetheunion.org/campaigns/diesel-can-kill-report-it/
In 2017 Unison the Public Service Union adopted a motion entitled Climate Change and a Just Transition and you can access the motion by following this link: https://conferences.unison.org.uk/motions/2017/national-delegate-conference/96-climate-change-just-transition/

Trade Unions have a key role to play in protecting our planet as well as campaigning on a wide range of issues including Climate Change; Fracking; Greening the Workplace; single use plastic; renewable energy, electric cars and many other environment issues. You could start by asking your Trade Union Branch and your national trade union to affiliate to the Campaign Against Climate - here is a link to download a template motion for this purpose Campaign Against Climate Change

I could write a lotmore about the role of trade unions in campaigning on environmental issues and greening the workplace but please encourage your trade union to take action at the Branch, Regional and National level and do tell us about what you are doing