The year 2015 should be celebrated as the year that gave life to a long-fought struggle for sustainability and social justice in the trade union movement. ‘Just Transition’ is an important milestone for IndustriALL and coal unions in particular for playing an important role in influencing the outcomes of Paris Climate conference that emanated in an agreement that has since been embraced by UN agencies and various governments, communities and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
A “Just Transition” to economic, social, and environmental justice aims to minimize the impact on workers and communities of the rapid transition to a low carbon economy. However, the concept is at risk of being hijacked by regimes of accumulation.
Capitalism as a crises-ridden system is forever looking for opportunities to fix profits. As American philosopher Noam Chomsky argues, the business class is highly conscious with a “vulgar Marxists ideology” that has commitments and values in reverse. The 2008 financial crisis, which was left to governments to resolve by bailing out big banks with taxpayers money while banking executives hid their loot was elevated as the only important global crisis while ignoring the ecological crises caused by mining activities.
The most effective push to full realization of what trade union movement resolve on and wishes can be achieved by implementing IndustriALL’s Sustainable Industrial Policy guidelines that revolve around the three dimensions emphasized by the concept of a Just Transition, that is, the economic, social and environmental dimensions. Most particularly, the social dimension demands that we look after the interests of workers (labour) and the families and communities that depend on them.
The increasing amount of green marketing strategies should serve as an alarm to ensure that all our campaigns are executed with an increase dimension of Just Transition. It has managed to rally all of us to participate in economic recovery initiatives while ignoring ecological crises.
The increasing number of green marketing should serve as a signal for trade unions to be vigilant and prevent corporates from implementing strategies that are geared towards green washing. Unions together with civil society should work on modalities to exit fossil fuel dependency and enter the greener economy on our own terms. The continuous support of coal as ‘the source of job creation’ will continue to fare well with multinational corporations who are not interested to resolve the carbon emission problem but intend to profit on the depleting resource while it lasts and continue to pollute the environment. Neither, it must be said, are they very much interested in creating decent, secure work – or protecting the health and safety of their workers.
Failures to put into action the IndustriALL Sustainability Report will absolve governments of their responsibility to look after workers and their communities as nature is exploited for profits.