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Coalminers demand stronger attention to their future


20 November, 201540 delegates from Australia, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Russia, Ukraine, Spain, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Turkey, Pakistan and South Africa gathered at the headquarters of the IndustriALL German affiliate IG BCE in Hannover, Germany at the Global coal mining conference to discuss union responses to the challenges faced by workers and their unions in coal mining industry.

Coal mining sector faces a number of challenges. The plunged commodity market has provoked a downturn in the prices for raw materials including coal. Employers are trying to use this momentum in order to force through conditions that would render more precarious conditions for mining workers while busting their unions. In terms of the climate change the industry is portrayed as one of the biggest contributors of CO2 emissions directly linked to the global warming. Under pressure some countries have already announced policies phasing out their coal mining.

Andrew Vickers, chairperson of the mining sector of IndustriALL Global Union and General Secretary of Australian CFMEU Mining and Energy Union said,

This conference has permitted us not just to identify problems and issues, but also to develop cohesive, workable, sensible and where appropriate, country specific policies, programmes and strategies to confront those that are being developed and implemented by bosses and their lawyers to curtail any effective response from us.”

There are many factors contributing to the climate change and simple closing of mines would not resolve the problem of climate change, but will inevitably create a number of others.

The conference agreed that although coal is by far the biggest contributor to the global CO2 gas emissions, it is not a reason to single out coal. There are other multiple contributors to CO2 gas emissions, which are not targeted in the same way as coal. Closing down coalmines could be a quick fix solution, however more structural approach needs to be secured with the view to jobs and lives of workers at stake.

Addressing the conference, Michael Vassiliadis, IG BCE President said,

For us, as trade unions, the crucial question is, how we link climate protection with good jobs in the industry. Only if we bring together climate policy, economic policy and social policy issues and promote them equally, we can lead this world and its population into a sustainable future.”

In response to the challenges identified at the conference the participants adopted a declaration with a strong set of demands addressing the issues and concerns discussed at the conference.

Kemal Özkan, Assistant General Secretary of IndustriALL Global Union commented,

We reiterate IndustriALL political position to support the ILO criteria for Just Transition. We will ensure that concrete steps are taken to reduce emissions in line with the below 2C° pathway, including appropriate funding of and investment in technologies to reduce from coal combustion. We also want to secure Just Transition for workers and their communities with all that it implies in the way of industrial transformation and social protection. Health and Safety is another important issue and we want to reaffirm our commitment to ratification and proper implementation of the ILO Convention 176.”