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Just Transition needs unions at the table

4 November, 2022The initiative on Just Transition in the Energy Sector concludes its first year with recommendations set to ensure that unions are ready for the transition. ITUC, LO Norway and IndustriALL have worked together to ensure that the labour movement have the information, tools and plans to get good jobs and a Just Transition for workers.

“This initiative has made it clear that in many places the transition is happening without our contributions, and it’s our responsibility to engage. The jobs of tomorrow must be better than the jobs of today. Action on a Just Transition is not going to come from the employers or government. But if we push for Just Transition, we will have it for workers throughout the supply chain,”

said Atle Høie, IndustriALL general secretary.

Ten meetings were held between April and October 2022, with experts, energy unions and national confederations, focusing on what net zero means for energy sector jobs. Participants came together from all over the world to exchange information on emerging technologies, what the transition looks like in different parts of the world, as well as union strategies for ensuring good jobs and a Just Transition.

Technology and country workshops in 2022:

“Unions have an important role to play in the transition to a climate friendly future. That means we need to step up our core business to organize workers in both existing and in new sectors.  At the opening day of LO Norway’s Congress, the government presented their decision to establish a tripartite Just Transition council with the government and the social partners, something we have demanded for quite some time. It really helps to work on these issues and not give up,”

said Peggy Hessen Følsvik, LO Norway president.

One recommendation to come out of the workshops was that the initiative should continue in 2023 to continue to provide a platform for exchange across borders, sectors and unions. In the next phase additional topics will be explored, such as Just Transition and the oil and gas sector in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and nuclear technology. 

Since clean jobs are for everyone, the next phase will include gender and racial justice, making sure that women, racialized and young workers are represented in our movement and get good jobs in clean energy.

The initiative’s focus will shift from sharing information to supporting unions in getting social dialogue. Global Just Transition agreements anchored in the United Nations are an important aspect of this initiative and can be useful in promoting social dialogue. However, to be effective they will need unions on the ground to organize workers in multinational energy companies, the engagement of the UN at its top  and a strong tripartite process through the ILO.

“After more than 15 years, we see the commitment to Just Transition in the Paris climate agreement. We now see that people will pay lip service to Just Transition, but we are not seeing unions at the table. That's why Just Transition mechanisms, councils, committees, commissions and authorities are so important.

“We must be optimistic, though not every industry will create the same number of jobs. But for heavy industries that must transition, for every ten jobs in renewable energy we get 5-10 in manufacturing. If they are good jobs, there is a multiplier impact that will give you 30-35 jobs in the broader ecosystem. We build and sustain communities by ensuring that all these workers are organized,”

said Sharan Burrow ITUC general secretary.