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Launch of trade union guide of practice for a Just Transition

20 October, 2022The term Just Transition is used by employers, governments and other multiple stakeholders. But what is a Just Transition on the workers’ terms, and what approaches are worker-centric in ways that protect workers’ expectations and interests?

These are some of the critical issues raised during the online webinar on 18 October to launch A trade union guide of practice for a Just Transition. The webinar was attended by 82 union representatives from 51 countries representing the sectors that IndustriALL Global Union affiliates organize.

The guide aims to assist trade unions in developing frameworks that can be used in Just Transition plans and campaigns to protect workers who will be adversely impacted by the transition not only from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources but by the introduction of new technologies. The guide considers contexts and realities in the Global North where automotive and steel manufacturing jobs will be lost, and the Global South where jobs will become more precarious with most workers earning poverty wages.

Kan Matsuzaki, IndustriALL assistant general secretary, said:

“Just Transition poses a challenge for trade unions in terms of job losses, but this should be seen also as an opportunity for job creation in renewable energy industries, automation, and digitalization including in the electronics and automotive sectors. This means trade unions must continue to demand secure jobs especially for young workers, and campaign for sustainable economies. This guide is a must read for unions as they formulate strategies and plans for the Just Transition.”

Speakers at the launch said the frameworks should be informed by ILO guidelines on the Just Transition, international labour standards, the decent work agenda, and the trade union demands including those made at conferences like COP 26. Emphasis was put on including the gains made through collective agreements and social dialogue processes.

The guide of practice is a toolbox of ideas that can be adopted by the unions and “pro-workers' supporters” that include communities, civil society organizations and other organizations that are part of alliances, networks, and movements that support a Just Transition. The guide has two sections on the current economic and political context; and steps that unions can follow in building strategies and plans to achieve the transition on workers' terms.

The guide is anchored on five principles: a high bar transition, creation of decent jobs, social dialogue, creation of permanent institutions for a Just transition, and affordable energy. Addressing gender-inequality and ending poverty are also described as key to the transition.

“We seek a transformative high bar Just Transition which ensures quality jobs for all workers effected by decarbonization [...] A Just Transition process of decarbonization must be the vehicle to transform the economic relationships between capital and workers, as well as lead to a broad societal transformation that, among other things, brings about just and sustainable energy generation.”

The guide can be used for workers education specially to build the capacity of shop stewards and is complete with implementation and monitoring tools for social dialogue, examples of what should be included in Just Transition agreements and recommendations on the type of government organizations that can be set up. The sample indicators, timelines, and checklists are useful for trade union education while the appendix provides samples on what to include in Just Transition agreements.

The guide includes workers’ voices from IndustriALL affiliates as it includes information collected during the research phase through a questionnaire, online meetings, and interviews. Data collection for the guide also included information from IndustriALL energy networks in the Middle East and North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Jonathan Tasini, the guide’s author said:

“Unions need to immediately start the engagement with the employers and governments and develop long term strategies and plans for 20-30 years.”

“A Just Transition is about social justice, decent working conditions, and better livelihoods for workers and their families as well as for communities and these are the key messages in the guide.

“The time to act is now. Unions must not wait for the changes to happen before taking decisive action,”

said Diana Junquera Curiel, IndustriALL energy director.

The guide, published by IndustriALL with support from the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, is available in English, French and Spanish.