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Nuclear workers join forces

13 October, 2020Even with a pandemic wreaking havoc across the world, the nuclear sector remains fairly stable. But the current situation puts an increased focus on health and safety, which workers and unions must be involved in. That was the conclusion as 35 unionists from 15 countries from around the world met online to discuss the impact of Covid-19 on the energy sector.

In his opening statement, Valeriy Matov, vice co-chair of IndustriALL’s energy section in charge of nuclear and president of Ukrainian union Atomprofspilka, said:

“Energy can only be produced in real time and we have continued to work and produce power during the pandemic. Social distancing is not always possible in the workplace, and as unions we have to make sure health and safety is implemented.”

As Covid-19 is picking up speed again in many parts of the world, participants exchanged good practices in the workplace, as well as specific action taken by unions. Unions in Ukraine have purchased individual medical protective equipment, Japanese unions have cooperated with members of parliament within the organization and raised opinion on the situation at the national council,and unions in France have made sure to stay in touch with members.

“Despite an uncertainty in nuclear energy policies in many countries, the sector remains stable,”

says Diana Junquera Curiel.

“But we need to continue to meet, albeit virtually, to learn from each other and exchange experiences."

The meeting addressed the global supply chain of the nuclear industry. IndustriALL’s mining director Glen Mpufane and mechanical engineering director Matthias Hartwich participated and introduced the role of their respective sectors and how they interact in the value chain.

In the near future, the network will invite unions from uranium mining and mechanical engineering sectors to join, in order to try to get the same conditions along the supply chain as nuclear workers have.

Brian Kohler, IndustriALL health and safety director, talked about the impact of Covid-19 in the workplace and the importance of workers’ rights in health and safety; “health and safety has to be done with us, the workers, and not to us.”

In his closing remarks, IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan stressed the need to make the system fair for workers:

“Health and safety is crucial for union work and solutions don’t come automatically. We have to fight together. IndustriALL will continue to provide a platform for workers to exchange experiences, as well as to be part of intergovernmental organizations.”

IndustriALL has published several guides to support workers and unions: Advice for workers and employers, as well as a guide on the safe return to work as lockdowns eased.