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South-South union solidarity against challenges of energy transition

21 April, 2021IndustriALL Global Union affiliates in Latin America, the Caribbean and Sub-Saharan Africa met virtually on 7 April to exchange ideas on energy transition and how to reach better agreements for workers and communities.

Both parts of the world face common predicaments on energy transition as governments pursue neoliberal economic policies marginalizing workers and poor communities. Chile was cited as a resource-rich country whose population is mainly poor. The same can be applied to most Sub-Saharan African countries, which are rich in fossil fuels and oil and gas, yet most people live in poverty.

The meeting discussed the energy transition’s potential to drive industrialization and economic development in the regions. Energy, it was argued, must be discussed in the context of the political economy of the continents. There were opportunities for the setting up of renewable power plants, but this should be done while protecting workers interests.

The meeting discussed both regions’ huge potential in renewable energy resources, including hydropower, wind, solar and bio power, geothermal and fossil fuels.

Unions in Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico said they want a just energy transition with improved working conditions and a respect for workers' rights. They spoke about the importance of social dialogue to promote sustainable industrial policies and a Just Transition, with the participation of governments, companies, unions and affected communities.

Sintracarbón secretary of education, Fredys Fernández, mentioned the initiative developed since 2015 by Colombian unions USO, Sintracarbón and Sintraelecol called “Social, mining-energy and environmental table”. Together with the community, government authorities and businessmen they debate on energy transition and the construction of a sustainable energy policy for Colombia.
Across the Atlantic, unions in Ghana, South Africa and Zimbabwe, part of the Sub-Saharan Africa Energy Network, are fighting against the privatization of public state power companies which often results in increases in the cost of electricity.

“We are against the privatization of the power utility, ESKOM as proposed by the government. We prefer an energy provider that is publicly owned and run in the public interest and not for profit as this will make energy unaffordable and inaccessible to poor communities. On renewable energy, we are calling for the social ownership of renewable energy sources,”

said Enos Mbodi from the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa.

Kemal Ozkan, IndustriALL assistant general secretary said:

“We need a global energy transition model that promotes industrialization, decent green jobs and the interests of workers and communities. This is only possible if countries in the Global South adopt sustainable energy and industrial plans.”