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Spanish coal unions win landmark Just Transition deal

1 November, 2018After years of struggle, Spanish mining unions have won a landmark deal for a Just Transition from coal mining, with sustainable development for mining regions.

The €250 million Plan del Carbón deal will see the closure of all Spanish coal mines which are no longer economically viable. The agreement was reached between the new Socialist government and the unions Federación de Industria de Comisiones Obreras (FI-CCOO), Federacíon de Industria, Construcción y Agro de la Unión General de Trabajadores (FICA-UGT) and Federación de Industria de la Unión Sindical Obrera (FI-USO), all IndustriALL Global Union affiliates. The government will fund a transition that is expected to take place between 2019 and 2023.

This follows years of union struggle as successive Spanish governments have tried to end subsidies to the mining industry and close mines, without reaching an agreement that met workers’ needs. In 2012, miners embarked on a 457 kilometre Marcha Negra - Black March – to Madrid to protest the loss of jobs that would result from the end of subsidies.

The Just Transition deal replaces subsidies to the coal industry with a sustainable development plan. Financially viable mines can remain open, but ten pits and open cast mines are expected to close by the end of the year, with the loss of 1,677 jobs. The deal covers eight companies with 12 production units in four regions of Spain. The biggest employer is state owned mining company HUNOSA, with 1,056 employees.

The highly detailed agreement has been praised by unions as a model, and provides a package of benefits to miners and their communities.

About 60 per cent of miners – those age 48 and older, or with 25 years’ service – will be able to take early retirement. Younger miners will receive a redundancy payment of €10,000, as well as 35 days’ pay for every year of service. Miners with asbestosis will receive an additional payment of €26,000.

In addition, money has been set aside to restore and environmentally regenerate former mining sites. Priority for employment in these jobs will go to former miners.

Money will be set upside to upgrade facilities in the mining communities, including waste management, recycling facilities and water treatment plants, utilities infrastructure and distribution for gas and lighting, forest recovery, atmospheric cleansing and reducing noise pollution.

An action plan will be created for each mining community, including plans for developing renewable energy and improving energy efficiency, and investing in and developing new industries.

IndustriALL sustainability director Brian Kohler said:

“This landmark Just Transition deal was won through years of hard struggle. It acknowledges the need to move from fossil fuels while protecting workers and their communities. The deal sets a precedent for responsible transition through social dialogue.”

Just Transition is a core union demand. Strong social protection programmes and sustainable industrial policies are needed to protect jobs while meeting carbon emissions targets. In Australia, IndustriALL mining affiliate the CFMEU Mining and Energy Division has released a report that forecasts a bleak future for the country’s coal miners unless an independent authority is established to manage transition.