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Unions in MENA demand a Just Transition

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24 January, 2023In the second session on just transition in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region on Just Transition held December last year, the more than 80 participants discussed impacts on the region and necessary steps to protect.

Mark Hagen, from German union DGB provided context for the urgency of Just Transition. 

“Union input and leadership are essential for a Just Transition given climate change and the technological transformation. This is a fight for the livelihoods of workers and their communities and their children’s lives,” 

said Mark.
Climate change in the MENA region affects sectors like agriculture, tourism, health, governance, and infrastructure. Heat waves in the region influence production, which impacts workers and their incomes. Greenhouse gasses need to be reduced, and trade unions should be part of these conversations to mitigate the effect on workers. 
For a Just Transition unions must focus on social dialogue, building power, as an active approach will make things better for workers. Many sectors will require restructuring and it will influence workers, their rights and needs. 

According to many participants, the lack of social dialogue is a huge hinderance to negotiations and debate on energy transition. Participants discussed issues of the countries’ different financial and technical capabilities, indicating that transitions may be unfair on countries who are more disadvantaged than others.
The rights and needs of workers should be at the center of any Just Transition conversation. If changes are not done with workers’ economic activity in mind,
the transition is not just. 
Participants raised the issue of governments ignoring dialogue on the subject. Hashmeya Alsaadawi, IndustriALL’s vice president, painted a dusty picture of the Iraqi energy transition. 

“Emissions from the excessive use of cars, polluting factory waste, and private oil-powered generators has led to global warming, damaged vegetation and development of constant sandstorms” 

Ahmed Kamel, IndustriALL regional secretary, said: 

“We need a clear path, and we need to have this dialogue. For that, we need education and training and improving the capacity of our affiliates to address Just Transition.”

Kemal Özkan IndustriALL’ assistant general secretary, said. 

“Our job is to enhance the collective power for a Just Transition – we can’t leave it to the employers. Unions are a strong party and can negotiate and adapt to all situations.”

A regional working group comprising of affiliates, union leaders from the region, IndustriALL secretariat and experts, was set up. The group will draft a regional action plan on Just Transition for the period to come.