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Unions unite for a Just Transition in the Caucasus and Central Asia

12 October, 2023IndustriALL affiliates from Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan met in Tbilisi, Georgia on 5 October, for a round table discussion on the Just Transition in the Caucasus, and Central Asia. 

The seminar addressed the challenges and opportunities arising from the transition to renewable energy sources and the pressing need for a just and equitable shift in the region. 

Unions presented diverse perspectives from key industry players, including the Chairman of the Georgian Trade Union Confederation (GTUC), Irakli Petriashvili. Petriashvili highlighted the struggles faced in interactions with the Georgian government, particularly regarding the increase of the minimum wage. He stressed the necessity for a coherent industrial policy, emphasizing the creation of new jobs in the green economy.

“The outcomes of climate conferences underscore the urgency of a Just Transition. IndustriALL's primary demands are social dialog and sustainable industrial policies. The creation of green jobs are essential in the trade union agenda but unions must push for a seat at the table if we want a Just Transition. IndustriALL, together with other global unions, will raise the main demands to the upcoming C28 a work program on just transition with a labor focus, guaranteeing workers rights with inclusive participation, adaptation needs for social protection, and strong commitment for climate finance ,"

said Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL assistant general secretary.

Participants collectively voiced concerns about the lack of transparency in government initiatives for transitioning to renewable energy sources. They identified key questions that must be addressed, including inquiries about ongoing projects, implementation timelines, financial resources, and plans for creating new, green and decent jobs. Affiliates also emphasized the need for trade union demands to be integrated into future government transition projects, ensuring social inclusivity.

In Georgia, unions are calling on employers to strategize the reorganization of production during the green economy transition. Unions, such as Tkibuli miners, stressed the importance of exploring alternative sites in the event of coal mine closures.

Trade unions also identified mayors and governors as potential allies, expected to shoulder the financial burden and social responsibility in regions affected by enterprise closures and mass unemployment. 

Representatives of the new railway workers in Georgia highlighted the challenges posed by changes in domestic and foreign markets, emphasizing the possible decrease in rail transportation volumes, leading to concerns about lower wages and potential job layoffs.

The meeting also welcomed the experience from Moldova particularly after the country was granted candidate country status by the European Union (EU). Despite positive strides in renewables in Moldova, Margareta Strestian reported that unions are far from securing their rightful place at the table in driving a Just Transition.

Judith-Kirton Darling, acting joint general secretary of IndustriAll Europe, spoke on the implications of EU climate legislation on international trade. She stressed the importance of aligning foreign products with European green standards, preventing unfair competition, and maintaining the integrity of the European market.

In contrast to the challenges faced in Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, European trade unions shared powerful success stories during the event, illustrating tangible examples of successful transitions and providing valuable insights on how unions can achieve similar success.

Arild Theimann, representing Industri Energi in Norway, highlighted the nation's renewable energy achievements, emphasizing the creation of new green jobs and substantial investments in hydrogen projects, solidifying Norway's commitment to sustainability.

Cristina Hanson, from Denmark's 3F Union, outlined Denmark's roadmap towards carbon neutrality by 2050. She underscored the active participation of trade unions in this transformative journey, emphasizing the crucial collaboration between labor and industry.

Jakob Lykke, Chairman of 3F Esbjerg in Denmark, offered insights from the Esbjerg port, showcasing the port's successful transitions amidst changing industries. He emphasized the key role played by unions in supporting workers through these shifts, advocating for skill development programs and close cooperation with educational institutions.

“The region is navigating the complexities of a green transition. These discussions make it clear that transparency, collaboration, and inclusive policies are crucial. The challenges highlighted and the proactive stance of unions in this region underscore their collective determination to ensure that the transition is not only green but also just and fair for all,”

said Vadim Borisov, IndustriALL regional secretary.