Thanks to REEL News for this report and access to video from Friday’s direct action in Glasgow
UNITE Scottish Construction rank and file and the Blacklist Support Group were celebrating a very significant victory after a campaign of direct action forced Scottish energy giant SSE to reinstate Greig McArthur, branch secretary of the biggest construction branch in Scotland, and two of his colleagues. They were disgracefully sacked two days before Christmas for seeking trade union recognition, despite being only weeks away from an agreement. Now that recognition agreement appears to be imminent – as well as full compensation for loss of earnings.
This is a particularly important victory as it is in the high voltage sector, a key sector in moving away from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
Here’s a video clip of Greig McArthur talking about the importance of the high voltage sector to the transition to a sustainable economy
Now Greig’s branch are organising a combine to not only push for recognition and proper wages and conditions across all renewable energy sectors, but to fight for proper wages and conditions in every single electrical and mechanical sector. They are also calling on the Scottish Government to put some teeth into their “Fair Work Convention” which calls for much better employment conditions, and to put guarantees of stable, well paid direct employment into their at present very weak Just Transition policy.
In addition they calling for UNITE Scotland to step up and start organising properly with the rank and file, something which has been sadly lacking. So the rank and file also visited another site to protest the excessive use of agency staff, and to start a campaign for an above inflation pay rise which should have been started by the union months ago. This is the start of a major campaign by the branch – and the next step is to elect officers to the new combine at a meeting on Saturday January 28th, which will also be a chance to come together to share ideas about winning on all the issues mentioned above. If you’re a construction worker in Scotland and you’re not already a member of the branch, this is the time to join (details at the end of the video) – and build a powerful combine to win.
We know that the points of convergence between the labor and the climate movements are immense, but that several challenges lie ahead of us. It is nevertheless of extreme importance and urgency to cut emissions and do so by drawing on plans that are created by the workers and communities and in regard to their interests and needs.
Often, we do know what work needs to be carried out in order to cut emissions, but workers are being left out of the discussion and climate science is being disregarded. We need to build a movement that not only is capable of setting its own program, but that has the power to implement it.
As so, we are bringing together people from all around the world, and bringing together the labor and climate movements to discuss how we win a program that can allow us to stop climate collapse. Join us for two days of thematic sessions about the strategies, technical and social perspectives, and challenges we face in building Climate Jobs Campaigns.
Patricia De Marco;
Paul Le Blanc;
Suda Sim Meriç;
All the sessions will be recorded and available online. Sessions will be 1 hour and 30 minutes and will be composed of a introduction by the invited speakers and a workshop space between the participants.
Saturday, September 17
12:00 GMT [5 pm ET] – General Session: Strategic Orientation
14:00 GMT [7 pm ET] – Special Sessions
1) Building Climate Jobs Movements
2) Food and Farming
16.00 GMT [11 pm ET] – Special Sessions
2) Racism and Refugees
Sunday, September 18
12.00 GMT [5 pm ET] – General Session: Workers in the Fossil Fuel industry
14.00 GMT [7 pm ET] – Special Sessions
1) Cutting Emissions
16.00 GMT [11 pm ET] – General Session: Summing Up
The Global Climate Jobs Network is organising an online international conference Friday June 3 to Sunday June 5, 2022. This will be online to make it easy for activists and organisations to participate from all over the world.
The theme is Climate Jobs, Climate Crisis and Green New Deals. But we are open to sessions on related topics linked to community, union and other climate justice struggles. If you are not sure if your topic would fit, send it anyway and we can chat it over.
Our Global Climate Jobs Network will be coordinating the conference. But we want organisations to propose and present your own sessions.
We are looking for sessions from different organisations, from national unions to local branches, from international networks to national campaigns. From environmental and climate justice community campaigns to local Fridays for the Future groups, student unions, social movements, feminist and LGBT groups, faith groups, farmers and fisherfolk organisations and Green New Deal campaigns and from groups of scientists and engineers.
We especially want to provide a platform for those fighting for climate justice now and we particularly want to hear about the struggles of the peoples of Africa, Asia and Latin America.
You can run a session based on your own organisation or you can put forward speakers and we will link them up with speakers from other organisations on similar themes or from the same country.
We also want to encourage artistic sessions using, music, film, and anything that tells your story and makes the event more like an online festival of resistance, ideas and solidarity.
You can propose sessions in any language, and you can propose two sessions in different languages.
We will timetable all the sessions and try to arrange them so you can follow different themes.
Sessions will last 75 minutes. We suggest no more than three speakers, and at least half of the time is taken up by contributions from the audience and in breakout groups. If you have three speakers, please have at least one be a woman. If you cannot find an appropriate woman speaker, please write to us and we will try to put you in touch with someone.
To propose a session or a speaker, to ask a question or talk to someone on the organising committee, please write to: Climatejobs2022@aol.com
Sponsoring Groups (list in formation):
Global Climate Jobs Network
ScotE3 (Employment, Energy and Environment – trade union and environmental activists in Scotland)
Review of African Political Economy
AIDC (Alternative Information and Development Centre – South Africa)
Million Climate Jobs Campaign (South Africa)
Pittsburgh Green New Deal (USA)
SENTRO (Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa – labour federation in Philippines)
Friends of the Earth Scotland and Platform are launching a campaign for an Offshore Training Passport.
Here’s their rationale for the campaign:
What’s the issue?
Offshore oil and gas workers regularly pay thousands of pounds from their own pocket for their training and safety qualifications. Despite huge overlap, workers need to go through separate training for the oil and gas industry and the wind industry.
A Just Transition must include creating clear pathways for workers in high-carbon industries to bring their skills and experience into renewables.
The duplication of training is a major barrier to workers being able to bring their skills and experience from fossil fuels into renewable energy.
How can we fix it?
An Offshore Training Passport scheme would standardise training accreditation across the offshore oil and gas and offshore renewables industries where possible, reducing costs for workers by reducing the need for duplication of certificates and allowing workers to shift more easily between oil and gas and renewables.
A Just Transition must be shaped by the workers and communities who will be affected as we move from fossil fuels to renewables – the offshore workforce wants training barriers removed.
When surveyed, 94% of offshore workers supported an Offshore Training Passport
To find out how to support the campaign download the campaign toolkit which includes sample letters that can be sent to MSPs and MPs and material for social media.
A new pamphlet, and accompanying technical resources, from the Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union Group is indispensable reading for every trade unionist and climate activist.
It’s now 13 years since the One Million Climate Jobs pamphlet was published. The pamphlet’s proposition is a simple one – solving the climate crisis requires a rapid transition to a zero-carbon economy – transition involves ending economic activity in areas that create greenhouse gas emissions and hugely expanding the number of new jobs that are essential to a decarbonised economy – these jobs are what the pamphlet describes as ‘climate jobs’.
A focus on climate jobs is practical and political. It’s practical because an energy transition is simply impossible unless the jobs are created. So, the extent to which jobs are being created is a measure of progress. If there’s no evidence of jobs, then all the rhetoric about a climate emergency from politicians is just hot air and greenwashing. Scotland is a good example of this – we’re told that the Scottish Government has world leading policies – but there is no evidence of a growth in climate jobs, or of the planning and infrastructure required to support growth in climate of numbers. And while there is no evidence, it’s very hard to convince working class people that plans for dealing with the climate crisis will not have the same impact as past transitions. Many parts of Scotland are still deeply scarred by the transition from coal in the 1980s. So, to build the kind of powerful mass movement we need to drive an effective and socially just transition a sharp focus on climate jobs and the positive effects that transition would have on employment and quality of life is essential. It’s important to stress, however, that a socially just transition – system change in short – should also mean a re-evaluation of employment across the board. Social justice requires climate jobs, but it also requires that there are more jobs in health, care and education and these jobs that support social reproduction are valued much more highly.
Since the publication of ‘One Million Climate Jobs’ other studies have taken a similar approach to analysing what needs to be done to reach Zero Carbon. It’s striking that although methodologies have varied estimates of the number of climate jobs required for the UK and for regions of the UK are remarkably similar. The Green European Foundation’s regional focus is very helpful at understanding more localised impact. It provides data that enables estimates of the numbers of jobs in different sectors in Scotland to be made. Sea Changedemonstrates that phasing out North Sea oil could result in significantly more skilled jobs in renewables.
Nevertheless, ‘Climate Jobs – Building a Workforce for the Climate Emergency’ is a hugely valuable addition to the evidence base for organising and campaigning. It looks though a UK wide lens – and of course there will be regional variations – but the data and analysis on Energy Production, Housing, Transport and Decarbonising industrial processes provides a clear and accessible guide to what can be done using existing technology. The pamphlet also demolished the most common ‘false solutions’ (or greenwashing) that characterise so much of current government and industry priorities.
This pamphlet deserves to be used and shared widely. We will have copies on ScotE3 stalls, and you can order hard copies, download a PDF and access the back-up technical resources from the CACC TU website.
Another contribution to our ongoing thread of debate about ‘what next after COP26’. This post from Sara Bennet, Raymond Morrell and Pete Cannell, based on a revised and updated version of an article originally published on the rs21 and Conter websites, is intended as a contribution to that debate. It looks the rising level of industrial militancy in the UK and discusses the importance of this for developing a movement that has the power to force the kind of system change that we need to avert climate catastrophe.
Nevertheless, despite the failure of the COP, there are reasons to be hopeful. Glasgow was the focus for a diverse and dynamic series of protests that took place in more than 300 locations around the world. There has been a convergence in understanding of the science and economics of the crisis between climate activists and scientists and researchers. So for example, the IPCC reports are produced by consensus among scientists from around the world. The physical science section of the latest report was published in August 2021. It highlights the chasm between the reductions in greenhouse gases that need to happen and the reality of continuing increases. Increases that reflect the fact that while investments in renewables have grown, that growth is outstripped by new investments in fossil fuels. The second and third sections of the report were not due for release until 2022 but, in an unprecedented move, scientists have leaked drafts of the texts. Essentially the message is that restricting the average rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees by the end of the century is only possible if there are fundamental changes to the way economic and social activity is organised around the world. Quite simply the message is that business as usual, based on the assumption that the market will drive a transition to a low carbon economy, is just not an option.
But in essence COP26 stuck with business as usual. So how do we build a movement that is powerful enough to drive through system change in the face of opposition from the rich and powerful?
Part of the story of the Glasgow COP is the strikes and threats of strikes by Scottish workers. The industrial action by ScotRail workers that would have paralysed Scotland’s rail network while the COP took place was called off after the RMT union reached a settlement over a one-year agreement. But in a separate dispute strikes by workers on the night sleeper trains from Scotland to England went ahead as did action by Glasgow refuse workers, members of the GMB union. It was important that the COP coalition that brought together activists to protest and demonstrate at the COP provided open and consistent support for the strikers.
For too long the demand for a worker-led just transition has been abstract and disconnected from any sense of working-class agency. While climate activists have promoted the idea, concrete examples of class action have been lacking. So, whilst climate change has moved up the agenda of most trade unions in Britain, the disconnect between economics and broader politics continues to exert an influence over trade union engagement in the climate question. For example, the GMB has turned its back on meaningful action with its support for fracking. It also supports an approach to mixed-energy provision which may appear like a step in the right direction but allows the status quo to continue under the guise of sounding more balanced. Meanwhile Unite, which represents members working in some of the key ecologically damaging sectors, opposes fracking. However, it has often passed sensible-sounding policies around supporting climate jobs while simultaneously limiting their effectiveness by being unable to think beyond the immediacy of job provision, such as its position in favour of Gatwick airport expansion position.
Trade unions’ main role, of course, is to defend workers, their jobs and working conditions. However, this has too often led to a narrow focus, and a determination to defend the climate-damaging jobs that in time will simply undermine the very existence of such jobs in the future. Jobs in these polluting sectors have often also tended to be more highly skilled with a history of organisation. They also wield some power within the union structure. Due to their importance in terms of UK manufacturing and output, they have also been some of the worst affected by partnership arrangements, which basically attempt to convince workers that their interests align with their bosses.
When climate activists see unions acting in this way, it can breed a sense of cynicism, and to regarding the those working in these sectors as part of the problem, rather than as key to the solution. However, workers are right to insist that there will be meaningful and sustainable jobs for them and future generations. What’s more, increasing numbers of workers within and outside these sectors realise that time is up. These are workers that could and should be at the heart of planning what a real just transition would look like: which skills it could retain and build on, how to transfer them to building a viable future.
Things are changing. Four decades of neo-liberalism have resulted in grotesque levels of inequality. So, for example lorry drivers pay has remained stagnant while working conditions declined, and workloads grew. This is mirrored across society. The accumulated impact of these trends, compounded by the pandemic, is reflected in staff shortages in key sectors from transport to care. In this context workers are starting to organise, take action and win.
Whether or not the anger that these actions represent, and the confidence they engender, can generalise beyond immediate economic demands to grapple with the need for system change depends on the way in which political ideas develop in both the trade union and climate movements. Not least, a worker-led transition requires new forms of organisation at the base and a rejection of employer partnership.
Objectively the conditions are favourable for this to develop. Marxist Ecologist John Bellamy Foster argues that the existential threat posed by the climate crisis can create a revolutionary situation in which the struggle for freedom (from oppression, poverty and more) and the struggle for necessity (survival in the face of climate chaos) coincide. Such a formulation may seem like an impossible step from the action of rail workers and council workers in Scotland – yet building a movement that can achieve system change (necessity) will be one of many steps and reversals – sometimes slow – sometimes rapid.
For many, perhaps most climate activists, the IPCC’s conclusions are old news. It is precisely because of the way in which, year on year, world leaders have jetted into the latest COP and made decisions predicated on the assumption that the market is sacrosanct that so many have concluded that system change is the only answer. The slogan ‘System Change Not Climate Change’ is ever present on climate protests worldwide. But what the slogan means and how the change is achieved is less clear. Will capitalist enterprises respond to ethical imperatives or is state regulation required to force changed behaviour? Can a system driven by profit and capital accumulation ever coexist with a sustainable zero carbon economy? Or do we need a much more fundamental reorganisation of society? And at the same time, given the strength of fossil capital – structured through a century of exploitation of coal and oil and resting on vast resources of wealth and power – where is the power to make this happen?
The beginnings of the answer to that question of the power to change the system are evident in the rise of the school student strike movement around the world, the mass demonstrations that preceded the global pandemic and on the streets in Glasgow this month. But, apart from a moment two decades ago when the turtles and the teamsters marched together, organised workers have largely been absent from the stage. This why the industrial action around the Glasgow COP is so important.
In the aftermath of the COP a priority for climate activists must be to actively lend their support to striking workers, whether it be the refuse collectors in Glasgow and Brighton, the HGV drivers nationally or bus and rail workers. Supporting road haulage might on the surface seem contradictory to the fight against climate change but ultimately the change we need will come from below, with unity across the struggles being of paramount importance. Likewise, we need to see trade unionists march with their banners alongside climate activists at COP26 and beyond. The fights for decent jobs and a decent environment are not in opposition: they are one and the same.
We must think of “productive reconstruction” not as “a return to growth” but as a process of transformation and intense confrontation with capital, based upon public ownership, self-management, and forms of workers’ control. It has to be a process of experimentation and learning.
This seems like a pretty good agenda for both the climate and workers’ movements.
I suppose I just thought that campaigning amongst armament workers and on behalf of armament workers would be likely to be difficult in terms of how we might begin to “actually” impact global heating. I know that if we weren’t building all this military shit and jetting it all over the world and destroying humans and other productive forces with it, then we would avoid putting a lot of carbon into the atmosphere. It’s just that I’ve never considered that it was an issue that you might be able to intervene in quite the same way as I think we might be able to when it comes to oil and gas production.
The issue of oil and gas is looming ever larger in the consciousness of the climate movement. It’s way, way higher than it was when I discovered XR in 2019. When I took part in the London Rebellion it was hard to get a sensible conversation about oil and gas and the North Sea was a very nebulous “concept” for many. Look at the movement today with Stop Cambo. If reporting on mainstream media is anything to go by it’s beginning to exercise thoughts in layers way beyond just the activists and the scientists now. Interestingly the only people who dare not mention oil & gas is the COP. I don’t know if any of this is true about the military complex.
But I can see that from the perspective of jobs, and that’s how the discussion was framed, there’s pretty much no difference in making “demands” about just transitioning armaments workers and oil workers into renewables and other sustainable work.
But I can’t see how it would ever be likely to be more than just a “demand” in the case of armaments workers. In the case of oil workers I have, as you know, an idea that a mass intervention amongst oil workers is a crucial first step if we’re ever going to get to the point where we try to choke off oil and gas production – the absolute first and crucial necessity of a movement that has any hope of abating climate change in the face of this system. There has to be a time and it has to come very soon when the licence society gives the industry to produce fossil fuels is withdrawn. Who is going to force that issue?
I don’t know if a part of all this that as oil is is all I’ve ever known/done, oil is all I can ever really see. The opposite was surely very widely the truth for the bulk of the population until very recently. I think that’s changing.
But I’m beginning to realise that what I see as the impossibility of armaments workers turning their weapons into ploughshares, is what others see as impossible when the issue of confronting/challenging the oil and gas workers. I can see why people think it’s a very long shot to imagine that they’ll either participate in the ending of oil and gas production. But I think that least they can be neutralised, picketed at the heliports and stopped from producing the oil. For how long? And anyway! They need to be informed of the science and we can’t rely on the media to do that.
These two issues, fossil fuel and the armaments/military complex, seem to be of different orders (qualitatively and quantitatively) in the context of tackling climate change. Fossil fuel production seems to me to be primary. Once the fossil fuels are out of the ground, they are pollution – they will be burned/processed. Being used to build and deploy military hardware is just (just?) the path the pollution takes to get into the atmosphere. Or do we think that realistically we can take on the military complex and somehow stop it, and therefore stop the demand for fossil fuel?
They (?) take fossil fuels out of the ground and then make fortunes on it. They need to keep taking it out of the ground to keep making fortunes – to keep feeding the beast. So they are endlessly imaginative in finding new and more extravagant and destructive ways of using it. It looks like a real madness. to me. The thing is that they can’t turn this hellish roundabout off themselves. But turned off it will have to be if life is to survive, inasmuch as I understand the science.
Capitalism is the problem. But to a great extent isn’t the oil industry pretty much the same thing as capitalism (?) . . the same thing as climate change? The military complex surely is just (just again?) how they regulate capitalism – keep the imperialistic plunder going and ensure that the trade routes remain open to keep that wealth flowing north, and in the process provide an ever-renewing market for the oil. I never did get my head round the concept of a permanent arms economy – it was an idea touted by a political tendency I was taught was beyond the pale. But I guess I’m stumbling along in the same neck of the woods here.
Obviously, the military complex is a huge issue for humanity, but I just don’t see how you tackle it head on with any hope of affecting climate change. On the other hand, if you end oil you end capitalism (don’t ask me to prove that – I was hoping someone else would though) and then you have at least a fighting chance (is that a pun) of ending the military complex. The other way round it’s even clearer. You don’t stop oil and life on earth is in danger. However, you frame it you need to stop oil.
As the climate talks were starting in Glasgow, the Edinburgh COP26 Coalition and Edinburgh XR held a march of around 400 people from the Meadows to the Scottish Parliament – ending with a rally at the parliament. Speakers included a young activist from Kenya, Friends of the Earth, the Edinburgh Muslim Women’s Association and many more. Ex oil worker Neil Rothnie spoke for Scot.E3.
Scot.E3 is collaborating with other climate jobs campaigns to organise this event at 415pm on November 9th at COP26
There are currently over a dozen national climate jobs campaigns around the world, as well as further green new deal proposals. The articulation between the climate justice movement and the labour movement is, at this moment, still in its early steps and the pandemic has not promoted any sort of coalescence. The Corona Crisis is not an external event, but part of capitalist over-consumption of nature. Climate jobs are therefore one of the key components of any programatic and political alliance between climate and workers movements. Capitalism has no plan but collapse, so we need a plan from below. To overcome the climate crisis we need a political program for society, and workers in all sectors need to be involved in shaping a livable future for humanity, which will take a lot of work!
4:15 pm UTC+0
Albany Centre. 44 Ashley Street, Glasgow, G3 6DS United Kingdom
Emma Cockburn (Scot3E – Scotland),
Nuria Blázquez (Ecologistas en Acción – Spain),
Jonathan Neale (One Million Climate Jobs – UK),
João Camargo (Global Climate Jobs / Empregos para o Clima – Portugal)
Josua Mata (Sentro – Philippines)
Julia Kaiser (Students for Future, TV N 2020 – Germany)
Jean-Claude Simon (Transform Europe! – Denmark)
Ditthi Bhattacharya (New Trade Union Initiative – India)