The railroad safety conferences that RWU has been sponsoring are an attempt to bring our safety issues as railroad workers, to other concerned citizens of the general public. In doing so, we hope to build an alliance with them around rail safety issues, as they have their concerns as well including dangerous and blocked crossings, pedestrian/motorist fatalities, oil train explosions, toxic chemicals, derailments, etc.
One of the community’s biggest concerns is the dangers of fossil fuel transport, and the resultant dangers to the environment in terms of greenhouse gasses, climate change and so forth. For railroad workers to build an alliance with these folks, we need to have basic agreement that in order to work together and support each other, we must agree that workers in industries like rail are secure in their jobs and working conditions.
The term “Just Transition” is one that we subscribe to and should serve as a basis for any and all coalition with community and environmental organizations in our efforts to build a safer, greener and more sustainable railroad for all of us – workers and citizens alike. Please see the definition for “Just Transition” by clicking or see below.
To read an article about the whole concept of “Just Transition” and the politics of a “Workers’ Superfund” click HERE
Just Transition is a framework for a fair and sustainable shift to a low carbon economy, proposed by trades unions and supported by environmental NGOs. It has come to wider prominence through inclusion in negotiating texts for the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference. Just Transition holds that a shift to a lower carbon economy is vital to avoid dangerous climate change. Tough targets to cut CO2 emissions, supported by new environmental regulations and carbon markets, will transform economies over the next decade. These shifts will have major implications for working people in energy supply, industry and transport, and for everyone as consumers.
There is a concern that significant periods of economic restructuring in the past have often happened in a chaotic fashion leaving ordinary workers, their families and communities to bear the brunt of the transition to new ways of producing wealth. Indeed in the UK, many individuals and communities are still paying the price for the rapid shift away from industrial production over the last 30 years.
Just Transition seeks to prevent such injustice becoming a feature of environmental transition, suggesting that it would not only be morally wrong and socially damaging, but would undermine the credibility of the transition itself and could slow or even halt the changes that must be made. Just Transition recognises that support for environmental policies are conditional on a fair distribution of the costs and benefits of those policies across the economy, and on the creation of opportunities for active engagement by those affected in determining the future wellbeing of themselves and their families.
Just Transition principles
For trade unions, the three core issues involved in a just transition are:
- Voice – the importance of consultation – between Government, industry, trade unions and others on the economic and industrial changes involved.
- Green and decent jobs – investment in low carbon technologies, from electric vehicles and wind turbines to carbon capture & storage.
- New green skills – equipping working people with the skills for a low carbon, resource-efficient economy.
The Just Transition framework makes the case for:
- Meaningful environmental transition and sustainable development: Environmental transition is both inevitable and desirable. Environmental degradation is one of the most serious threats facing humankind; all sections of society need to work together to prevent further damage to the planet’s natural ecosystems.
- Representation and employee involvement: It is essential that all sections of society have their perspectives voiced, considered and defended in decision-making bodies dealing with environmental transition. This includes representation at a variety of levels, from seats on national policy-making fora to involvement in more specific local negotiations, such as those surrounding environmentally-triggered plant closures.
- Stable employment and long-term planning: A key element in ensuring a Just Transition is the long-term planning necessary to achieve stable employment. This does not just involve keeping individuals in work: it also includes preserving job equity, and ensuring that pay, conditions and health and safety do not suffer as a result of the changes that occur.
- Social justice and a fair distribution of costs: Just as support for environmental change is needed from all sections of society, so the costs of that change must fall proportionately on all sections.
- Government backing and a united purpose: Achieving Just Transition relies on a high level of commitment from all relevant stakeholders – not least the Government, trade unions and employer federations.
Origins of the term
The notion of a Just Transition originated in the US and Canadian labour movements, from joint union-NGO campaigns against polluting companies in the oil and chemicals sectors. The UK Trade Union Congress’ report, A Green and fair Future, quotes the late union leader, Tony Mazzocchi, a senior oil workers’ official: “Working people aren’t going to commit economic suicide in order to advance the enhancement of the environment. It’s not the type of choice one should be given.” Mazzocchi called for a just transition to an environmentally safe economy, investment in green jobs, reskilling, and compensation for workers and communities facing major change.
Just Transition has been increasingly referenced in the discussions leading up to the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December 2009. Speaking to the annual Trades Union Congress in the UK in September 2009, Secretary of State for Energy Ed Miliband said:
“And I want to congratulate the trade unions on the work you have done this year, forging an alliance over jobs, justice and climate at the G20 summit in London and coming together with the trades unions of the north and south for a just transition for workers across the globe. This will be integral to our transition to a low carbon economy here in the UK, our discussions with the EU and our arguments at the global climate change talks in Copenhagen.”
- “Negotiating text (see Shared Vision, para 4)” (PDF) (in English (others available)). United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. p. 53. Retrieved 2009-06-15. CS1 maint: Unrecognized language (link)
- Canadian Labour Congress, “Just Transition For Workers During Environmental Change”, April 2000.
- TUC and Sarah Allen, “A Green and Fair Future: For a Just Transition to a Low Carbon Economy”, June 2008.
- Philip Pearson, ToUChstone blog, “ITUC meets UN climate change chair: Dateline – Bangkok, 30 September 2009”, Trades Union Congress, 1 October 2009.
1) First mention about Just Transition and its mechanisms during the International Assembly about Labour and Environment, Nairobi, 17 January 2006
2) Global Climate Change – STRATEGIES FOR SUSTAINABILITY OF LABOR IN A CHANGING WORLD, Argentina Statement, Nairobi, January, 2006
3) Report of the Trade Union Assembly on Labour and the Environment on the work of its first meeting – Including Argentina Just Transition keys.
4) Framework between Argentina government and General Confederation of Labour. Just Transition was inserted like a relevant issue. 20, April, 2009
5) Argentinean Republic Submission to the AWG-LCA, first mention submitted in the COP’s history by any Government, April 2009
6) Letter to the Workers of Americas during the II Labour and Environment Regional Assembly for Latin-American and Caribbean, 5, May, 2009
7) Framework of Just Transition and its mechanisms, a long statement by Argentina Government, Bonn, August 2009
8) Chapter about Shared Vision, was included Decent Work and Quality Jobs by Argentina, Bangkok, November 6, 2009
9) Statements of behalf of the group of G77 and China including “Just Transition” Closing Plenary, 9 October, Bangkok, 2009
10) Chapter about Socio Economical Consequences, was included Decent Work and Quality Jobs by Argentina, Bangkok, November 6, 2009.
11) The focal points of Argentina position in the pre-COP in Copenhagen, Denmark, November 18, 2009
12) Outcome of the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention. Draft conclusions proposed by the Chair.
13) Outcome of the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention. Draft conclusions proposed by the Chair. / enhanced national/international action on mitigation of climate change: Economic and Social Consequences of Response Measures – Draft decision -/CP.15