The Union effect -Greening the workplace

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The Union effect shows that the role of union representatives has been central to green workplace initiatives. Indeed, a survey for the TUC carried out by the LRD in 2012 of over 1,200 union representatives showed that unions are in a unique position to lead on environmental and energy efficiency in the workplace. They can encourage changes in behaviour, and they also see it as their role to convince employers that greening their workplaces is a long-term investment rather than just a short-term cost.

Unions are well placed to:

  • monitor the effectiveness of environmental policies and provide staff input;
  • gain staff support for changes to workplace practices;
  • use existing union structures and procedures to influence and develop members’ thinking and actions;
  • raise staff awareness and encourage behavioural change; and
  • improve operational procedures.

At present this depends on voluntary commitments by both sides. However, the right for a recognised trade union to appoint union environmental reps could have a transformative effect in the area of the environment at work today. This cuts to perhaps the fundamental issue - that the three essential underpinnings of workplace environmental reps should provide for:

  • Sufficient time off for appropriate and relevant environmental training.
  • Sufficient time to carry out an energy and environmental audit with management.
  • By agreement with management, the option to establish a joint environment forum.
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