Trade unions in Wales are calling for a green recovery, to build back better after the Covid-19 crisis and address the climate emergency.

In our new report, ‘A green recovery and a just transition’ we call for a massive economic stimulus and set out a plan to achieve a ‘just transition’ to a net-zero economy for workers and communities in Wales. 

Building the recovery from Coronavirus represents a once in a generation challenge. But it is also an opportunity to take the urgent action needed to build a greener and fairer economy in Wales. One that protects jobs, our health and the planet. 

Workers must have a central voice in planning the recovery and the transition to a net-zero economy to ensure this happens.

Our report sets out a five-point plan for a ‘just transition’ to net-zero. We are calling for:

•     a clear and funded pathway to net-zero that maximises the opportunities to protect and create jobs in Wales

•    the workers most affected by the move to a net-zero economy to be given a central voice in planning the transition 

•    all new jobs in the green economy to offer ‘fair work’ with good pay, skills, pensions, health and safety and trade union recognition

•    workplace ‘transition agreements’ to be agreed between employers and unions to ensure a fair transition. Also support for union-led sustainability initiatives in every workplace

•    increased funding for learning and skills to prepare workers for the transition and provide a clear pathway to new jobs 

What is a just transition?

A ‘just transition’ to a greener economy is one where workers have a central voice in planning the transition, so it is done ‘with’ them not ‘to’ them. It’s one where no workers or communities are left behind. And where new jobs that are created are just as good any that are lost in terms of pay, skills, pensions and trade union recognition. 

Trade unions across the world have led the call for a just transition. 

Following pressure from the international trade union movement, the concept of “a just transition of the workforce and the creation of decent work and quality jobs” was included in the preamble to the 2015 Paris Agreement and in the Silesia Declaration at the climate talks in 2018.

A green recovery

We want to see Welsh Government’s Covid recovery plans prioritise green growth to boost jobs and the economy while protecting our climate.

Wales could see a huge return on investment and thousands of new jobs if the Welsh Government had more money to invest in low-carbon infrastructure, renewable energy projects and sustainable homes.

With fears of a recession and redundancies in the wake of the Covid crisis, the TUC is calling on the UK government to provide funding for a jobs guarantee scheme.  Decarbonisation should be part of the criteria for this scheme. In Wales, the job guarantee scheme should be managed and delivered   by Welsh Government in social partnership with trade unions and employers in Wales.

Working for a just transition in Wales

The trade union movement in Wales supports the fight to protect our planet for future generations. We are  ready to rise to the challenge of the climate and nature crisis.

And we stand up for those workers whose jobs are at risk if the post-Covid recovery and transition to a net-zero economy isn’t a just one.

We believe that in Wales, trade unions, employers and government working together in social partnership will be the catalyst for achieving a greener, fairer recovery and a pathway to a net-zero Wales. 

Funding the transition

Welsh trade unions welcome action from the Welsh Government to tackle the climate emergency. But we also recognise that there are some levers that lie outside of the Welsh Government’s powers. There are also constraints due to the funding settlement from UK government. 

We support calls for Wales to be given further flexibility in its powers to borrow to invest in its climate priorities. But Wales will not be able to deliver this transition without a significant increase in funding, investment and policy changes from Westminster.

Greener workplaces – the role of unions

Workers have a huge amount of knowledge that can help organisations with transition. A company or organisation moving from a fossil-fuel based model to a lower-carbon energy system, or a whole sector transitioning towards cleaner technologies, will have to adapt specific processes. And it’s often the workers on the ground who are most likely to understand how to do this effectively.

And it’s not just the carbon-intensive industries.  Workers across all sectors will be affected by changes and will be part of the efforts to decarbonise and move Wales to a more sustainable, zero-waste, circular economy.

It makes business sense to give workers a stronger voice and higher visibility in such circumstances. That’s why companies should work with unions to identify and deliver best environmental practice at workplace level. 

This can be achieved by recognising and giving facility time to trade union ‘green’ or environmental reps. Or by giving extra facility time to reps who wish to take this work on as an additional aspect of their role. 

‘Green’ reps or environmental reps

A green or environmental rep ensures that efforts to reduce an organisation’s environmental impact are developed collaboratively and in full consultation with workers. This is often the best way of identifying changes that need to be made. Involving workers can make sure that changes are fair, fit for purpose and have the full support of people in the workplace.

Green reps can develop awareness-raising initiatives. Working as part of their branch, they can ensure environmental issues are included in the negotiating and bargaining agenda. When it comes to developing effective workplace policies they are the key link between managers and workers.

Given proper facility time and with a supportive approach from management, green reps can make a huge difference. Especially where a joint environment committee can be formed.

Across Wales, union reps are already working with their members to make workplaces more sustainable. They are finding ways to cut carbon and reduce waste, campaigning for cleaner air and creating green spaces to support nature.

Read more about the role of a green rep

New ‘green skills’ resources for reps (coming soon)

We’ll be launching some new green skills resources for reps in Wales soon. Further details will be published here when available. You can also sign up to receive our emails to be notified about our new campaigns and resources.