Trade unions in Wales are calling for a worker-led just transition, to build a greener, fairer future and address the climate and nature emergencies.

The trade union movement in Wales is working to organise around the triple challenge of combatting the climate and nature emergencies, creating the jobs and skills for a net zero economy, and ensuring social justice is at the heart of the green transition.

In our report, ‘A green recovery and a just transition’ we called 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. 

Research carried out for the Wales TUC by Transition Economics shows that almost 60,000 jobs could be created in Wales over two years through government investment in key infrastructure projects such as social housing, public transport, nature restoration and decarbonisation.

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 (or better than) any that are lost in terms of pay, skills, pensions, equality, health and safety 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 UN climate talks in 2018.

A green recovery and funding for the transition

Trade unions welcome the Welsh Government’s commitment to build an economy based on the principles of fair work, sustainability and the industries and services of the future and to build a stronger, greener economy that makes maximum progress towards decarbonisation. 

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. We also need to support our vital high-carbon industries to move to lower carbon models - for example, Wales could become a world leader in green steel. There are also many opportunities to be seized with new technologies such as hydrogen, efforts to support nature and the move to a circular economy.

We support calls for Wales to be given further flexibility in its powers to borrow to invest in its climate priorities, but we recognise that there are some key levers and investment capabilities that lie beyond the Welsh Government’s powers. Wales will not be able to deliver this transition without a significant increase in funding, investment and policy changes from Westminster. A key issue is the funding settlement from UK government and the need to increase funding for net zero at a UK level. The Wales TUC supports the TUC's calls for the UK government to increase funding for net zero in line with other G7 countries.

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 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 can be a catalyst for achieving a greener, fairer pathway to a net-zero Wales. 

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.

The Wales TUC has published a toolkit for reps- Greener Workplaces for a Just Transition. It includes lots of tools and information to support trade unionists who want to take action on the climate and nature emergency and negotiate for greener and fairer workplaces. We have also set up a new Greener Workplaces Network for trade unionists to meet and share best practice.

You can also read these case studies to find out more:

UCU environment rep shows the way to a greener, fairer future at Cardiff University

Hospital UNISON rep creates a haven of green space for staff, patients and nature

Prospect reps help workers at the IPO to 'climate-proof' their workplace

Green 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.

Training for trade union reps and officers

Wales TUC Education has developed two new training courses for reps in this area. These are:

Greening our workplaces - 'green skills' for trade unionists

This course is aimed at both new and experienced green/environmental reps as well as other trade unionists who wish to take action on the climate and nature emergency in their workplace. It is suitable for all union officers, branch officials, reps, health and safety reps, union learning reps and equality reps who wish to find out more about the trade union approach to sustainability.

This course focusses on the practical skills needed to develop union-led sustainability initiatives in the workplace. It covers the core skills required for trade unionists who want to take practical action on the environment in their workplace or become a trade union environmental or ‘green’ representative.

The course covers:

➔ Understanding the climate and environmental emergency and identifying the impact on your workplace.

➔ Working with the branch and members to identify sustainability issues that need to be raised with management.

➔ How to carry out workplace environmental audits.

➔ How to review and develop workplace environmental policies and agreements

➔ Awareness raising and promotion of green workplace practices.

Click here for course dates and how to apply.

Negotiating for a Just Transition - a course for union reps

This timely and important new course will help to equip senior union reps and officers with information and ideas about how to respond strategically to the challenge of giving workers a voice on the transition to a net-zero economy. It will help you to develop negotiation strategies on workplace net-zero planning and transition agreements.

The course will also develop understanding of the wider impact of the transition on issues such as workplace skills, jobs, equality and health and safety. This is an essential course to equip unions in supporting a fair and just worker-led transition in every workplace.

The course will help reps and officers to:

➔ Examine why a just transition is central to future economic strategy

➔ Review regional, national, and international climate change policies

➔ Review national and international trade union policies

➔ Identify industry sector green economy policies

➔ Obtain members views on just transition priorities

➔ Develop negotiating strategies on priority issues in the workplace / community

Click here for course dates and how to apply.