Trade unions in Wales are calling for a green recovery and a just transition, to build a greener, fairer future and address the climate emergency.

In our 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 the pandemic 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 

Research recently carried out for the Wales TUC by Transition Economics shows that almost 60,000 jobs could be created in Wales in the next two years through government investment in key infrastructure projects. Fast-tracking spending on projects such as social housing, public transport, and decarbonisation could make a significant contribution to the economic recovery.

Broken down by sector, projected job creation from a £6bn investment in infrastructure would mean: 

●           27 thousand jobs in housing construction and energy efficiency retrofits

●           18 thousand jobs in transport upgrades

●           9 thousand jobs in energy, manufacturing, and broadband infrastructure upgrades

●           5 thousand jobs in land, forestry, and agriculture improvements   

These jobs would benefit some of the sectors and demographics hit hardest by the COVID19 emergency. Over 75 per cent of the jobs would be created in sectors that traditionally employ non-graduate workers. Read more about the research here.

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 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.

"Daughter of furlough" - support for workers during times of change

The TUC has called on the UK government to create a permanent short-time working scheme to protect jobs in times of economic crisis and change. This could build on the success of furlough, to set up a permanent scheme to deal with big disruptions to jobs in the future, like the transition to net zero, future pandemics and technological change. 

The TUC predicts that the UK economy is likely to face significant risks in the future - be it from climate change and the transition to net zero, new technologies such as AI, new variants or another pandemic. All could cause unpredictable and widespread disruption in the labour market – causing big spikes in unemployment and business failure.  

The TUC cites failed attempts to manage industrial change in the past, which “left communities abandoned” and played a major role in the widespread regional inequality we see today. The UK is an anomaly among developed nations in having no permanent short-time working scheme to deal with periods of industrial disruption, crisis and change. Most other OECD countries have such a scheme.

If the UK government is serious about levelling up, it should put in place a permanent short-time working scheme to prevent inequalities spiralling. This could play a vital role in achieving a ‘just transition’ to net zero. 

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. 

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 other reps, such as health and safety reps, who wish to take this work on as an additional aspect of their role. 

The Wales TUC has published a new toolkit - 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.

New training for trade union reps and officers

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

Greening our workplaces - 'green skills' for trade unionists

This 3-day 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.

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.

This course is currently being delivered online. Details of the latest course dates and further information about the course can be found on our event listings page here

Negotiating for a Just Transition - a course for union reps

The climate and nature emergency is one of the gravest threats we face. The Welsh Government has legislated for ambitious new climate targets to reach net-zero by 2050, with decisive action in the next decade to reduce emissions by around two-thirds.

The changes that are coming over the next decade will affect workers across all sectors and workplaces. As trade unions, we are committed to standing up for fairness for workers, especially during times of change. We know that a ‘just transition’ will not happen by itself, and that union organisation and mobilisation is vital to ensure that workers’ interests are protected in the changes that are coming. One thing is for sure – ‘business as usual’ is not a viable strategy.

This course will help to equip union professional 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.

This 3-day course has been designed specifically for branch officials, union reps and any other reps with an interest in finding out more about negotiating for a just transition in the workplace.

We will cover the following:

  1. Examine why a just transition is central to future economic strategy
  2. Review regional, national, and international climate change policies
  3. Review national and international trade union policies 
  4. Identify industry sector green economy policies
  5. Obtain members views on just transition priorities
  6. Develop negotiating strategies on priority issues in the workplace / community

This course is currently being delivered online. Details of the latest course dates and further information about the course can be found on our event listings page here