GreenWorkplaces News - October 2015
This is the last in the current series of TUC GreenWorkplaces newsletters. From now on, the TUC is encouraging green reps to join the UNIONREPS community where you will be able to share best practice and ideas with other union representatives. We’re hoping that this will help strengthen green reps networks within and between unions.
Any rep can access the site, please register at www.unionreps.org Once you have registered you can join in debates and post news items.
The TUC website publishes the latest news and reports relating to environmental issues. If you would like to sign up to receive regular email alerts please email Jsreedharan@tuc.org.uk with your name and email address.
Monday 19 Oct 2015 - 17:30 to 19:00, Congress House, London
The TUC is hosting a seminar with Greenpeace to launch our new joint report, Green Collar Nation, about building a just transition to a low carbon economy.
As we begin to mobilise for the Paris climate summit in December, the report argues that the UK urgently needs to move towards a lower carbon economic model. In the past, such periods of restructuring have too often left ordinary workers to bear the costs.
Our joint paper sets out the need for new industrial opportunities and skilled jobs to support a fairer shift, exploring the common ground between the trade union and environment movements in tackling climate change. There’s added urgency, too, as the Conservative government sets about dismantling ten years of progress towards a green economy and reaping the benefits of the transition towards a cleaner and stronger economy.
Speakers: Joss Garman, Associate Director for Climate Change, Energy and Transport at IPPR; Philip Pearson, Senior Policy Officer, TUC.
Respondents: Doug Parr, Chief Scientist, Greenpeace; Laura Cohen, Chief Executive British Ceramic Confederation; and Donna Hume, Senior Campaigner, Friends of the Earth.
Chair: Sue Ferns, TUC General Council lead on the environment, Deputy General Secretary, Prospect.
The event will be followed by a drinks reception. For more information and to register visit:
Prospect’s Natural History Museum branch, London, is partnering with the NUS to reduce the museum’s environmental impact
The branch, which brands itself as Prospect branch 007, stirred but never shaken! is busy stirring its members into action to green their workplace.
It all started when the branch committee identified an enthusiastic young committee member, Alastair Hendry, who wanted to become the environment rep. Alistair, whose background is in environmental science, was keen to use his knowledge to support Prospect’s activities at the museum. Crucially, Alastair was also granted facility time for his role as green workplace rep.
At the same time, the museum’s director was investigating how to reduce its carbon footprint and make progress on sustainability ambitions. The complexity of the museum buildings and working conditions, with its public, science and work areas, posed real challenges.
Various discussions took place with the branch committee, its negotiating officer and Alastair to work out how to meet the needs of the museum while upholding trade union values during a period of organisational restructuring.
The committee was briefed on the NUS Green Impact programme, which focuses on behaviour change through competitions and fun activities to get staff active on green issues.
This led to joint Prospect/NUS presentations to the facilities, environment and communications teams. With the support of the branch chair, Alastair negotiated an agreement with management to enter into a three-year project based on the participative NUS model involving the union, management and the NUS.
Writing in the Prospect magazine, Branch chair, Professor Elliot Shubert said: “The project will get staff more involved with the museum beyond their own job, and will raise the profile of Prospect, which should help us to recruit more members.” He added that management had been “very supportive,” agreeing to bear the start-up costs for the project.
Building participation the NUS way
Through the NUS, local university students trained in environmental auditing are assigned to teams at the museum. They encourage and support staff to achieve the green goals and conduct audits against these goals. Alastair says: “As a natural history museum, most of our employees consider environmental issues a priority. Everyone genuinely wants to see tangible improvements.” Even before the project got fully underway, staff were becoming proactive in areas such as separating waste and recycling, energy conservation and providing fair trade products in the museum’s shops.
Alastair worked alongside the museum’s environment officer and the NUS project lead, to carry out an environmental assessment of the entire museum: laboratories, offices, exhibition spaces and the grounds. Once the assessment was completed, a dedicated online workbook was created, containing goals for various teams and setting out how each department will be assessed and audited.
A “soft” launch of the project was agreed to allow it to grow organically, by word of mouth. It was felt this would help overcome any reluctance to take on new ideas. It’s a helpful approach when the activities involved could be a seen as “extra” work. The branch committee encourages Prospect members to be ‘green champions’ for their departments.
A year into the project, nine departmental teams are taking part, with commitments to developing sustainable behaviours at work, in which the union has been playing a central role.
Campaign to save museum’s wildlife garden
However, Prospect’s involvement in the Green Impact project has now been put at risk. As the Natural History Museum’s unique urban wildlife garden celebrates its 20th anniversary it could lose more than half of its dozen or so individual habitats through plans for a multi-million pound revamp of the grounds. The branch has launched a petition to save the garden, putting g it at odds with management.
Here is a link to the petition: http://bit.ly/saveNHMwildlifet
Losing the greenworkplaces project would, of course, be a devastating blow to a scheme that has the potential to make a huge difference both to the museum’s environmental performance and in bringing staff together at a time when museums are facing huge financial pressures.
The museum could be a flagship for union involvement in sustainability projects at museums across the UK. And, as countless union projects have shown, greening the workplace is far more successful when you involve staff through their union.
We wish the branch every success. More details are available on Prospect’s website.
With savings from their energy efficiency project, environment reps at the huge Devonport Docks raised £300 for a riding school for disabled people.
The energy saving project was the idea of Richard Cooper, Prospect’s lead environment rep at Devonport Royal Dockyard in Plymouth. Richard is an engineer at the massive dockyard which operates 24 hours a day and seven days a week. Richard started a pilot ‘lights off’ scheme in the building where he works, which expanded into a campaign across the whole dock estate, involving management and more staff.
The idea of making a charity donation from energy savings came about after an energy-saving ‘battle of the buildings.’ Environmental representatives at different locations developed an idea for the company to make a donation to local charities based on a percentage of the total energy reduction. This incentive was designed to raise awareness of energy savings but also to help secure a broad buy-in and participation from staff.
The reps worked with management to reduce the energy consumption towards the company’s overall ‘energy baseload.’ This is the minimal amount of energy used when the business has its Christmas shutdown. The campaign focused on reducing electricity consumption in buildings around the site. The campaign not only raised awareness and reduced consumption - the victorious building chose to donate their £300 winnings to the Erme Valley Riding School for the Disabled.
The dockyard’s lights off scheme had its complications. Due to workers’ concerns over being left without adequate lighting in work areas, there was an understandable reluctance to switch lights off. To address this worry, Richard designed a lighting survey that was conducted across the building to identify rooms where this risk was credible.
He came up with the idea of colour coding light switches, with those in risk areas coloured red to show they could be left on. Everyone in the building was fully briefed about the survey and the colour coding. By consulting staff and telling everyone about the changes, there has been a considerable reduction in energy usage at the dockyard.
The environment reps team has also supported visits to a new energy-from-waste plant that produces electricity for the dockyard, to help embed awareness of energy consumption and encourage behavioural change. Environment reps now participate in the company environment committee, and are looking to discuss a joint management/Prospect charter on climate change.
Elaine Ball, UCU environment rep, has won a Green Impact Special Award for her contribution towards greening the Salford University campus.
Elaine works in the School of Nursing, Midwifery, Social Work and Social Sciences Salford Uni, where she won an engagement and innovation award for working with staff and students on a range of initiatives to reduce energy consumption and generate an awareness of environmental issues on the campus.
Salford Uni is participating in the Green Impact programme - an environmental accreditation and award scheme run by the NUS. The programme “brings staff and students together to green campuses, curriculums and communities across the country.”
As the project matured it covered 18 separate initiatives. It started when Elaine arranged for notices to be put up near lifts encouraging staff to use the stairs and directing them to the nearest staircase; encouraging the use of tap rather than bottled water by providing a jugs in the staff common room; and using her Twitter account, and that of Green Impact Salford, to advertise green initiatives to students and clinical staff.
Elaine is also sending out an environmental newsletter to staff in the College of Health with excellent feedback, as well as liaising with her operations manager to design a reusable staff availability card that can be used for successive years.
The University has highlighted the impact of Elaine’s work saying that as “the Branch Green Representative for UCU [Elaine has] been busy leading the initiative in several directions. In particular in providing signage and receptacles to encourage staff to recycle and reduce their carbon footprint as they go about their work.”
Elaine has worked with three Green Impact project assistants, allowing these students to gain valuable work experience. Elaine says: "Through the NUS Green Impact scheme we were able to implement eighteen practical initiatives covering: energy use; workplace travel; waste & recycling; water usage; procurement; Greening Teams; action plans and embedding communications. Now we are at the end of this year’s simple but effective cycle, and have worked as a student/academic union team and focused on providing simple actions, supporting people to make the changes and disseminating our efforts."
The Green Impact programme itself “supports teams and departments to make simple, tangible and powerful changes in behaviour and policy through an online workbook.” This bottom-up approach recognises the potential of both staff and students to change the way their institutions behave.
TUC Congress 2015 offering its backing to the national People’s March for Climate, Justice and Jobs on 29 November in London.
The national climate change march on 29 November marks the opening of the crucial UN climate change conference in Paris. From 30 November – 12 December nations gather in Paris to hammer out the terms of a new treaty which, at its heart, must set the world on a path towards zero carbon emissions by mid-century.
Demonstrations are planned in cities across the UK and globally. Friends of the Earth is coordinating the London demonstration, and it looks like there will be a strong trade union block on the march, as an increasing number of unions and the Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union Group commit their support:
The UN has adopted union calls for a Just Transition in a new 20-page negotiating text released today for the climate conference scheduled for Paris in December. Unions will be pleased that the UN’s Draft Agreement commits nations to holding global temperature increases to below 2 °C (or possibly to below 1.5 °C) through cuts in carbon emissions, and to an early review of progress.
Our challenge is to make sure that references to Just Transition and Decent Work are embedded in the treaty for good.
The ITUC hosted an international TU conference in Paris in September, to set out what ITUC General Secretary, Sharan Burrow, called the ‘top trade union demands' for the UN conference:
· Raise ambition and realise the huge jobs potential of climate action.
· Hold global warming to below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels.
· Deliver on the $100 billion of climate finance a year by 2020 for developing countries to secure sufficient resources to adapt to climate change.
· Commit to securing a just transition for workers and their communities.
The key guest speaker, French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, who will preside over the UN climate summit, respectfully addressed over 200 trade union delegates from every continent on our shared hopes and fears.
The French Foreign Minister said:
‘We want to see workers and their families at the heart of this agreement….we have to set the planet on a just and sustainable path….social dialogue is essential to the industrial transformation that lies ahead.’
Some contrast to the Conservative’s attack dog approach to trade unions in the UK.
The Trade Union Bill will empower ‘A Minister of the Crown’ to cap the time and resources available to union reps in the public and private sectors sector to represent their members at work.
Union-led greenworkplaces projects have sprung up across the UK as part of a growing awareness of the impacts of climate change on our daily lives. Union reps and members are exploring new ways to ‘green’ their workplace. Just as unionised workplaces offer better pay and safer working conditions, so through employee engagement there is an added Union Effect in greening the workplace:
Before the May 2015 elections, Cameron pledged “to accelerate the transition to a low carbon economy.” Not only has the Prime Minister backtracked on that promise, but Chancellor Osborne has scrapped at least 10 key green policies, only one of which was in the Conservative manifesto:
Now, as our TUC briefing for green reps shows, the Trade Union Bill attacks the capacity of unions to support green workplace projects – the energy and resource efficient workplaces that tackle environmental pollution and climate change.
Prospect has published a “Money to Burn” toolkit giving advice on upcoming new compulsory energy audits for all large employers that that will help prevent energy waste:
By 5thDecember 2015, every large enterprise in the UK will, by law, have to undertake an energy audit under the UK-wide Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS). The Environment Agency will act as ‘gate-keepers’ of the reporting, and is encouraging all “enterprises” to demonstrate a commitment to energy efficiency.
For union environment reps this provides the chance to raise the profile of the role of the union green rep in workplace energy agendas. Prospect has produced the new toolkit to promote awareness of this new development and possible participation in energy efficiency drives.
A PowerPoint presentation, resources and circular are available here:
The ESOS Regulations 2014 mandate all large businesses in the UK to undertake comprehensive assessments of energy use and energy efficiency opportunities at least once every four years. The deadline for the first compliance period is 5 December 2015, by which time qualifying businesses will have to achieve compliance with the regulations and notify the Environment Agency.
Prospect have also recently produced an article on just transition as well as a workplace bargaining guide on energy efficiency, home working and travel:
Tuesday 6 October at 6 pm, UNISON Regional Centre, Arena Point, Manchester, M3 1UN
During the week of the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, UNISON North West is hosting a public meeting on the environment.
The meeting will highlight the growing threat to our environment and how we can campaign to protect it:
· Exposing the threats to our environment.
· Lessons from the campaign against fracking.
· How do we have a just transition to a low carbon economy?
Speakers: Furqan Naeem, Friends of the Earth, North West; Tina-Louise Rothery, Frack Free Lancashire; Allison Roche and David Arnold, UNISON.
Chair: Paula Barker, North West UNISON Convenor.
TUC seminar with Greenpeace to launch our new joint report, Green Collar Nation, about building a just transition to a low carbon economy.
Mon 19 Oct 2015 at 17:30 to 19:00, Congress House, London
To register for the event visit: https://greencollarnation.eventbrite.co.uk
For full information on green workplaces events visit: www.tuc.org.uk/green_workplaces_network
Three day accredited courses for union members available at the following locations:
For TUC Environmental courses and information in relation to Green Workplaces
in Scotland and any general environmental enquiries please contact George Waldron, Trade Union Education Department, Stow College on 0141 332 1786 ex512 or e-mail email@example.com
For more information on courses visit:
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