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Getting workers on your side is crucial to the success of programmes to reduce greenhouse gases, say the unions

ICFTU ONLINE..., 245/981111/DD, 11 November 1998

Buenos Aires. November 11 1998 (ICFTU OnLine): Trade union support is crucial to the success of programmes to reduce greenhouse gases, said Luis Anderson, Regional General Secretary for ORIT, the ICFTU’s regional organisation for the Americas.

These remarks were particularly relevant from Luis Anderson, who represents 49 million workers in 29 countries in the Americas, many from Central America, who are currently mourning the losses resulting from the latest hurricane to hit the region.

The presence of this recent deadly hurricane is the dramatic yet tragic effect of climate change. Workers who are experiencing at first hand the deadly effects of greenhouse gases are ready to give their support and expertise to plans to implement strong measures to mitigate the effects of climate change. said Mr Anderson.

With their capacity in over 2.5 million workplaces, unions can work with employers to set and achieve workplace targets, as well as promote political support for other measures within their communities around the world, says the ICFTU. Trade unionists have already demonstrated their expertise in this field, where they have shown that tools such as workplace eco-auditing can be used to reduce greenhouse gas emission, help energy conservation and eco-efficiency.

Trade unions are major players in sustainable development. People’s offices and workplaces are powerful vehicles to influence personal consumption patterns, both at work and at home, said Luis Anderson.

But in order to help to help to make these changes work, workers must feel confident that their livelihoods are not in jeopardy, he warned.

A key issue for many workers, warns the ICFTU, is what effect the measures being discussed for climate change will have on their employment prospects. In order to be able to lend their full support and use their expertise in such fields as eco-auditing, workers need to be sure that sustainable development will not lead to job cuts. The ICFTU points to the thousands of workers in industries which contribute to CO² emissions, such as energy, transportation and construction, who risk losing their livelihoods if work in these sectors is cut or changed.

For this reason, say the unions, it is crucial that the Climate Change meeting includes large-scale studies on the employment implications of implementation measures, in its plans for cutting greenhouse gases.

It is important to develop a programme which takes into account changes in employment patterns, and the social impact of these changes, says the ICFTU. All transition measures must provide for income protection, redundancy procedures, redeployment, education and re-training, coupled with job creation in energy conservation, as well as in green job creation generally.

The ICFTU is proposing that the COP4 meeting should set up a broad consensus of employers, governments, trade unions and community organisations to look at ways of coordinating climate change and employment measures in order to overcome the diabolical dilemma of jobs versus the environment.

A trade union delegation, coordinated through the ICFTU and TUAC is present at the Climate Change meeting, and is lobbying governments to take on board these trade union proposals for linking climate change and employment.


1) Luis Anderson is presenting his speech to the plenary on the afternoon of November 11.

2)Following this, at 6pm, November 11, the ICFTU delegation is organising a workshop on Employment and Transition Impacts of Climate Change with UK Environment Minister Michael Meacher and Peter Mokaba, Deputy Minister from the South African government as the keynote speakers, with additional speakers from representatives of OECD, UNCTAD, and the FCCC. UK Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott will also attend the workshop, which will focus on how to avoid the possible conflicts between employment and the environment.

3) A copy of the ICFTU submission to COP4 is available on this website.