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Just transition: Protecting
jobs, workers and the environment
Industrial countries must undergo a total policy re-think to protect workers' safety, jobs and the environment, a top US trade union leader has urged.
Robert E. Wages, President of the US Oil, Chemical & Atomic Workers International Union (OCAW), warns that global trade is reducing jobs and environmental standards.
Writing in Hazards' sister publication Workers' Health International Newsletter (WHIN), he says his union has teamed up with safety and environmental campaigners to promote "Just Transition", where toxic production is phased out - but jobs and communities are protected.
"This program proposes that workers who lose jobs due to international trade agreements or as a result of the environmental phase out or ban on toxic substances should suffer no net loss of income," he says.
"In fact, none of them should be asked to pay a disproportionate tax - in the form of lost wages - to achieve societal goals concerning global trade or environmental regulation."
When the threat involves banning or phasing out a toxic substance, says Wages, dissension can break out between environmentalists intent on preventing pollution and workers clinging to their toxic-dependent jobs. "Jobs don't grow on trees."
"The result is that natural allies like organised labour, environmentalists
and community activists have too often clashed instead of uniting against
corporations that are blackmailing workers with the threat of dislocation."
Wages adds that a fund would be necessary to provide displaced workers
with: full wages and benefits until the worker retires or finds comparable
employment; up to four years of tuition grants to attend vocational schools
or colleges - plus full income while studying; post-educational stipends
or subsidies if no jobs at comparable wages are available after graduation;
and relocation for displaced workers who choose to move for employment
According to Wages: "Just Transition provides an alternative vision of social, economic and environmental justice. Rather than deny that widespread job displacement and damage to communities will continue to occur as a result of trade agreements and environmental regulation, Just Transition acknowledges that, like it or not, these policy decisions will inevitably cost jobs and harm the places where we live.
"It may sound pie in the sky, but if anyone thinks that the shift to a global economy can take place without job dislocation, or that profit-driven corporations will voluntarily generate enough decent non-toxic jobs to go around, that is really pie in the sky."
Workers' Health International Newsletter, issue 54, July-December 1998. From Hazards.
HAZARDS MAGAZINE WORKERS' HEALTH INTERNATIONAL NEWS