Global employment rules – good for green jobs

The greening of industry, through the creation of new green jobs and the transformation of old grubby ones, will run a lot more smoothly and equitably if global rules are beefed up and more effectively enforced, a new report concludes.

The November 2009 discussion paper from the Global Union Research Network (GURN), looks at how the labour movement can advance its climate change goals through better application of and improvements to International Labour Standards and International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions.

A 2008 ILO report, Green jobs: Towards decent work in a sustainable, low-carbon world, had set the scene.  It noted that the creation of new green jobs as a result of “environmental transition” would also result in both the disappearance and the transformation of many existing jobs. It also recognised that many of the new jobs could be “dirty, dangerous and difficult”. And it warned that many proposed “solutions”, like green taxes, needed careful consideration to ensure they didn’t cause disproportionate harm to those already most disadvantaged.

Global standards could contribute to a strategy that makes this “environmental transition” a “just transition”, the new GURN paper suggests. “Including ‘just transition’ measures that respect international labour standards in these decisions will ensure policy coherence and public participation which in the long run will hopefully lead to the effective realisation of sustainable development goals,” The employment effects of climate change and climate change responses: A role for International Labour Standards? concludes.

The discussion paper, authored by ILO researcher Lene Olsen, notes: “International Labour Standards, if applied globally, can provide a set of regulations which would limit the negative social implications of adaptation and mitigation efforts to reduce climate change.”

And it appears “global” action is key: “It is important that standards are applied globally in order to avoid a situation where some populations remain victims because of unequal respect for and uneven enforcement of these rights. The most vulnerable and poorest populations and workers are often those that are the hardest hit by the effects of climate change,” the GURN paper notes.  

Climate change policy underpinned by international labour standards can bring better prospects for jobs and the environment, it says.

“A rights-based approach in the form of International Labour Standards would offer protection that would shield affected workers from also suffering from structural changes to the labour market resulting from climate change,” the GURN document adds. “People, and especially workers, have to be recognised as active participants in the climate policy debate and be part of the decision making bodies, rather than simply passive victims of what is happening. This right is fundamental if we want to address the climate change challenges in a coherent way.”

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