Unions back ‘just transition’ to green transport

Transport workers must take responsibility for tackling climate change, their unions have agreed. The first-ever climate change conference of ITF, the global union federation for the sector, heard delegates urge ITF to develop sustainable means to achieve emission reductions from the transport industry.

The conference, which preceded ITF’s congress in Mexico City this month and which itself had a ‘Strong unions – sustainable transport’ theme, attracted over 300 delegates.  And the green transport theme was approved by the congress, where a motion calling for “fundamental changes in the current system of globalised production which relies on global supply chains, low transport costs and cheap and increasingly casual labour” garnered wide support.

The motion noted, however, that ITF would never accept that the transition to a low-carbon society should result in job losses and an erosion of wages and working conditions. It added: “A just transition therefore has to involve job creation, decent work and quality jobs, a radical redistribution of wealth and social security schemes which safeguard people’s livelihood and social and human rights.”

Transport workers and climate change: Towards sustainable low-carbon mobility’, an ITF discussion document prepared with Cornell University’s Global Labor Institute (GLI) and unveiled at the climate change conference, presented proposals for tackling climate change.

GLI’s Lara Skinner, speaking at the conference, said public transport must play a part in dealing with the problem of climate change. “Reducing the use of private vehicles will be essential in the future and, for this, public transport must be quick, affordable and efficient,” she added.

The document spells out “immediate action steps for transport unions”, spanning membership education and engagement, green bargaining, climate friendly operational changes and technologies and alliance building.

This includes bargaining for recognition and time off for union “green reps”, it advises. Unions should also “propose that workers be allowed to benefit from any suggestions made to improve energy efficiency and operational changes that reduce emissions,” the document says.

Alana Dave, ITF education officer, said: “This conference is a historic first for the ITF, and one that reflects a growing recognition that transport unions need to respond to the issue of climate change at a workplace level and beyond.

“Transport is a significant and growing source of emissions, responsible for around 14 per cent of the global total. We aim to take a lead in promoting a science-based approach which utilises ‘reduce-shift-improve’ strategies that will contribute to the major transformations which are necessary in the transport industry and society as a whole. We particularly support the creation of sustainable jobs and a just transition.”

Dave added that the ITF was committed to building alliances to promote a just solution to the problem of climate change and would continue to work with global unions at international level for the forthcoming United Nations climate change conference in Cancún in November and December this year.

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