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UNIONS must engage with aviation workers to convince them of the need to move away from fossil fuels, a TUC fringe meeting heard today.
Civil Service union PCS assistant general secretary Chris Baugh said the movement could learn from the example of his union, which represents workers in the sector but has policy against aviation expansion.
“When the union adopted a policy of opposition to a third runway [at Heathrow], there was a push-back from members in aviation,” Mr Baugh admitted.
But he said the union had then “engaged with our reps at Heathrow in particular” and won members round.
He said workers would not get on board with the agenda to transition away from fossil fuels if their jobs were put in jeopardy.
But he said claims from industry and government “in terms of the number of jobs, the quality of jobs and the economic benefits available” when airports expand were questionable. PCS research documents had investigated this issue, he added.
“The only way we can do this is if we have a dialogue with the workers in the particular sector,” he told the meeting.
Aviation Environment Federation deputy director Cait Hewitt told the same meeting: “Planes are almost completely dependent on fossil fuels and that’s not going to change any time soon.
“We haven’t got batteries powerful enough to get passengers into electric aircraft.
“Lets not assume that an expansion will bring the jobs that industry and the government like to promise.”
The meeting, which was chaired by journalist Ellie Mae O’Hagan, also heard from Transport Salaried Staffs Association leader Manuel Cortes.
“Saving our planet is almost at the stage where it’s a national emergency,” he said.
“Unless the state acts, we’re never going to do it.”
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