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GMB Conference ’19 Climate change is a working class issue, delegates insist

CLIMATE change must be a treated as a working-class issue, trade unionists insisted today.

GMB delegates meeting at the union’s annual conference in Brighton backed a call to push for “practical steps” against rising global temperatures and their effect on workers in various industries.

The union voted to campaign for local authorities to adopt a heat action plan modelled on that drawn up in the Canadian city of Montreal.

After six Montreal residents died in a heatwave last summer, the city developed the plan involving the distribution of millions of gallons of water and firefighters making regular visits to vulnerable people.

Delegates said that the plan must be fought for to protect workers in sectors such as construction, who are at risk from rising global temperatures.

London delegate Mark Watson said: “We call on local authorities across the United Kingdom to put in a heat action plan as part of a campaign calling for practical steps intending to mitigate and minimise the adverse effects of global warming on GMB members and all working people.

“The advice we have is good, but it does not go far enough and it doesn’t reach everyone.

“Our cities are old fashioned and are not built for heat.”

London ambulance delegate Esme Choonara argued that extreme weather events and climatic changes impact disproportionately on the poorest in society.

She argued that “climate change is a trade union issue” that “affects all of us, but not all equally.

“The World Health Organisation claims that in Europe, the number of deaths during a heatwave can rise by up to 33 per cent.

“This disproportionately affects not just the elderly and the poor but also our workers who are affected by rising temperatures.

“It is entirely predictable and much of it is preventable, but we live in a system which puts profit before people.

“It has been inspiring to see young people marching out of their schools to demand change.

“We need plans like these to mitigate the affects of climate change on the poorest people in our society.”

The demand coincided with outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May announcing plans for Britain to stop fuelling climate change by 2050.

Speaking in the Commons, she outlined plans for legislation to cut emissions to “net zero” by the middle of the century, replacing the existing target of an 80 per cent reduction.

However, her announcement received a lukewarm response. Climate protest group Extinction Rebellion branded it a “death sentence” because people are already dying and need action now.

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