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TUC Congress ’19 The UCU is backing the September 20 climate strike

The number one issue facing all humanity must become an industrial issue — and treated with industrial action. UCU is doing just that, writes general secretary JO GRADY

THIS week at the TUC the University and College Union (UCU) is calling on the wider trade union movement to back the climate change walkouts on September 20.

The work done by Greta Thunberg and school students around the world has been inspirational.

Now it’s time for the rest of us to catch up.

Tackling climate change will be central to the development of the British economy in the 21st century and an essential way of improving the lives of working people.

As trade unionists, it is important that we raise awareness of the impact of climate change, and we hope delegates in Brighton will back our motion.

We also need to stand behind Greta. The bullying she received from trolls such as Julia Hartley-Brewer and Arron Banks when she visited Britain month was contemptible.

There is nothing impressive about a bunch of adults attacking a brave young woman for speaking about the number one issue facing the planet.

If unions don’t take a stand against climate change and speak with a united voice on the importance of a just transition as we move to a greener economy, then multinational corporations and anti-worker governments will simply take decisions without us.

Tackling climate change doesn’t have to cost us dear. In fact, it can make us more prosperous and more secure.

Productivity in Britain has been declining since the imposition of austerity in 2010, and is now nearly stagnant.

Business leaders have little reason to believe that expanding their operations through the introduction of new technology will yield sufficient returns on investment.

Few have confidence that demand for their goods and services will hold up in the face of declining real wages which have caused people to struggle even to pay for essentials.

With little reason to innovate, employers have fallen back on reducing staff pay, benefits and conditions, reinforcing the decline in real wages and causing enormous increases in precarious work.

State expenditure drives innovation when private enterprise refuses to do so. It paves the way for future product development by business, and creates demand by putting money in people’s pockets.

It can also drive forward innovation by giving educational opportunities in further and higher education that allow young adults to move into new and exciting sectors of work such as “green-collar” jobs.

We should strive to ensure that workers are lifted up by the tide of innovation and investment promised by the green new deal, not swept aside by it.

In Spain, coalminers’ unions have agreed a landmark settlement with the Spanish government whereby economically inefficient mines will be closed.

But, crucially, investment will be put into ensuring that work needed to make the mines safe will go to former miners. There will also be a significant infrastructure investment in communities — again favouring former miners — and new jobs in the creation of sustainable energy infrastructure.

Climate change is considered to not be an industrial issue, so workers are prevented from taking industrial action to challenge it.

This is one of the many reasons delegates in Brighton this week will discuss how and why we must challenge the excessively restrictive trade union laws which prevent workers from tackling issues that are central to their working lives.

A green new deal, agreed between the state and representatives of workers, can ensure a sustainable and viable economy for the 21st century on the basis of a just transition that is real for workers moving from a carbon-based to a sustainable jobs market.

When it comes to the fight against the climate emergency though, a good start would be for workers, through their own unions, to join UCU in supporting the 30-minute climate change walkout on September 20.

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