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Unison and GMB set to lock horns over divestment from fossil fuel industries

TRADE UNIONS are set to call for fossil-fuel divestment — but the plan has been criticised as “pie in the sky” by energy workers.

A motion due to be heard at the Scottish TUC Congress, which begins tomorrow in Aviemore, slams councils for “providing resources that accelerate climate change” through their pension fund investments.

The motion, put forward by Unison, says councils should not be “financially and politically supporting the most destructive industries on the planet.”

It says investing in oil, gas and coal companies “undermine[s] existing local authority climate change mitigation, adaptation strategies and commitments.”

But general union GMB, which represents energy workers, said it would vote against the proposal.

“We’ll be challenging this motion because it’s not real world, and our focus should be defending workers in the energy sector,” GMB Scotland secretary Gary Smith told the Star.

He said 4,000 jobs were at risk at the gas firm Centrica, and noted that a divestment strategy would also hit Scotland’s large offshore oil and gas sector.

“It’s not the job of trade unions to hasten the demise of our own members’ employment,” he said. “It’s pie in the sky.”

The Unison motion makes the case for divestment on the basis that fossil fuels “pose material financial risks to portfolios.” It “urges Scottish pension funds,” including those of councils, to “promote divestment, and alternative reinvestment in the sustainable economy.”

Transport Salaried Staffs Association general secretary Manuel Cortes said his union would support the motion. “There are no jobs on a dead planet,” he told the Star.

“If capitalists have any brains we will at some point switch away from fossil fuels, but they will condemn workers in CO2-emitting industries to the scrapheap. It’s what they have done every time there’s been a major restructuring of our economy.

“It’s vital for unions to take the lead in arguing for the technologies that would save our planet.

“We also need to argue for a just transition, by which workers currently engaged in CO2-emitting industries don’t lose their jobs as a result of this.”

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