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The European Green Deal’s missing social chapter: why industrial workers are mobilising across Europe

The European Green Deal’s missing social chapter: why industrial workers are mobilising across Europe

IndustriAll Europe and its member unions are mobilising across Europe in the coming weeks and months to fight for a stronger social dimension to Europe’s climate policies. Trade unions insist that climate action requires an equally powerful social programme. Europe cannot afford a badly managed transition where workers and communities are paying the costs for years to come. It could put the European project itself at risk.

The European Green Deal will dramatically accelerate the transformation of all our industries. 25 million manufacturing workers in Europe currently face fast moving forces of change: job losses and restructuring due to the COVID-19 crisis and job losses and changes caused by decarbonisation, digitalisation and trade and market developments.

The most significant change since the industrial revolution

The Fit for 55 package – which aims to implement the global Paris Climate Agreement, the recent European Climate Law and the European Green Deal – will accelerate the transformation even further. In practice, this means nearly doubling the annual emission reductions to be achieved by 2030, compared to the -40% target currently in force. The additional emissions reduction represents approximately a tripling of annual emission reductions compared to what the EU achieved from 1990-2018.

As manufacturing, mining and energy trade unions, industriAll Europe and its members support the objective of climate neutrality by 2050 and recognise the need for increased ambition to reach this. Climate change is happening, and we have limited time to avoid the worst scenarios which will hurt workers and the most vulnerable in society and in the world the hardest.

This is the most significant industrial change since the industrial revolution! Therefore, climate action demands an equally powerful social programme – the promised Just Transition will not happen by itself.

Many of the sectors represented by industriAll European Trade Union are directly affected by the package, from vehicle manufacturing, including automotive and aerospace sectors, to extractive industries, energy and energy-intensive industries. Almost all European regions are impacted, but the impact is not equal, and the possibilities to create alternative employment for jobs affected by these transitions are also very unequal at European level.

Are Europe’s climate policies fit to ensure a socially just change for workers?

The European Green Deal and the Fit for 55 package are Europe’s answer to meet the climate challenge. But is the European Green Deal also fit for a socially just structural change for the workers in Europe?

Sadly, in the face of the scale of the challenge, the structural and employment policies on offer fall well short! And herein lies a real and present danger for Europe’s political and regional cohesion. A far greater ambition for a Just Transition is needed to ensure social acceptance of the Green Deal, to avoid social upheaval and growing regional inequalities and rifts. Social disruption, due to a badly managed transition, will both severely undermine the ability of the European Green Deal to succeed and do long-term damage to our economies and societies. We have seen badly managed transitions before, and we are still paying the social costs.

Since Europe’s Green Deal is a deliberate political intervention into market forces, Europe’s politicians now have a direct responsibility for delivering a Just Transition and decarbonisation without de-industrialisation. The invisible hand of the market will neither deliver the necessary climate ambition we need nor a fair transition for the workers and communities impacted.

A European campaign for fair structural change: Nothing about us, without us!

As the European Union gets ready to apply the measures of the Fit for 55 package (with further proposals expected in December), and as climate policies will be rolled out across the continent – industriAll Europe’s member organisations have decided that the time to step up the fight for a stronger social dimension to climate policies across Europe is now!

With the slogan “Nothing about us, without us! Achieving a Just Transition requires industrial workers’ voice”, industriAll Europe and its members are today launching a Europe-wide campaign, calling on the European institutions and national governments to make fundamental improvements to the social dimension of the Green Deal. To this end, we have five key demands:

Resources: Preparing workers for the transition requires adequate investment. Following years of trade union campaigning, we now have a Just Transition Fund: a new, dedicated financial instrument of €17.5 bn focused on coal and carbon-intensive regions. But we need to be honest: this is inadequate to meet the challenge even in these sectors to support job-to-job transitions, retraining and upskilling programmes. Furthermore, it leaves out some important and heavily affected industries. For example, there is currently no framework to manage change in the vehicle manufacturing sectors, including the EU’s automotive sector and its supply chain.

A detailed mapping of employment in Europe’s regions is needed to manage the structural changes with targeted and appropriate measures. Without understanding precisely which jobs are at stake, which workers are impacted and where, what their current qualification profiles are, and which skills and qualifications will be needed – reskilling and upskilling programmes cannot be tailored to ensure job-to-job transitions. This analysis is missing so far.

Anticipation of change and social dialogue for all workers: In 2013, the European Parliament proposed a European legal framework on the anticipation and the management of change. Such a framework should be created to ensure workers have the right to co-decide the transition in their workplaces and regions, and to strengthen social dialogue and collective bargaining. We must not repeat the mistakes of the previous financial and economic crisis, where workers’ rights and collective bargaining were restricted or cut.

A toolbox of rights to ensure that transitions are smooth for individual workers. Employment transfers must be ensured through active labour market policies that promote education and training, reskilling and upskilling programmes, life-long learning, and respond to the skills needs for new technologies. Every worker, regardless of their contract, must have the right to quality training and life-long learning. Social protection systems must protect those who fall victim to change and cannot benefit from retraining and upskilling.

Finally, we demand a better coordination of all policy areas and policy planning at EU, Member State and regional level. Comprehensive industrial policies with adequate public investment are an essential component of this: we need to ensure that there is a phase-in of new jobs before jobs are phased out. We will certainly not be able to meet the challenges of the transformation towards climate neutrality with austerity policies!

Join us!

IndustriAll Europe and its member unions are mobilising across Europe in the coming weeks and months to fight for a stronger social dimension to Europe’s climate policies, for good and sustainable jobs, and for a just future for industrial workers. If we fail in this task, we play into the hands of the populists – potentially putting the European project itself at stake.

Join us – let’s go beyond slogans to make the promise that “no one will be left behind” a reality across Europe.


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