Green transition: not "if" but "how?"

The Belgian trade unions participated in the Belgian Sustainable Development Goals Forum. They brought a clear message: measures are needed to slow down global warming and also to accompany its destructive effects on economic activity and employment.

Thierry Aerts on behalf of the CSC, CGSLB and FGTB

The Belgian Forum on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)(SDGs) was held on 5 October under the banner of the green transition. For the Belgian trade unions, there is no doubt that the ecological transition must be fair, that its cost must be equitably distributed and that it cannot be achieved at the expense of workers who have already found themselves in the front line of precariousness following the financial and health crises.

Certainly, there are many possible measures and few that are neutral in terms of economic and social impact. For example, European governments should prevent the International Energy Liberalisation Treaty from undermining the EU’s Green Deal because attaining socially fair just transitions requires changes in how trade policies are currently constructed.

Each year at the Belgian SDG Forum, companies are given the opportunity to give themselves a positive ecological image. In reaction, to try to go beyond this green marketing, trade unions have taken several social dialogue initiatives that have resulted in concrete results such as

  • a tool resulting from a survey (in the Belgium region) of Wallonia, intended to help trade union representatives to situate themselves in a perspective of the evolution of their work on the environment and mobility;
  • proposals for environmental protection - like cleaning up the pollution accumulated on the site, and more efficient use of water and raw materials - formulated by the trade union representation via the consultation mechanisms in the metal processing company Nyrstar in Balen, Flanders; and
  • a trade union guide on concrete actions to help delegates negotiate the reduction of waste and energy consumption in the Brussels hotel sector.

At the same time, trade unions deplore the attitude of multinationals that produce “green goods and services” (electric cars, meal delivery, etc.) by violating their employees’ right to trade union representation, subjecting them to hybrid and precarious statutes, and more. There will be no greater acceptability of the green transition without social justice. The social pillar must not become the poor relation of the SDG pillars compared to the ecological and economic pillars.

It is the responsibility of the public authorities to ensure that companies respect international labour standards and to encourage those benefiting from loans or guarantees for private investment abroad to follow, via enhanced due diligence, the principles of the ILO Declaration on Multinationals. The European Union, for instance, is rightly proposing a carbon tax to combat global ecological dumping but when will we finally see stronger trade measures against global social dumping?

Additional information
No socially fair just transition without changes in trade policies (in French)