Nothing about us without us! IndustriAll Europe launches its Just Transition manifesto

In mid-May IndustriAll Europe, representing industrial workers in manufacturing, energy and mining sectors across 38 European countries, launched its manifesto on just transition.

The manifesto is composed of five clear demands for workers and their interest to be put at the centre of industrial change so that it is not imposed on them from the top by CEOs in boardrooms and politicians in power, either at national or at EU level.

Firstly, industry workers want an industrial policy that matches the ambition of the European Green Deal climate goals and preserves and creates good jobs through clear transition pathways that are planned and with trade unions.
Secondly, the transition must be adequately financed and it’s not just about the amount of money: it’s about aligning EU funds to the needs of the transformation, ensuring the financial support reaches the regions that need it the most and creates good quality jobs and apprenticeships (social conditionality) and where trade unions are part of the governance (the ‘partnership principle’).

Thirdly, there cannot be a just transition without stronger collective bargaining, which has been under attack all too often, especially sector level bargaining in favour of highly decentralized processes at company level. This can be done through clauses in public procurement requiring companies to negotiate with unions and through capacity building. IndustriAll commissioned research shows that the transition is hindered in the countries/regions with low levels of social dialogue. Similarly, a survey of CEEMET reveals that half of employers in industry are not talking to trade unions.

Fourthly, the rule book needs to adapt to anticipate change with a mix of workers’ rights to information and consultation, as well as companies’ duties to have a and to report on a decarbonization strategy and due diligence, including the establishment of trade union reps for just transition, similar to existing health and safety representatives. We are past the point of non-binding recommendations and anticipating change is better than dealing with a corporate restructuring further down the line.

And lastly, industrial workers want a right to quality training to master the new skills that will be needed for the green economy. But it is very hard to guarantee access to training to workers on insecure contracts and given that 40% of the workforce in Europe are precarious workers, this is a shared problem that requires collective solutions and a granular employment mapping as well as an individual right to training and life-long learning.

Samantha Smith, director of the Just Transition Centre, spoke at the launch of the manifesto: these demands could easily transfer to workers in other sectors as trade unions across the economy are fighting for good jobs, training and redeployment opportunities – “just transition is about jobs but also about improving the material conditions of workers”. Also, we must guard against companies developing their own definitions of just transition and bring it back to the ILO guidelines, which enshrine a role for trade unions. Ultimately there are risks in leaving workers behind and dividing societies. That is why there is a need for climate and social policies to speak to the core concerns of working people, by putting labour standards and jobs first – “when it wants to be, the state can be very big and we may be reaching the end of market-based only solutions”.