Unionists, environmentalists form coalition
By Lisa Macdonald
On June 5, World Environment Day, the Building Division of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) and the Conservation Council of SA (CCSA) formalised links to establish a Coalition of Unions and Environment Groups (CUE).
According to its statement of purpose, CUE aims "to bridge the gap between the trade union and environment movements; to provide a forum that enables full and open dialogue between unions and environment groups; to promote a cohesive union/environment response to development proposals and to facilitate the transition to an ecologically sustainable industry base through joint liaison with government, industry and the grassroots activist base of both movements".
CFMEU state secretary Ben Carslake said, "In launching the coalition, we are formally announcing our pursuit of a common goal — a sustainable future. The massive environmental problems facing us require that all future employment initiatives are part of an economic development strategy that is ecologically sustainable ..."
The coalition is establishing a consultative committee and aims to establish national and international links. It is hoped that this initiative will be a model for other states.
CCSA vice-president Margaret Bolster said that the next step will be to approach all SA unions and environment groups, inviting participation.
"The recent woodchip debacle highlighted the need for greater dialogue", she said. "The lack of direct communication between [unions and environment movement] resulted in a high degree of misunderstanding and public animosity. This plays right into the hands of the conservative forces, who are very happy to see unions and environment groups at each other's throats. We aim to prevent such a situation arising again, in any industry."