Workers discuss a just climate future

Thirty people gathered on May 6 at a meeting organised by the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) and the New South Wales Teachers Federation (NSWTF). The theme of the meeting was “Trade Unions and Climate Change: Challenges, Opportunities and Alliance Building”.

Jeremy Kerbel, climate justice campaigner with the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union, outlined some of the LHMU’s climate change initiatives, such as calling hundreds of delegates in the lead-up to the 2009 Walk Against Warming and sponsoring the event.

The LHMU has joined the Climate Justice Alliance, which also includes the Australian Services Union, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, the Fire Brigade Employees Union, the Edmund Rice Centre and Amnesty.

Lynn Takayama from the NSWTF Peace, International and Environment Special Interest Group discussed the difficulties of getting union members’ "voices heard in the discussion around the curriculum so [they] could promote the idea of just transition”.

“That means full retraining [should be] given to workers in energy-intensive industries and training [should happen] in public education facilities.”

She said this task was almost impossible in the current political climate where "70% of government funding for education goes to the private sector, which educates close to 30% of students”.

Helen Masterman-Smith, an NTEU activist and a lecturer at Charles Sturt University, said: "Currently, researchers are under real pressure when they release research critical of the government’s stance on climate change.”

She said a recent survey by the NTEU found "90% believe that employees should be part of discussing and implementing environmental issues in the workplace".

The meeting ended with a discussion about a “just transition”, allowing workers from all sectors to move away from climate unfriendly jobs to green jobs.