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Unions succeed in bringing global fight for environmental protection to UN labour body

Many years of awareness raising and activism across the labour movement and three intense weeks of negotiations with employers and governments produced a first ever agreement on environmental issues at the 102 session of the Internatinoal Labour Conference (ILC) of the International Labour Organisation, last month in Geneva, Switzerland.

“A massive amount of work has been done in the past decade to help unions realize that there will be no jobs in a dead planet, and that we must therefore fight hard for a transition that secures at the same time decent work for all, as well as environmental sustainability, said Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation.  “The outcome achieved in the ILO confirms this objective and endorses a long-term call of trade unions: the need to put in place a Just Transition to support those who might be affected by the shift to sustainability”.

The outcome –a document  unanimously approved by governments, employers and trade union representatives- provides a mandate for the ILO to root sustainability work in the organization and to develop an action plan aimed at making environmental concerns an integral part of the organisation’s future work.  It defines the Just Transition framework as covering macroeconomic policies for green decent job creation, as well as industrial and sectoral policies to be defined through social dialogue and collective bargaining.

“ This was a very challenging discussion, but the outcome shows that despite differences between countries, it is still possible to build a common ground for a transition, based on rights, dialogue and ambition, said Gerardo Martinez, from the Argentinean CGT, who acted as the spokeperson for the workers’ group. “Now we have to give a follow up to this decision and show that our commitment to sustainable development is a long term one”, he added.

However, a major demand from trade unions remained unfulfilled: to initiate a process to negotiate an instrument which would further define the roles and responsibilities of the three parties in the just transition framework.

“The outcome at the ILC give us a tripartite agreed just transition framework for redirecting our economies towards environmental sustainability; the real work starts now, implementing this framework at national level” said Laura Martin Murillo, director of Sustainlabour and who coordinated ITUC work in the Committee. “We are loosing lives because of the multiple environmental crisis, governments keep on delaying decisions fearing social unrest; this vicious circle must end: the only way forward is a transformational, democratic and forward-looking agenda, which leaves none behind”.

More information: Conclusions on Sustainable development and Green Jobs of the International Labour Conference

Source: ITUC

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