We need a Just Transition not just for workers but for communities at frontline of climate change

Stephen Smellie
Stephen Smellie

#stuc19 A number of Just Transition motions were debated at Congress on Wednesday morning then remitted in favour of a General Council Statement undertaking to take forward action against climate change at the same time as ensuring that any jobs under threat are replaced by good quality unionised jobs.

Speaking to a UNISON amendment, Depute Convener, Stephen Smellie said that in welcoming the General Council statement he agreed with the GMB’s Gary Smith that there had been no renewable jobs bonanza.

He said, however, “Those who criticise the rhetoric should realise that the rhetoric only fails when others don’t take the action we have been calling for.

“We need to realise what the oil and gas needs to stay in the ground, but we need the work done to create the jobs and industries to ensure a Just Transition.

He pointed to the Black Workers’ Conference that highlighted the fact that those who will suffer most and suffer first from climate change will be the indigenous populations of the South, the black and brown people of Africa, Asia and Polynesia whose lands are already under threat.

“And as we have seen recently in Southern Africa, these are also the nations that are least prepared for the devastation wreaked by increasing severe weather events.

“In amongst the concerns for a Just Transition for our energy workers, we must not forget the need for a Just Transition for these communities in the front line of climate change,” warned Stephen.

Pensions funds must not invest in arms companies

James Corry
James Corry

Later a motion from Edinburgh Trades Union Council calling on pension funds to divest from companies that profit from the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia which are then used against civilians in the Yemen was also remitted.

Supporting the motion, UNISON Scotland’s James Corry told Congress that he is a board member on the Strathclyde Pension Fund.

The Board meets four times a year, and, said James, “we spend two hours listening to very clever and expensively dressed fund managers and advisers who tell us they are collectively playing a stormer with our members’ money.

“On a few occasions some councillors have the audacity to ask about recent adverse press coverage of the funds money being invested in armament firms, whose wares are killing civilians all over the world.

“The reply is – don’t worry, we have a very proactive company engagement strategy which will allow us as shareholders to challenge and influence corporate behaviour, in line with our ethical standards.”

James said however, that in the real world, the success of the arms industry is not dependent on investment from local authority pensions. So on that basis, the health of local authority pensions is not mutually dependent on a requirement to invest in the arms industry.

“Comrades, council pension funds should have the courage of their convictions and instruct fund managers to show their ethical investment credentials and no longer invest our members’ money in these companies.

“We need to say to these employers looking for our cash. NOT TODAY, NOT TOMORROW, AND YOU’VE HEE HAW CHANCE IN THE FUTURE!”

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