Tonight, at my trade union branch AGM I had to vote against a motion on travel expenses. Sometimes the risk of climate change comes between me and my need as a trade union member to have my terms and conditions of employment as preferable as possible. But, couldn’t both be linked: our need to live and work on an unpolluted planet where neither we or our environment are exploited? As a green who has always believed in the triple bottom line of Ecology, Economy and Equality, I believe so.

Image by JG on Flickr

Both the Green Movement and the Trade Union movement have much to work together on. Social justice is a core principle to both, and decision making at the lowest effective level also features strongly. While I am going to stay away from the arguments about capital and the ownership of resources question, trade unions must protect the rights of their members, including their right to be able to live and breath on our planet, and need to stay away from opposing changes that help achieve that aim. Green people need to embrace the ideas around a just transition, and finding ways to wind down our carbon and pollution dependent society in a way that doesn’t leave workers as victims.

We need personal measures, like a phased change to making sure that we incentivize people to use active transport rather than paying them to drive bigger cars in order to supplement their incomes with travel expenses. At the same time, we need to ensure people are not out of pocket when they have no option other than drive, and that employers don’t pocket the difference if people switch. These things can be achieved if green people engage with their unions.

We also need to allow culture change to happen within organisations. People can’t hide behind unions to avoid making changes that they would make at home, on the basis that they are not paying for waste disposal, energy bills or improvement costs while at work. We need to see electric vehicles used across the public and private sector in all places where they can appropriately replace internal combustion engines. We also need to see automation replacing processes that are wasteful and inefficient, and this could mean more time off rather than less employment.

Something else said at the AGM tonight was that a lot of work needs to be done by Trade Unions to engage and recruit younger people and frontline staff who have become disengaged in our modern consumer society as they see unions as having nothing to offer. Maybe the Green Party has some empathy with that struggle!

More has been said on these matters, and rather than repeat them here, let me link you to some I think might be of interest (I will link more here as I find them – please feel free to add more in the comments)

Irish Environment . Featured Trade Unions and Climate Change: A German Perspective. 2019-02-21. URL: Accessed: 2019-02-21. (Archived by WebCite® at

INTERNATIONAL TRADE UNION CONFEDERATION. Unions at the Global Climate Action Summit – making the case for a Just Transition.. ITUC. 2018-09-23, URL: Accessed: 2019-02-21. (Archived by WebCite® at

Nora Räthzel & David Uzzell Trade Unions and Climate Change: the jobs vs Environment dilemma