From the TUC

Cancun Diary #5: Is unity turning the UN?

07 Dec 2010, by in Environment

In the drafting group on the UN’s Shared Vision text today, several Governments took the floor stating that they were supporting Just Transition. These were Norway, the USA, Gambia on behalf of the African group of nations, and the EU. Trade unions in our delegation from each of these supporters have clearly been at work.

This has, of course, been a collective effort. Delegates from the US and Norway in regular contact with their government. The African ITUC delegates are working as a team lobbying the African Governments Group, including union delegates from South Africa, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Zambia, coordinated by Yahya Msangi of ITUC Africa. Particular importance needs to be attached to the work of Cecilia Alexander, President of the Zimbabwe Public Services Association. Cecilia has led the arrangements for ITUC contacts with her fellow Zimbabwean, Margaret Mukahanana-Sangarwe, chair of the UN Working Group on Long-term Co-operative Action. This group is responsible for producing an agreement on the Shared Vision. And the ETUC has been coordinating work with more than a dozen EU Governments and the EU, which speaks on their behalf. I mention these delegates for now, but many others have been at work, too.

There’s a long way to go. Getting the UN to shift its position is a major uphill task now. Sharan Burrow, ITUC GS, told us as much today, Monday, at her opening meeting with the ITUC delegation. “You know your role is crucial here. Her message, that “Climate change is union business” has been the key theme in many of our government briefings. Sharan argued that it brings risks and opportunities.

“It requires us not just to pay attention but to be leaders on green and decent jobs, and they are the key to the future. Massive job losses are already happening through climate catastrophes, with changing weather patterns affecting life patterns for millions of people. But the transition to a green economy is where we can play a strong and decisive part.”

The road to the next conference in South Africa a year away is critical, Sharan argued.

“Governments need to be mindful that we have a demand on the world for a binding deal. If they say that people don’t matter, that consultation with workers doesn’t matter, that the transition to jobs of today to those of tomorrow can happen without consultation, then they should feel our anger at this turn of events in Cancun.”

Decent work must be at the heart of this deal. Governments should know that workers are in the house, and that they can depend on trade unions to support a progressive deal. But social guarantees are crucial to making progress here.