From the TUC

ACAS’ green blind spot?

13 Sep 2011, by in Environment

Why is there a “green blind spot” in the new ACAS study of the role of unions in future workplace relations? Have we failed to spread the word about union-led green workplace projects? Or has the conciliation service missed a growing union trend?

At the TUC’s annual Congress today, construction union, UCATT, spoke in support of a motion on the low carbon economy. UCATT is playing a leading role in Wakefield District Housing in support of an ambitious homes energy efficiency programmes, in the social housing sector where it is perhaps needed most. Prospect, the union for 68,000 scientists and engineers, reported that the Government has shown a cavalier disregard for expert advice on the environment and green investment. And Community called today for greater investment in energy efficient technology in industries like steel.

There are probably over 1,000 union-style green workplace projects in the UK and plenty of case studies and good practice guides available from the TUC  and unions. The TUC’s report of its two-year Union Modernisation Fund (UMF) project, Greening the workplace, shows a wide range of imaginative initiatives, from union green events and trade union environmental training to negotiations on environmental issues with management. We provide support through access to best practice case studies, relevant legislation and provision of an environmental reps education workbook.

ACAS stats show an increasing number of union members think unions “are doing its job well,”  up from 64% to 71% in a decade. This reflects not a static trade unionism, but a willingness on the part of unions to look to the new green agenda, to tackle issues that concern the membership. The green shift in the labour movement is also reflected in the new alliances emerging around green issues like the feed in tariff or green growth. Unions are now working closely with a number of environmental organisations and businesses taking on the low carbon challenge.

The TUC’s annual climate change conference in October 2010 was about Alliances for green growth. ACAS is right to point to unions working with alliances such as Citizens UK on the living wage. But there’s a new story emerging.