Good turnout for union climate conference

Submitted by AWL on 22 February, 2008 - 2:47 Author: Paul Vernadsky

Around 300 trade unionists and environmental activists attended the Campaign against Climate Change (CCC) trade union conference on 9 February.

The turnout exceeded expectations and showed that there is a real interest in fighting climate change among union activists. The conference was organised by members of both sides of the Respect split (ISG and SWP) and the Green Party and backed by some union leaders. Frances O’Grady (TUC), as well as Matt Wrack (FBU), Chris Baugh (PCS), Christine Blower (NUT), Linda Newman (UCU) and Tony Kearns (CWU) spoke from the platform.

There was wide agreement that the labour movement must be central to the fight against climate change, and that this required the revival of ideas such as public ownership and workers’ plans for conversion (like Lucas), as well as more immediate demands such as legal rights for trade union environmental reps.

There is undoubtedly a need for a rank and file current pushing for action on climate change within the unions and the CCC is probably the best umbrella to develop that at present. Although the final plenary passed a pretty bland motion – and, worryingly, blocked amendments from the Workers’ Climate Action campaign, which would have given it more edge - there is nevertheless a basis for the campaign to go forward.

Socialists should help organise CCC fringe meetings at union conferences and propose motions for affiliation. We should also attend the 1 March organising meeting at ULU in London, when the campaign will plan its next steps. We must fight to make the campaign politically sharp, whilst being savvy enough to tackle the difficult sectors such as energy and aviation. It needs to be organisationally open and democratic, as well as representative of wide layers within the unions – preferably as delegates from labour movement bodies.