Electricity social partners consider Just Employment Transition – in phase with Cancun
(15 December 2010) The joint conference of the social partners started with a reference to the recent Climate Change summit in Cancun and the agreement which was reached.
EPSU’s vice-president Standing Committee Utilities Jan Ruden mentioned that the governments had agreed to include the importance of addressing the possible negative social consequences of climate change and to stress Just Transition principles. He quoted the final document in which governments realize that: 10. (…) addressing climate change requires a paradigm shift towards building a low-carbon society that offers substantial opportunities and ensures continued high growth and sustainable development, based on innovative technologies and more sustainable production and consumption and lifestyles, while ensuring a just transition of the workforce that creates decent work and quality jobs; Later on the governments say that they recognize “the importance of avoiding or minimizing negative impacts of response measures on social and economic sectors, promoting a just transition of the workforce, the creation of decent work and quality jobs in accordance with nationally defined development priorities and strategies and contributing to building new capacity for both production and service-related jobs in all sectors, promoting economic growth and sustainable development. He also referred to the report produced for the social partners on Just Transition and introduced Jean-Francois Poupard, one of the researchers for Syndex that prepared the report.
Jean-Francois Poupard presented the main findings of the literature review and the comparison of the employment effects of the different studies for the electricity sector. There will be an increase in employment but it will be uneven, depending on geographic location, fuels used etc. Some sectors will win and others will see jobs disappearing. He stressed the importance of the joint definition of the social partners on Just Transition as used in the document: “Just transition can be seen as the transition (or shift) towards a more sustainable and environmentally friendly economy, based on social dialogue between governments, employers and trade unions, in a way that promotes high economic growth and investments in low carbon technologies while ensuring a smooth social transition through adaptation and mitigation actions as well as through the development of skilling and reskilling programs and the creating of quality jobs”.
Charlotte Renaud (EURELECTRIC) and Steve Bloomfield (EPSU) commented on the report supporting the set of recommendations that are contained in the report and which address different points such as training, equality, social dialogue as well as the roles of different actors such as the employers and unions and the public authorities.
Christine Aumayr of the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound, Dublin) gave an overview of the restructuring that is taking place in the sector related to the economic crisis and the greening of the economy. She further presented two new research projects – Changing Business landscape in the electricity industry and industrial relations (focusing on the changes the renewable energy directive brings and how it possibly leads to more decentralized production, new actors and decentralized bargaining and Growth and Employment, anticipating and managing the effects of greening of industries in the EU (the energy sector will be one of the sectors explored.)
Sylvie Motard of UNEP placed the European developments in a more global context drawing on the different global programmes and initiatives and how these create opportunities even in the context of the economic crisis. A collective rethink of development and business models will be needed. She stressed the importance of addressing skills to prevent a skills gap. Otherwise this would become a constraint to developing green economies. Skills assessments and scaling up of private and public investments were other points she stressed in her contribution. UNEP has worked with the ILO on the Green Jobs Programme. This was presented by Rudi de la Rue of the ILO.
David Tarren, ADAPT, completed the presentation on the work done for the social partners. He presented the results of the survey of trade union and employer representatives and the recommendations based on the research, survey and interviews. Stephen Clark (RWE, Eurelectric) commented on the research and presentation and raised the equality dimension, also challenging the trade unions to raise a broader spectrum of issues with management.
The final presentation underlined the work that is being done in the European Commission. Agnieszka Bielska of DG Employment showed the preliminary findings of a research project on the employment dimension of a greener economy. It is likely that a redistribution of jobs within and across sectors is taking place. There are also existing knowledge gaps, skills and occupations that become obsolete (like meter readers) while there are ones that require specific skills (meteorologists in the wind energy). She also introduced the new EU 2020 Flagship Agenda for New Skills and Jobs which contains a number of initiatives that are relevant for the Green Jobs agenda: consultation mechanism for the cross-industry social partners on green policies, EU Framework for restructuring, tripartite forum, sector skill councils, CSR (greening workplaces).
The final panel brought the employers and unions together with Bernd Frieg (EMCEF), Emanuela Preiti (Eurelectric) and EPSU’s Deputy General Secretary Jan Willem Goudriaan drawing conclusions from the debates. The European Social Dialogue Committee will consider this further.
Plenary meeting sectoral social dialogue Committee on Electricity, 14 December 2010