(9 December 2021) The European trade union movement has concerns about the European Commission’s Green Deal and the Fit for 55 proposals. The impact on certain industries, regions and communities, workers and low-income households will be huge, and millions of jobs are affected. The social dimension is not really part and parcels of these plans. To discuss these concerns an ETUC delegation met with EU vice-President Frans Timmermans, responsible in the European Commission for coordinating the European Green Deal. The unions support the urgency of making the transition to a more sustainable economy and society and the targets for limiting global warming. In this process no-one should be left behind. It does require investment and funding for just transition measures, to strengthen our public services, social protection systems and support industries and services. The delegation argued that just transition requires progressive and just taxation. We can not allow the tax avoidance of companies. Public funding to companies has to come with environmental and social conditionalities. To make the recovery and the transition possible we can not have a return to austerity measures. This will end the progress that can be made.
The unions argued for a Just transition legal framework. A central element is the need to have a more detailed analysis of the impact on jobs in each work place and sector of activity. Union representatives should be more involved and the rights to demand the relevant information strengthened through improved information and consultation legislation and the anticipation and management of change. Energy poverty effects 50 million and needs responses from the Commission now energy prices are rising.
Commissioner Timmermans replied that the Commission is standing for avoiding further social inequalities and for supporting regions which are most in need of assistance for the transition. To avoid rising inequalities among households, who have been affected by soaring energy prices, the new Social Climate Fund will assist. However, he acknowledged that the amount of money allocated for the fund is not enough and national funding must help. He stated that the Commission is not going back to austerity measures, considering that massive investments are more than ever required. He affirmed that the European Union must diversify its energy sources, speeding up alternative sources to be less dependent on market volatility. He finally stated that the main challenges for workers in the transition will be how to update their skills and how to make sure that workers do not lose their incomes during the transition. The Commissioner underlined that the costs of not acting and delaying measures will be huge and cause more natural disasters.
The ETUC delegation was led by its General Sectretary. Several national confederations like from the Czech republic and Germany as well as several European Trade Union Federations like EPSU, IndustriAll, ETF joined. For EPSU the General Secretary and Jakob Embacher responsible for our work on energy and climate change joined. The meeting took place online 9 December 2021.