(4 November 2021) One of the highlights of the EPSU congress was the speech of the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins. With a wide-ranging overview of the challenges facing Europe’s trade unions and the contributions of unions to improve the lives of working women and men he opened the Congress. His speech is part of a series of reflections on the European Union, Europe and its values, its history and future as well as the place of Ireland within Europe. These and including the one to the EPSU Congress are now published.
With COP26 ongoing it is worthwhile to recall that President Higgins addressed one of the challenges of our time: the climate crisis and the role of unions. ‘Unions,’ he said, ‘can seize the opportunity of providing a lead role in developing a strategy for a “just transition” for workers and communities to ensure that we are all part of a sustainable, low-carbon economy and benefit from decent and green jobs.’ He used the example of Ireland, where a move away from high-carbon electricity generation has been matched by retraining of workers so they can find employment in green industries. Unions are fighting for this kind of response to climate change, which puts quality, green jobs at the heart of the transition whilst, in Higgins’ words, ‘acting as champions for climate action.’