The central concern of the Greener Jobs Alliance (GJA) is the ‘just transition’ to a low carbon economy.
Just transition is a concept that acknowledges that technological change can, and often does, have damaging social and economic consequences. Jobs, workplaces, communities, and cultures can be drastically disrupted, or even eradicated.
Sometimes trade unions have resisted this by simply seeking to defend their members’ old ways of working. They now acknowledge the crisis forced upon humanity by climate change and are increasingly working with the green movement; seeking solutions that will not cause widespread suffering in the way that earlier economic and technological changes did.
With these considerations in mind, GJA was formed about 11 years ago by environmentally aware trade unionists. Since then, it has grown and developed a portfolio of differing activities intended to further its aims.
GJA sometimes acts as a pressure group, seeking to influence the policies of current and future governments. It also works with ‘training bodies, colleges, universities, employers, local and national government, trade unions, housing associations, campaign and community groups’. In pursuit of these aims, GJA publishes free online courses and regular newsletters and acts as a policy think tank.
It draws many members from trade unions, but has always had connections with the green movement and students’ organisations. It also works closely with its sister organisation the Trade Union Clean Air Network, which has drawn up a charter calling for legislation to improve air quality and reduce pollution. This has the support of many Trade Unions.
GJA is a multi-faceted organisation, not just concerned with engineering top-down changes imposed on a passive populace by central government. It aims to work in differing ways, across differing levels.
“Employers will not ‘green’ their operations without clear national policies and incentives. The workforce will not be interested in training for low carbon skills unless they can see its relevance for job security.
"Education providers will not support the development of new training programmes unless they can see a local demand for the courses offered. Households and businesses will not be able to introduce low carbon options if there is a lack of local companies with skilled staff capable of doing the work.”
Currently, the GJA has a very important role to play in shaping the creation of an inclusive low carbon economy. Inside the trade union movement, this takes the form of some unions supporting measures such as hydrogen and nuclear power as necessary for a low carbon economy.
Some arguments around these issues have been aired in recent GJA meetings. In this context, these matters are being discussed with people who understand and support the duties of trade unions to defend the pay and conditions of their members, rather than with those whose basic interests are to increase private corporate wealth.
In other words, GJA, in many ways, operates inside the labour movement in terms of the legitimate concerns that it has with the lives of its members and their families outside the workplace. The availability of healthcare and education, as well as political rights, were secured in Britain because of popular movements, with unions playing a crucial role.
Effectively combatting climate change, and the creation of a low-carbon and resource-efficient economy based on truly democratic and inclusive politics – also the aim of the Green Party – can only be achieved with popular support, often organised through the labour movement.
GJA and other similar organisations such as the Campaign against Climate Change have a vital role to play in this by providing resources, information, and a forum for good-faith discussion of the way to deal with the crises that face us.
For more information about the Greener Jobs Alliance and its work, visit its website.