‘Ensure smooth transition to green jobs’

Special Correspondent

‘An independent commission could decide on minimum wages’

KOCHI: What should be the approach of trade unions towards climate change and green jobs? According to Noriyuki Suzuki, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) – Asia Pacific, the best approach is to ensure that jobs are not lost and the transition is made gradually through loans and government assistance.

“We want to ensure the sustainability of the economy. For example, in the case of electricity generation, we are concerned about gas emissions. Alternative energy sources should be implemented. The transition should be painless and adequate funding should be made available. We cannot achieve this by destroying traditional industry and livelihood of people,” he told The Hindu on the sidelines of the 29th plenary session of the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC).

The ITUC-Asia Pacific represents more than 19 million members spread over 29 countries and has been in the forefront of organising workers in countries that have varied industrial experience. One of the toughest jobs, he says, is to organise workers in these countries, especially in the informal sector. “Our priorities are to establish free independent trade unions in compliance with the International Labour Organisation’s convention,” he said.

Roland Schneider, Senior Policy Advisor, Trade Union Advisory Committee, Paris, and Luigi Cal, Director of the Italian trade union, Confederazione Italiana Sindacati Lavoratori, also share the same opinion about green jobs. “There is considerable differences about what is green and what is not green jobs,” according to Mr. Schneider. “Workers were mainly afraid of this concept because it would leave them jobless. But later, they realised the importance,” says Mr. Cal.

The foreign delegates were quite impressed with some of the new concepts that the INTUC had listed on its agenda for the 29th plenary session. They welcomed the concept of worker being a shareholder, but saw a larger role for trade unions in promoting social security net.

With regard to minimum wages, they said poverty alleviation was very important. But minimum wages depended a lot on the practices prevailing in various countries. However, the issue should not be left to the government alone.

The U.K. practice of appointing an independent commission could be thought of to achieve this purpose, according to Mr. Schneider.

With regard to the issue of migrant workers, the trade union leaders felt that the biggest challenge was the entry of clandestine workers. The three leaders, along with several other foreign delegates, were honoured at the plenary session.