Wednesday, 5 September 2012

North West TUC Conference Report:

For a future that works:
Trade Unions and the Environment
A NW TUC Conference 
Report & Recommendations
The NW TUC held a conference dedicated to Trade Unions and the Environment on 21st July 2012 at the Savoy Hotel, Blackpool. The speakers included Chris Baugh, Assistant General Secretary PCS, Derek Wall, former principal speaker for the Green Party and Clara Paillard, Merseyside TUC Green Officer. The Conference attracted over 50 delegates, a third of them being Green Reps and half of them representing Trade Councils. The main unions represented were PCS, Unite, UNISON and UCU and NUT, RMT, UCATT and BFAWU also had representatives. Also present were members of the local community (Residents Action against Fylde Fracking), the Green Party, the University of Lancaster and Friends of the Earth.
The main plenary session explored the Trade Unions roles within the environmental agenda along three key messages:
        Green Reps – the TUC Greening the Workplace initiative has encourage Trade Unions to appoint Green Reps in order to advance environmental awareness and negotiating in the workplace
        Politics & Economy – the austerity agenda of the current government needs to be challenged using the idea that economic and environmental crisis can be resolved simultaneously by investing in jobs that will support a sustainable and just economy – an argument being put forward by the One Million Climate Jobs campaign.
        Local Environmental struggles – the Trade Union movement need to act in support of local environmental campaigns in conjunction with environmental groups and the local community.
The plenary session was followed by workshops on four themes: fracking, food, transport and waste incineration. The rest of this note set out an outline of each theme and suggestions / recommendations made in each workshop

The workshop introduced the issues raised by the controversial 'fracking' gas extraction technique which has recently caused earthquakes in Blackpool.  A presentation put together by the campaigning group Frack Off as well as the short film 'Fracking Hell' quick-started the discussion.
Suggestions & Recommendations:
        Support a fringe meeting at TUC Congress in Brighton in September to highlight the anti-fracking motion and campaign.
        Support to the anti-fracking campaign at national and local level, including the production of quality leaflets and support of events, including Camp Frack 2 in the Autumn.
        Support to the anti-fracking activists trialled after occupying the Banks fracking site
        Encourage all Trade Unions to adopt anti-fracking policies and support the One Million Climate Jobs strategy as an alternative.
        Call our Trades Council to demand “Frack-free zones” in their locality and support the One Million Climate Jobs strategy as an alternative.
        Lobby for a ban of Fracking (not only on the grounds of safety but also on the grounds that gas is not a carbon free energy source) along with positive campaigning in support of the expansion of renewable energies and policies.
For more information visit: -
A presentation outlined the number of issues related to food and climate change along the entire production chain (agriculture, processing, distribution, consumption and disposal) as the food industry is responsible for up to 20% of UK CO2 emissions. 40% of world’s agricultural land is degraded because of poor farming practices and the use of chemicals and GM food may constitute a threat to the environment and people’s health. Food processing involves the use of many chemicals, has generated many food scandals and is an industry where workers are often exploited. Food transport and import /export generate mass of CO2 emissions and refrigeration contribute to green house gas emissions. Obesity and malnutrition are two side of unbalanced food consumption across the world while 30% of UK food is wasted.
Suggestions & Recommendations:
        Existing campaigns supported by Trade Unions and campaigning group to be investigated and summarised in a report (Bakers’ Union, Farmers’ Union, USDAW, Education unions, Unite Community Branches, War on Want, COOPs, Incredible Edible, Food Future, Organic Farmers Association) and a round table to be organised by the NWTUC inviting the different stakeholders.
        NWTUC to support the creation of a resource booklet for Green Reps on the topic of food (including case studies on the “life cycle” of specific products on the model of The Story of Stuff) and consider funding initiatives led by Green Reps / Trades Councils.
        Work to be done on alternative policies around the theme of “food democracy / right to healthy food”, including coops, urban gardens, community schemes (ie. on composting, anaerobic digestion, tool hire), land reform & reclaim public land projects.
        Investigate how a campaign against supermarkets can be supported
Waste incineration
HAGATI (Halton Action Group Against the Incinerator) explained their 5-years campaign to oppose the construction of an incinerator by multinational Ineos Chlor that will burn 820,000 tons of waste per annum with all electricity produced going to the company. A ‘gate fee’ of £100 is charged to local authorities (such as Greater Manchester) tight up in 25-years contract, out of which 60p goes to Runcorn Council. Health concerns are numerous about the effects of micro-particles, mercury and dioxins and the process will detract from recycling as the waste needs to be rich in plastic to be energy-efficient.
Suggestions & Recommendations:
        Awareness raising – NWTUC to support the production of a quality leaflet explaining the issues arising from waste incineration
        Contracts & Contractors – NWTUC to encourage unions/green reps to identify workplaces’ waste contractors and to request information from City Councils about their waste contractors, contract renewal timescales and methods of waste management.
        Lobby – Lobby City Councils not to enter long-term contracts with incinerators / Lobby Parliament for incinerators to be submitted to the Carbon Tax
        Local groups – Encourage Trades Councils to establish links with local anti-incineration groups and support their campaigns.
For more information and resources, see:

This workshop was closely linked with the Action for Rail campaign led by ASLEF / RMT. Kevin Morrison, RMT Exec for NW introduced the workshop and highlighted that the government's McNulty report called for job cuts, service cuts and allowing rail firms to raise fares as much as they like.  Buses nationally have suffered from 28% reduction income.  So while public transport is vital for dealing with climate change it is being threatened by the coalition government's cuts.

Suggestions & Recommendations:
        Challenge closures – through the use of Quality impact assessment (particularly on grounds of disability access) and Freedom of Information Act to gain information to stop closures.

        Free public transport – suggestion of running surveys to show that free public transport might save money by reducing pollution and congestion.  

        Linking with other campaign – such as Cycle Use groups and the Campaign for Better Transport (

        Action & Democracy - The importance of democratic and active trade unions was stressed by many participants and the RMT was seen as an inspiring example in this regard.  In a wide ranging discussion ideas from fighting the sale of Britain's roads to the idea of guerilla fly posting of timetables were also mentioned.

Concluding Comments
The Conference concluded with a commitment for the recommendations to be presented to the NWTUC Council / Executive for consideration and to consider the possibility of an annual conference on the Environment. A group photograph was taken at the front of the Hotel (see below).

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