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Trade union reactions at the European level
On the 24th February 2021 the European Commission published its new Adaptation Strategy designed to increase the resilience of the EU against the consequences of climate change. The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) points out that the new Strategy does not properly address the effects of climate change on the world of work and does not sufficiently consider the social and gender dimension of adaptation. It also fails to provide a mandatory framework to oblige Member States to take adequate policy measures to protect the most vulnerable. The ETUC calls for the inclusion of the following elements to the strategy:
- A strong and inclusive governance approach where workers and trade unions are involved.
- A proposal for new legislative initiative and policy framework to protect workers from exposure to high temperature, natural UV radiations and other health and safety hazard due to climate change.
- More concrete proposals for active labour market policies as well as reskilling and trainings to prevent job losses in sectors most affected.
- Clear guidance and objectives for Member States to invest in public services.
In the last week of February, the European Commission organised a series of events for the EU Industry Days 2021. Ahead of the publication of the revised New Industrial Strategy for Europe, expected for mid-March, the ETUC stressed the following.
With EU Industries facing multiple challenges in the next decade with high stakes for the future of industrial jobs, the ETUC reiterates that a comprehensive Industrial Strategy is needed to ensure a fair recovery from the current crisis and a just transition towards a climate-neutral and more digital world. The ETUC asks the European Commission to revise its strategy by addressing the new challenges of the COVID19 outbreak. The ETUC insists on developing sectorial decarbonisation roadmaps to ensure a just transition of the workforce and accelerate the development of low carbon infrastructures and technologies.
On the occasion of the EU Industry days, at an event organised by IndustriAll, the head of cabinet for Vice-President Timmermans pointed to the strategic importance of the steel industry in Europe calling for a Green Deal for Steel and semphasising the vital importance of a socially Just Transition. IndustriAll Europe's Deputy General Secretary, Judith Kirton-Darling, set out the campaign that European steelworkers have been running over the past year for such a European Steel Action Plan.
On `safe and sustainable chemicals`, Luc Triangle, General Secretary of IndustriAll acknowledged that the goal is to phase out hazardous substances. Still, he also warned that the route is unclear, as the concepts of 'essential uses' and 'safe and sustainable by design' need further clarification.
During the EU Industry Days, IndustriAll Europe also hosted a session to address the specific challenges faced by industrial workers in Central and Eastern European heavy industries resulting from the transition to a low-carbon economy. It was concluded that the transition has an important impact on the carbon-dependent and less developed regions with a growing number of 'left-behind' and 'de-industrialised' regions in CEE. This is the legacy of coal and a consequence of the past low-wage specialisation, which prevented these countries from transferring technologies and modernising their industrial base. Trade union leaders from the region called for a stronger regional dimension in European industrial policy design.
At the occasion of the tenth EU Refining Forum industriAll Europe called for ambition and fairness in updated industrial strategy. It warned that the combination of the COVID-19 crisis and the Green Deal objectives, and especially the revision of the 2030 climate targets, threaten to significantly deepen the investment gap that needs to be bridged to reach the climate targets. A' target and market 'approach will not deliver.
The upward revision of the EU 2030 emission reduction target requires a revision of the EU Emission Trading System (ETS). The two main proposals made by the European Commission in the context of the -55 % GHG reduction target are to expand the ETS to building and road transport, and to reduce the cap. IndustriAll Europe opposes extending the EU ETS to other sectors and insists that ETS reform must be set into a broader industrial strategy aimed at decarbonisation, combined with support for workers impacted by the transition. Judith Kirton-Darling said: "The EU ETS does not make an industrial policy and it mustn't become a cash cow to repay EU recovery funds."
Within the framework of the public consultation about the future of the European automobile industry, for industriAll Europe, the bedrock of the EU approach to decarbonise the automotive sector must be a sound and comprehensive industrial strategy to transform the sector through investment and innovation, while providing the necessary support of the workforce during the transition. In its concrete proposals in response to a public consultation IndustriAll calls for `technology neutrality` during the decarbonisation of road transport instead of setting on electrical vehicles; to develop a European equipment industry for zero-and low emission vehicles (ZLEV); revision of the CO2 standards is not an objective per se and calls for a dedicated just transition mechanism for the automobile industry.
Trade union reactions at the national level
On the 10th of February, the French government adopted draft legislation 'to fight climate change and strengthen resilience in the face of its effects' to accelerate the transition towards a carbon-neutral society, that is more resilient, fairer, and more inclusive'.
The bill follows up on the proposals resulting from France's first public participatory initiative, `The Citizens' Convention for Climate`, to 'formulate structural measures in a spirit of social justice to reduce greenhouse gas emissions of at least 40 % by 2030 compared to 1990.'
The draft legislation opens an initial pathway for employee representatives to exert influence on the management on ecological transition issues, with ecological transition now going to feature in the labour code. 'Forward-looking management of employment and competences' (gestion prévisionnelle des emplois et des competences, GPEC) will be part of the ecological transition consultations with GPEC agreements to be negotiated every three years at sector level and at the largest companies .
In terms of the trade union reactions, the CFDT believes 'this bill has merit in articulating these different dimensions of the ecological transition,' but is disappointed by the absence of a 'just dimension for the transition, even though this is written into the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The bill does not include measures to support workers and households in the ecological transition at the right scale. Nor does it provide the means for dialogue to build the companies' ecological transition and sectors concerned. For the CGT, 'there can be no successful ecological transition without a social justice imperative guiding it', and the trade union is also disappointed that 'measures that could have contributed to the financing of the ecological transition, while reducing fiscal and social injustices' have been 'pushed aside.' In assessing the new roles for works councils, the union for managers and professionals, CFE-CGC would have preferred 'the creation of a CSR committee within the works council', which could link up with the other committees on professional equality, diversity, and forward-looking management of jobs, where they exist.
In January 2021, Luca de Meo, CEO of Groupe Renault, presented the group's new strategic plan— "Renaulution"—that aims to shift the group's strategy from volumes to value and put the company on a fast-track course of electrification. Renault will slash factory capacity by a quarter, deepen cost cuts and overhaul its brands in a turnaround plan that also includes up to 4,600 job losses at French locations. "We’ll move from a car company working with tech to a tech company working with cars, making at least 20% of its revenues from services, data and energy trading by 2030” – the CEO said. Half of the launches in Europe will be full electric vehicles, with a higher margin contribution than vehicles with an internal combustion engine (ICE).
The “Renaulution” strategic plan presented by Luca de Meo received a mixed reaction from trade union side. For the CFDT, this plan sets a strategic vision for the company that the union has been calling for since 2016 and sees the plan as a first step to restore stakeholders` involvement in shaping the company's future. It welcomes the launch of the Guyancourt-Aubevoye Technocentre project but stresses that for `Renaulution` to be successful, it is essential to have motivated employees willing to learn and act on their work and not simply enduring it.
The CFE-CGC union , finds the plan “attractive at first glance” with a number of question marks, particularly regarding the impact of this strategy on activities and employment, particularly in France.
FO stressed that after a savings plan of 2 billion euros, 4,600 job cuts in France as announced last year, the historic loss of 7.3 billion euros in the first half of 2020, it had become urgent for Renault and its employees to have a strategic vision and a roadmap. The union welcomed the more ambitious transition towards electricity, hydrogen development, and the ambition of a circular economy ecosystem. On the other hand, the outsourcing of certain engineering activities poses for Renault a risk of losing control of the technologies that will shape the automobile of tomorrow.
CGT saw the CEO`s announcements "a communication operation, the objective of which is to respond to the demands of the financial markets”. Profitability and short-term profit remain the compass that guides it. “This plan provides no certainty for employment within the group, no commitment to improving working conditions and the French automotive industry is completely absent from this strategy”.
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Photo credits: European Commission