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Cosatu wants to have a say in the green revolution

Michelle Nel

Cosatu has commissioned the National Labour and Economic Development Institute (Naledi) to research the links between labour and climate change.

Trade union federation Cosatu’s interest in the effects of climate change on labour is seeing it play an active role in both the national climate change response green paper and the COP17 talks to be hosted in Durban later in the year.

Cosatu’s coordinator of social development policy, Sibusiso Gumede, says it has commissioned the National Labour and Economic Development Institute (Naledi) to research the links between labour and climate change.

“The report should be published in June and from there we will develop policies,” he says. Fundi Nzimande, the Naledi researcher who is coordinating the project, says Cosatu wants “just transition strategies to a green economy in which there are as few job losses as possible”.

“We want to establish what the trade unions understand about climate change and how they are addressing it. A few Cosatu affiliates have been attending international meetings. We want to continue to build union capacity on climate change.”

The project plans to hold workshops with various unions, produce user-friendly booklets and help them develop programmes to educate workers about climate change. “We would like them to be able to take informed decisions and integrate climate change issues in collective bargaining agreements.”

Cosatu needs to engage effectively at COP17, Nzimande says. “We need to understand mitigation and adaptation. Cosatu is influential and we will use our influence in getting climate change action in South Africa.”

The union participated in the process leading to the “Framework for South Africa’s response to the international economic crisis” produced in 2009. In this, the participants recognised “the opportunities in industries that combat the negative effects of climate change and believe that South Africa should develop strong capacity in these green technologies and industries”.

Research by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development indicates the impacts of climate change on labour markets—especially mitigation and adaptation policies—are largely unknown. It is this gap the Cosatu research hopes to address.

“Research will help us build alliances with civil society,” says Nzimande. “We want to review climate change through the lens of workingclass perspectives. We want to counter the big business point of view and to review the industrialisation path. Development cannot only be about greed and profit”.

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