At a panel organised by UNISON and Vision at the PSI Congress, union leaders shared how they are engaging members on climate change and incorporating "green" demands into collective bargaining and advocacy.
Veronica Magnusson, President of Vision Sweden, discussed the union's pioneering work training "green reps" to examine climate impacts and solutions in the workplace. "We know that the members at the workplace, that they were the ones who know their solution and their situation the best," she said.
Nick Crook, of UNISON UK, explained that climate change directly affects public service workers and patients. UNISON sees climate activism as an organising opportunity to bring in more women, young, and new members.
"We are increasing our member engagement, which means we're increasing our activist base within the union," Crook noted.
In Spanish, Margarita Lopez, President of SINTRACUAVALLE Colombia, shared that climate change is not just an environmental issue but a political responsibility with severe impacts on public sector unions in Colombia and the Andean region.
Mercy Nabwire of Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists Dentists Union (KMPDU) Kenya discussed the union's education programs on climate justice for members and "green reps" to drive climate action from the workplace to the national policy level.
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The lively discussion underscored the urgency of addressing climate change and pursuing just transition policies, with delegates from indigenous communities and unions in Colombia, Haiti, and Japan relating lived experiences of escalating climate impacts. Participants emphasised the need for solidarity between Global North and South, questioned the inaction of governments beholden to corporate interests, and explored strategies like awareness-raising and proposals for environmental reforms. There were calls for PSI to make just transition central to its work, provide concrete support for unions, and challenge systemic drivers like capitalism that commodify nature. The session highlighted both the disproportionate climate burden borne by marginalised groups and the vital role unions can play in advocating for climate justice.
Margarita Lopez closed by reflecting on how the union meeting brought climate justice to the forefront. She noted that PSI was the first global union to advance the concept of just transition, which governments have now co-opted. Lopez argued that it's time to mainstream just transition in PSI's Program of Action and use demands on governments to multiply action and mobilise unions, grassroots groups, and civil society. We have a unique opportunity and must heed the call to care for the planet. (publicservices.international)