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Commentary: Unions must join the Global Climate Strike to avert a climate catastrophe

"Unions must join the Global Climate Strike to avert a climate catastrophe", 5 September 2019

… [G]roups like the youth-led #FridaysforFuture movement and…Extinction Rebellion... are calling on workers to join... the third wave of global climate strikes. While some trade unions have... plans for lunch break actions and workplace climate assemblies, most are constrained...

Unions... [in certain] jurisdictions will find it difficult to formally join... as the purpose of the action... falls outside the strict scope of collective bargaining or a trade dispute... [W]here strikes in furtherance of socio-economic aims are permitted, unions will nevertheless need to win the argument that climate change is a socio-economic issue...

The International Labour Organization’s... Committee on Freedom of Association... has consistently held that workers may engage in collective action... outside of the collective bargaining process... While it has not yet had occasion to consider a climate strike… there is no issue today that has a more direct, immediate and serious impact on the world of work than the climate emergency...

[T]he ILO has explained that climate change... will have a serious impact on employment in all sectors and in all regions... [including] significant climate-driven migration for work, dangerous working conditions from extreme heat, job loss in rural areas due to crop failure and... in urban areas due to extreme weather events...

…[A] new field of ‘just transition’ law may be a way to bridge the fields of labour and environmental law... We... also propose…the recognition of the right to strike in cases where an employer engages in activity which is demonstrably harmful to the environment…

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