Energy unions urged to embrace technological changes

IGBCE - ZEWU - www.zewu.org.zw

More than 200 representatives from 70 energy trade unions across the globe met in Russia on the 25 and 26 July this year under the IndustriALL banner demanding a just transition to protect the rights and living standards of workers as the energy industry experiences massive change.

The unions from 50 countries around the world gathered in St Petersburg under the theme “Building Union Power in Energy Industries”.

The Zimbabwe Energy Workers Union was represented by its deputy president Makiadi Mugabe at the world conference where the unions discussed rapid changes in national energy policies aimed at addressing climate change emission targets and adapt to new technologies that substantially change the skills required of energy workers.

The conference took place at a time when there is growing demand for energy, privatization and increasing precarious work in the sector.

The unions were in unison to embrace the new technological changes but maintained that sustainable industrial employment is needed to ensure that changes to the energy sector are implemented with fairness and justice to workers, their families and in communities.

Mugabe said energy unions should seek engagement with their respective governments to put up legislation which seeks to protect workers during this difficult period.

“As unions we cannot afford to resist the technological changes that are coming with investors. What we need is to come up with clear proposals that will influence policy changes favorable to workers,” said Mugabe.

Speaking at the conference, IndustriALL general secretary, Valter Sanches, said that energy is a basic right but as a result of privatization, multinational companies have commercialized energy and created monopolies.

Discussions at the conference highlighted the growing problem of precarious work. Where there are serious discrepancies in salary levels between permanent and non-permanent workers, unions were urged to increase efforts and include them in collective bargaining agreements.

Increasing cooperation in trade union networks was cited as key to building union power through solidarity support and the exchange of information amongst unions across borders.  It was noted that trade unions need to be partners in the decision making process when it comes to the technological transformation of energy production.

Participants approved a new action plan for the sector, identifying strategies to; produce a Just Transition; build union power; stop precarious work; increase women’s participation and representation; improve health and safety; confront global capital and create sustainable industrial policy.

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