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Backing Just Transition for Workers, International Union Leader Says, 'No Jobs on a Dead Planet'

"We will work to see no one is left behind," vowed the general secretary of the world's largest trade union confederation

Sharan Burrow says political leaders need to give working people confidence in a 'just transition' away from coal. (Photo: Wayne Taylor/Sydney Morning Herald)

Sharan Burrow, the general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), says lawmakers need to give working people confidence in a 'just transition' away from coal and other industries that are harmful to the planet. (Photo: Wayne Taylor/Sydney Morning Herald)

 

The head of the world's largest trade union confederation has told workers in Australia—even as many mining members clamor for job security in the country's polluting coal mining industry—that it is time for workers around the world to band together in order to demand a renewable energy transition that puts labor rights at the forefront while acknowledging the dire scientific warnings about the rapidly warming planet.

"There are no jobs on a dead planet," said Sharan Burrow, the general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), during an interview with Australian newspapers The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

"Our motto is you can't deny that climate change is real—I'm shocked to see that some of our people in Australian parliament still do," Burrow said.

According to the Herald:

Ms Burrow, a former secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions who received the Companion of the Order of Australia in last week's Queen's Birthday honours, said while workers in fossil fuel industries "have brought us prosperity" and "deserve respect," Australian unions should join the international movement in making climate change a priority as the globe was at a critical turning point.

Calling on workers in Australia to join the international labor movement that is pushing for a Green New Deal-style transition from an energy economy dominated by fossil fuels to one powered by renewable energy, Burrows vowed that their effort would be one that puts workers at the heart of such a transformation.

"We will work to see no one is left behind," she said. "That's why we fought and won the idea of 'just transition' in the Paris Agreement and now we're working to see agreements with governments, with employers, to make sure that workers and their families are supported but also so that their community have hope for the future."

Burrow's comments in Australia come just a week ahead of a global day of union action that has been organized so that workers can advocate for "climate-proofing" their industries and places of work. As part of the effort, the ITUC released the following video to show that workers know as well as anyone that the climate crisis is a threat not just to the planet and people, but to industries and the overall economic health of society:

"If we don't act now," the confederation said promoting the day of action, "we will soon reach the tipping points of irreversible damage to our planet."

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