Campaigns Green UNISON News

#GreenUNISON Week is 15 to 22 Sept – let’s demand urgent action on climate change

UNISON General Secretary Christina McAnea has invited branches to organise activities to support Green UNISON Week in September.

The week will run UK-wide from Friday 15 to Friday 22 September inclusive.

We are hoping to organise local action as well as national webinars/activities.  Check the UNISON Scotland website (Green UNISON Week) for regular updates and further resources in the coming weeks. Some resources are listed near the bottom of this page.

Steve Gray, Green Champion

Steve Gray, Branch Green Champion said: “You can sign up to UNISON Scotland’s Green Network via this page and follow the Network’s Facebook page. All interested members in Scotland can attend Green Network meetings.

“The August UNISON Green Networks meeting discussed, climate hazards and resilience in our workplaces, climate justice and Just Transition related bargaining matters in our workplaces and trade union campaigning in the run up to the COP28 Conference in early December this year.

“Let us know what green activities you would like your branch to support?

“The Green Network will also be discussing the potential for some joint work with UNISON Scotland’s Black Members Committee and the International Committee. Watch this space.”

As in previous Green UNISON Weeks, branches may also like to link up in solidarity with young climate strikers, whether locally or to support a Scottish march if one is organised for the Global Climate Strike day on Friday 15 September.

Fridays for Future, the organisation inspired by climate activist Greta Thunberg’s school strikes, has called for worldwide support and demonstrations etc., on 15 September. See also the Fight Fossil Fuels global mobilisation event on 15 and 17 September. Their campaign started in New York and is now world-wide, demanding a just transition to be Fast Fair and Forever (another FFF!).

UNISON Scotland”s Green Network members, including Environment Officers/green reps, will be working with their branches on local Green UNISON Week ideas and plans.

UNISON is holding two webinars for members – on conversations about climate change, with Larger Us, on Thurs 21 Sept, and on sustainable healthcare on Mon 25 Sept.  Further details of both, and more on Green UNISON Week ideas, are on the UK UNISON website here.

At a time when Scotland is the focus of debates on opposition to new oil and gas licenses in the North Sea, as the Scottish Government has just missed yet another climate target and as heatwaves, wildfires, flooding and other extreme weather events impact communities in the UK and around the world, it is even more essential to speak up for climate justice policies to protect people and planet.

Christina McAnea

Christina said that branch workplace activity calling for urgent action on climate change has “never been more important.”

She added: “The climate crisis could not be more pressing and is being felt across the globe.

“Green UNISON Week is our chance to focus on and highlight these issues – it is just one part of giving vital space to demand politicians take seriously the damage being done to our planet and to act to save its future.

“Public services are key to the governments pledges in this area so engaging with members and employers is vital and UNISON must play it’s part in supporting our members in negotiating and challenging on this issue.

“We’re encouraging branches to run a week of activities for members and most importantly to engage with employers on how they can reduce their own carbon footprints and ensure their employers have a plan to green their workplaces completely.”

Ideas for branch activity include holding a film screening or discussion or hosting a speaker or running workplace stalls with activities to engage members in discussions.  Ask people to make pledges, or run a quiz or challenge. Have a lunchtime rally and invite speakers from the Green Network  and relevant organisations, such as a youth climate striker or pensions divestment campaigner.

Meanwhile see below for some resources to assist with planning, including webinars you could screen all or part of to spark discussions.

You can watch the most recent Green UNISON webinar from March 23 here. It was chaired by UNISON Scotland Depute Convener Stephen Smellie, with presentations about this report on how strongly UNISON members feel about the need for climate action. Sampson Low, UNISON Head of Policy, said that “the challenge from the survey is how the union can help members with interest and enthusiasm build collective strength for environmental change in the workplace and wider public services.”

As well as the Scotland Green Network, members can also sign up to UNISON UK’s Green Network here. That page also has a range of resources including a short guide on the role of the Environment Officer/green rep, and UNISON’s report on Getting to Net Zero in Public Services.

Other resources for potential use could include the excellent Scottish Climate Hazards and Resilience in the Workplace handbook and workbook. Climate change is a health and safety issue for the planet. A video of the recent training on this, chaired by STUC Deputy General Secretary Dave Moxham, is online with all the materials here:

Branches can also find useful information about what their employers are doing in the most recent public bodies climate change annual reports for 2021/22, here:

Other organisations that branches might like to follow for climate action information include the Climate Justice Coalition, which has continued the work of the COP26 Coalition.

UNISON Scotland is also part of the Stop Climate Chaos Scotland coalition and the Just Transition Partnership.

Meanwhile, on Public Service Day on 23 June 2023.  our colleagues in Public Services International said, as world leaders met in Paris to discuss climate finance, that there is a “simple oft-repeated myth: we cannot afford to publicly fund the transition away from fossil fuels. Of course, the reality is we cannot afford not to.”

Read the full policy comment here, where PSI also said: “…it’s time for the wider economic community to finally abandon the fantasy that the profit motive or market forces will solve these problems and admit that a new, fairer global tax system is essential to funding the changes we need.

“This Public Service Day, we must make clear that privatisation, PPPs and more outsourcing are the last thing our planet can rely on to make it through the climate crisis. Well-funded quality public services are the key to unlocking our green new world. We know there is more than enough wealth to properly fund these services to drive the transition. It’s time for our politicians to abandon discredited private-sector proposals and instead focus on proven public solutions. We need to make sure that they defend people and planet before profits.”