Leading a Just Transition

Economies, including our own, are in transition, as they move from carbon-based (like coal) to non-carbon-based (like wind) energy sources. This coincides with sweeping technological change, including digital technologies.

How we manage this transition matters.

E tū thinks the essence of a Just Transition is simple: the costs of the changes that we know are coming – from climate, technology, and automation – must be spread evenly and not fall heavily and disproportionately on workers.

A Just Transition involves getting started on planning for this new future, including an orderly transition for the transformation or closure of existing jobs, and the creation and expansion of new ones.

It’s about describing a way of moving to a sustainable economy where the interests of working people and the less well-off are properly considered and planned for. And it’s about getting organised with a plan, before it’s too late.

A Just Transition also puts tangata whenua at the centre of planning processes. As the Council of Trade Unions Rūnanga says, a Just Transition model will need to work right for indigenous people if it is to work. This is both an important task and an exciting one. Indigenous people want to be part of the change, not have change foisted upon them.

E tū has developed an approach to Just Transition that centres around four core components: social dialogue (making sure workers are at the planning table when decisions are made), economic diversification (dedicated support for new and modified jobs), worker transition supports (to help workers access these new jobs), and social security (to support workers financially while this transition occurs).

E tū’s advocacy for a Just Transition has seen us drive change in Taranaki and Southland Just Transition processes, and across industries through sector planning such as Industry Transformation Plans.

E tū delegate at Tiwai Point, Tony O’Driscoll

Our team at Tiwai are taking advantage of the Just Transition work. We are educating our workmates about the concept, and about the union, while talking about what our futures are going to look like. We’re looking at different ways of having Tiwai remain open, with reasonable conditions for our workers, while being pragmatic about the fact that the future is uncertain.

Social procurement is a big part of a Just Transition, making sure that decisions are made for the long-term best interests of our workers and our region. It’s not always the cheapest solution, but the long-term benefits far outweigh the costs.

For the wider Southland region, it’s very good in the respect that everyone is getting together and talking about the transition, both the good opportunities and the harsh realities. We’ve seen industry go from Southland before. It’s detrimental to the community, and it takes years to recover. So we’ve got to call it as we see it. This reality is what the Just Transition work is all about.