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Unions at the Forefront: Navigating a Just Inclusive Transition to Sustainable Futures

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As part of pre-congress activities, the Organisation of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU) organised a joint conference with the Bureau for Workers’ Activities (ACTRAV) ILO, at the Sheraton Hotel in Algiers, Algeria on the 16th of November, 2023.  The theme was ‘A Just Inclusive Transition Towards Environmentally Sustainable Economies And Societies For All: Women and Young Workers as Agents of Change.

With a focus on climate change, Senior Programme and Operations Specialist at the International Labour Organization (ILO), Lene Olsen, set the stage for a crucial dialogue on the role of unions in addressing the profound impacts of climate change on the world of work.

During her presentation, Madam Olsen articulated an urgency for unions to become proactive agents of change in the face of climate challenges. She delved into the far-reaching consequences of climate change across key sectors such as agriculture, building and construction, energy, and transport, shedding light on the need for a collective and strategic response from trade unions.

Madam Olsen also emphasised that climate change was not a standalone issue but an interconnected challenge that permeated various facets of the world of work. The ramifications of global warming are keenly felt in agriculture, where shifts in weather patterns affect crop yields and livelihoods. The building and construction sector grapples with the increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, leading to disruptions and safety concerns. Meanwhile, the energy and transport industries face the imperative to transition to cleaner and sustainable practices.

One of the key takeaways from Madam Olsen’s presentation was the assertion that unions are capable of linking their numerous priorities with the overarching concern of climate change. Rather than viewing environmental sustainability as a separate agenda, unions can integrate it into their core objectives, thereby creating a holistic approach that addresses the needs of workers while championing a sustainable future.

The ensuing discussion among participants further illuminated the potential for unions to act as catalysts for change. Delegates exchanged ideas on how to align union activities with climate-conscious initiatives and explored collaborative strategies to amplify their impact.