March 4, 2020
At time of writing it is being reported that most of Australia’s devastating recent bushfires have been extinguished, including in the country’s hardest-hit state of New South Wales. Before that news was announced, TUED participating unions and allies in the Asia-Pacific region were actively involved in monitoring and responding to the fires, and have issued the following statement. Signed by well over 50 union bodies from 17 countries across the region, the statement is an impressive show of international solidarity for climate justice.
“Destruction of the Natural World Is a Criminal Act” — Australian Bushfires Statement from Asia-Pacific Unions — TUED Bulletin 95
February 26, 2020
Australia is burning. There is seemingly no end to the fires. So far, 34 people have lost their lives in the fires. Hazardous air quality is impacting on the health of millions of Australians, and, together with heat stress, will reduce life expectancy for thousands of people. Thousands have lost their homes. Millions more choke in cities in Australia, and more than 1 billion animals have died. Some species face total extinction because of these fires.
This destruction of the natural world is occurring at an unprecedented scale. It goes beyond merely being a natural disaster. It is more than just a policy failure. It is a decimation. It is a decimation of people, livelihoods, and communities. It is a decimation of wildlife, landscapes and ecosystems. This is a criminal act; a reasonably foreseeable outcome of the failure of the existing global economic system.
It is a criminal act because these fires are fuelled by the climate crisis. For years scientists, emergency service workers, health professionals and first nations have been warning us that a longer and more extreme bushfire season would come with global heating. That longer and more extreme bushfire season is now here. The climate crisis is here today.
Ordinary people are not to blame for this crisis. Workers in mining and energy doing their best to provide a secure livelihood for themselves and their families are not to blame. The solidarity and support of ordinary people giving so much and risking everything to help others through the crisis is overwhelming.
The blame rests with the establishment. Corporate and political elites knew what was coming but instead they denied the truth that was right in front of them. Ordinary people and workers should not suffer for the elites’ crimes. The establishment needs to pay for what it has done to the people and the natural world.
No worker should be subject to the loss of their job, income or rights at work. Emergency service workers, whether they be fighting fires, delivering health services, providing relief, counselling, restoring infrastructure or rebuilding communities, should be paid a decent wage for their labour. Newstart is wholly inadequate. We must apply the ILO Guidelines on Decent Work in public emergency services which recognises that all workers, paid and unpaid, are entitled to protection, including the best quality personal protective equipment and union representation. Every worker should have the right to take paid emergency services leave.
Well paid unionised jobs with a future rest not on pretending the climate emergency doesn’t exist but in positioning Australia as a leading producer of renewable energy, increasing our carbon sinks and developing a new low carbon industrial policy. This new energy infrastructure must come with massive public investment and new laws so that Australian workers and their communities can share in the prosperity we create with secure jobs that pay a living wage. Fossil fuel expansion needs to end. Fossil fuel production and export needs to be orderly transitioned to renewable forms of energy. As such, we call for the end of taxpayer subsidies for fossil fuel projects unless it goes to a just transition for workers. The private, for-profit energy corporations are unable to manage this transition. And energy production needs to remain a strategic public asset.
As terrible as the Australian bushfires are, we recognise that workers and communities around the Asia-Pacific have been on the frontlines of crisis and disaster for years. We must work with our neighbours to find low-carbon development opportunities powered by the renewable energy we can help make.
Australia needs a huge jobs program focused on the recovery effort, where local communities decide what kinds of things need to be done but where the work is funded by the federal government. The sovereignty and knowledge of Australia’s First Nations are critical to caring for country, future management and conservation of the land as well as land climate mitigation strategies. Workers, including fossil fuel workers, should be able to proactively participate and lead this just transition so that the new energy jobs of the future remain well paying and secure for the next generations of union members.
We want new employment laws that give workers more bargaining power to create secure and fair paying jobs as well as protecting the natural world for generations to come.
We want regional communities to be able to take ownership of their economic future with support for new, high-wage, renewable energy jobs and locally-based publicly owned and worker owned cooperatives.
As such, workers and communities need to determine and own the plan to work our way out of this climate emergency! When all else fails only democracy and solidarity will see us through.
A failure to act on the climate crisis constitutes an immediate threat to the health and safety of workers both in Australia, and around the world. As such, workers have the right to withdraw their labour until these threats are dealt with. In other words, workers should be ready to strike over the climate crisis.
International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF) Asia-Pacific
Public Services International (PSI), Asia Pacific
UnionsACT, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
Australian Education Union, Australia
Electrical Trades Union, Australia
National Tertiary Education Union, Australia
United Workers Union, Australia
Australia Asia Worker Links
Climate Justice Union WA, Australia
Sentro ng mag Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO), Philippines
General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions (GEFONT), Nepal
Bangladesh Free Trade Union Congress, Bangladesh
National Workers Congress (NWC), Sri Lanka
All Pakistan Workers Confederation, Pakistan
Andhra Pradesh Vyavasaya Vruthidarula Union – APVVU, India
Telengana Vyavasaya Vruthidarula Union-TVVU, India
Karnataka Vyavasaya utpathidarula Union-KVVU
Korean Public Service and Transport Workers’ Union (KPTU), South Korea
The Labor and Civil Society Network on Energy, South Korea
National Centre for Labour(an apex body of Unorganised workers unions in India)- NCL-India
National Agricultural Workers Forum, India – NAWF
New Zealand Public Service Association (PSA), New Zealand
All Sindh Lady Health Workers and Employees Union, Pakistan
Indian National Defence Workers Federation, India
Confederation of Public Sector Independent Trade Unions, Sri Lanka
National Organisation of Government Employees, India
Union of Public Services in Nepal, Nepal
Federation of Hotel, Restaurant, Plaza, Apartment, Catering and Tourism Workers’ Free Union (FSPM), Indonesia
National Federation of Food and Beverage Workers (FSBMM), Indonesia
Kesatuan Pekerja Pekerja Perkilangan Perusahaan Makanan/Food Industry Employees’ Union (KPPPM/FIEU), Malaysia
Bangladesh Agricultural Farm Labour Federation (BAFLF)
Jatiyo Kisani Shramik Samity – National Women Farmers & Workers (NWFA), Bangladesh
Nestlé Employees’ Union (NEU), Bangladesh
Perfetti van Melle Employees Union (PVMEU), Bangladesh
Catering & Hotels Industries Employees General Union (CHIEGU), Hong Kong
Nestlé Workers Union (NWU), Hong Kong
Swire Beverages Hong Kong Employees General Union (SBHKEGU)
Vitasoy Employees Union, Hong Kong
Cambodian Food and Service Workers’ Federation (CFSWF)
Gujarat Khet Kamdar Sangathan’s (Gujarat Agricultural Labour Union) (GALU), India
Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), India
Pakistan Food Workers’ Federation (PFWF)
Tourism Employees Association of Maldives (TEAM)
National Union of Hospitality, Catering and Tourism Industries Employees (NUHCTIE), Fiji
Cooks and Servers Workers’ Union (CSWU), Thailand
Phuket Federation of Hotel and Service Labour (FHSL), Thailand
Schreiber Dynamix Dairies Employees Union, India
Imsofer (Ferrero) Manufacturing Employees Union, India
Haryana Breweries Limited Mazdoor Union, India
Ceylon Mercantile, Industrial and General Workers’ Union (CMU), Sri Lanka
AFFM- Food Allied Workers, Myanmar/Burma
Hotel Chitthu Township Labour Organization, Bagan-Nyaung Oo (HLOB), Myanmar/Burma
Agriculture and Farmers Federation of Myanmar [AFFM], Myanmar/Burma
Etu, New Zealand
NZ Dairy Workers Union, New Zealand
Unite Union, New Zealand