Behind the headlines screaming “hottest summer on record” is a ton of work, from technicians maintaining observation equipment to climatologists curating a climate record that reveals the alarming temperature statistics.
The Meteorology Section of the Community and Public Sector Union represents the people who do this work, as well as weather forecasters, predictive model developers and other specialists in weather and climate. We know that extreme weather, which is projected to worsen in a changing climate, is no joke. That’s why we decided that we had a special responsibility to show solidarity with school students fighting for real climate action, by joining the growing chorus of trade union support for the 15 March School Strike 4 Climate.
As part of this, we passed a solidarity motion in early March that recognised the existential threat climate change poses and acknowledged that its effects are already being felt. The motion also recognised that climate change exposes the inequality inherent in global capitalism: while most emissions are produced by a small number of large corporations, the most disruptive impacts will be felt by working class people in vulnerable developing countries. Immediate and wide-reaching action is required to avoid disaster.
Unions can and should be a political voice for their members in this way. It’s great to see the teachers’ union in the growing list of unions backing the students. As public servants, we are under a great deal of pressure and scrutiny when it comes to making any public comment about climate change. But when we make political demands as union members, there is safety, and power, in numbers.
The student strike has developed three clear demands: stop the Adani coal mine in the Galilee Basin; commit to no new coal or gas extraction; and a just transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030. These demands directly confront the interests of the powerful sections of the capitalist class currently invested in the continued burning of fossil fuels.
A limitation of some of the solidarity motions endorsed by unions so far is that many of them have been reluctant to agree to the demands to stop the Adani mine and for no new coal or gas extraction.
This is directly related to the reluctance of the ALP to get behind these demands and demonstrates that the political strategy of the trade union movement is still too tightly coupled to the electoral strategy of the ALP. This is where the of role of organised rank-and-file militants is crucial: to put members’ interests, and the interests of the working class, first, and to champion the use of the political and industrial power of the trade union movement to save the planet and to make the fossil capitalists pay for it.
Andrew Charles is a CPSU delegate (Meteorology Section) and member of the Victorian Socialists Governing Council.