GMB needs to embrace the Green New Deal
Recently, the GMB’s General Secretary caused outcry by declaring support for fracking and calling Green New Deal activists bourgeois. For those outside of GMB this statement may seem surprising but to understand where such statements come from you need to look at GMB’s history.
GMB has been around for a long time and it has seen every form of de-industrialisation and modernisation under the sun. For a lot of GMB members “modernisation” means a loss of work, a loss of conditions and anti-union policy. So naturally, the union is suspicious of change when it is couched in these terms.
Its roots in the legacy fossil fuel industry run deep. So for a lot of people in GMB, the promises of good quality jobs in renewables seem too good to be true; they’ve been promised similar things before.
So what can we do in the climate movement to win over GMB members? Well, there are two prongs: reassurance of current GMB members and recruitment of new, young renewables workers into GMB.
For workers, the benefits of the green new deal are massive. A full transition from fossil fuels to fully renewable energy sources could create more than three times as many jobs in these sectors than in oil and gas. By current estimates, the growth of jobs in wind energy exceeds the number of oil jobs affected by a transition to renewables.
There is also a division of age, as a 23-year-old who works in renewables, most GMB members don’t look like me. Whilst a lot of legacy energy jobs are in fossil fuels, most new energy jobs are in renewables. This means many of my friends in the renewable industry aren’t unionised, because they don’t feel GMB represents us.
A lot of these new renewable start-ups are not union-friendly and it will take a lot of work to get inside these sites. But if we don’t we’ll be replacing one set of BP and Shell billionaires with another set of renewables billionaires. We need rapid transit away from fossil fuels in the next 10 years, we need to make that change or it will be done to us for the benefit of the billionaires.
So climate activists need to meet trade unionists where they are, but above all, we need to ensure any transition is worker-led. We can’t have a top-down transition of giant companies sacking workers and rehiring non-unionised workers in their wind farms. It needs to be a bottom-up movement, with politicians, workers and the climate movement hand in hand.
My union, GMB, needs to follow the examples of the TSSA and FBU in wholeheartedly supporting a Green New Deal. While everyone has a stake in the transition to renewables, who better than the workers of GMB to design, implement and power the green new deal?
GMB for a Green New Deal
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