Unions have key role in protecting environment

Unions have key role in protecting environment

Trade unions are calling on the government to recognise the unique role of environment representatives in the workplace – and for them to be given time off to promote environmental good practice.

Paul Noon, joint chair of the Trade Union Sustainable Development Advisory Committee (TUSDAC), was speaking as trade unionists gathered at Congress House, London, today (Friday) for a seminar on achieving sustainable workplaces to mark World Environment Day (June 5).

Noon, also general secretary of Prospect, chaired today’s seminar. He said: "The work of TUSDAC has shown what unions can do in terms of practising environmental initiatives in the workplace. We want to see this type of practice spreading and to do that, more reps must be trained.

"A lot of good stuff in the workplace has been achieved by trade unions, in many cases in partnership with employers. But if the government really wants sustainable workplaces to take off it should provide recognised rights and time off for environment reps in the same way as health and safety reps already enjoy."

Examples of good practice achieved by trade unions include:

  • An energy-saving workshop organised by Prospect at the Scottish Agricultural College in Edinburgh, which led to major savings on electricity bills at the college.
  • A joint green transport plan between the PCS, GMB and Prospect at the Veterinary Laboratories Agency, which then introduced a car-sharing scheme.
More case studies of union and employer initiatives can be seen at www.sustainableworkplace.co.uk

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "Unions lead the drive to make the workplace safer and prevent deaths at work, and in efforts to ensure staff can get on through learning inside and outside of work.

"Now is the time for unions to take the lead on building more sustainable workplaces. Work should not damage people’s health or the health of the environment they live in."

Dr Valerie Ellis, of the Sustainable Development Commission, also addressed today’s seminar and said: "The workplace is a key focus point for action on sustainable development projects, and can lead to up-skilling and promotion of a high-quality working life."

TUSDAC was set up in 1998 as the main forum for consultation between government and trade unions on sustainable development and environmental issues.