One in five young workers in Europe are unemployed – just under a million in my own country. We hear from all sides that we are facing a lost generation. This is totally unacceptable. A lack of investment in our people is crippling skills in many industries – equipping neither the young nor those in work for the industries of the future. It’s a damning indictment of poor economic management.
Austerity measures will not build a greener, fairer Europe. They will not deliver the jobs and skills, nor the fair and just transition to a sustainable economic future vital for us all.
To tackle the triple challenges of climate change, peak oil and the banking crisis, we continue to call for a green new deal, with investment in greening jobs, green skills and above all, worker involvement.
Change is underway. By 2030, as a result of decisions being made now, many workers can expect to travel in electrical vehicles, live and work in buildings better insulated and emitting dramatically lower rates of CO2 than today. This is the result of political choices already made.
But, colleagues, we face an uncertain future when we see faltering hands in charge at national and European levels. Where will these people work? Under what conditions? How can we provide secure, affordable energy for ordinary families and for our basic industries? How can we secure the vast investment for our energy and transport infrastructure?
Pressure on unions to abandon or soften ambitious aims on climate protection will grow as prices bite.
We have to remain firm that climate change and inadequate energy supply and security threaten our very existence. We have to adapt to survive. Changing our development model is necessary - economically, socially and environmentally – through investment not austerity.
Today’s school and university leavers are our richest resource in this fight. We cannot let them become a lost generation but must unlock their imaginations and talents through training and secure jobs in sustainable industries.
Europe’s main strength lies in our capacity to think creatively. Innovation is crucial to our industrial leadership, creating jobs in production and services and wealth to national economies.
A proactive European policy agenda is essential to protect and create jobs, protect the environment and ensure economic survival:
Greening jobs – a strong and coherent, government-led energy and industrial strategy for green jobs and growth. Through good regulation and incentives to support innovation alongside investment in best available technologies. We must defend European manufacturing from social and environmental dumping, and the loss of jobs to polluting competitors.
Green skills - training programmes for new industries and to improve energy efficiency in all workplaces, coupled with social protection to provide opportunities for change while cushioning the most vulnerable.
Finally, workers and their unions must be recognised as key partners in the development of policy. As key actors in its implementation. As key players in holding companies and public authorities to account.
Congress, Europe is set on a path towards a cleaner, greener century. One where ‘green’ signals opportunity not danger. We must seize the opportunity to lead and shape this transition towards a green and sustainable economic recovery for today’s young workers and all our futures. The TUC calls for unanimous support for the Strategy and Action Plan.
Judith Kirton-Darling is the Confederal Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation – ETUC. Speech delivered at the ETUC Congress (Athens, 2011)