The transformation of coal regions will only be successful with the active participation of trade unions in a social dialogue.

Attracting investment, promoting economic diversification and developing new businesses are preconditions for the successful transformation of affected regions and the creation of sustainable and quality employment opportunities for workers and their families”, said Luc Triangle, General Secretary of industriAll Europe - setting the scene for today’s discussions in the session. “It is crucial that this happens with the active participation of trade unions.”

The ensuing session, moderated by Jörg Tagger, Head of Unit for Social Dialogue in DG Employment, demonstrated the value of social dialogue in practice by showcasing three examples.

  1. Dr Ralf Bartels of IG BCE and Dr Klaus-Peter Heinrich of the Ministry for Economy and Energy in the German state of Brandenburg jointly presented the work of the German Commission for Growth, Structural Change and Employment established by the German government in 2018. Within this Commission, social partners and other stakeholders jointly defined the framework conditions for a successful structural change in 3 German coal regions and other regions affected by phasing out coal-fired power plants. It was explained how the stakeholders are cooperating on the economic and industrial redevelopment in Lusatia, in Eastern Germany.

  2. Victor Fernandez, FICA UGT, and Jose Crespo Torres, CCOO Industria, co-presented their negotiations of a Just Transition Agreement with the Spanish government and the employer’s organisation Carbunion last year. Their agreement is exemplary for coal regions globally and the first of its kind. Yet, the trade union representatives also pointed out that one year after its signature not much progress had been made in its implementation and that jobs have been disappearing. They attributed this partly to the fact that Spain is awaiting its second governmental elections this year.

  3. Jean-Pierre Damm, FO Mines et Energies, introduced the negotiations of the French government and social partners to phase-out the 4 French coal-fired power plants. He insisted on the role of the "contrats territoriaux de transition écologique" (regional agreements for green transitions) in ensuring local economic diversification and jobs creation in the same area.

The multi-stakeholder platform

The Platform on Coal and Carbon-Intensive Regions was created in 2018 and brings together stakeholders not only from institutions, regional authorities and industry, but also from investment banks, academia, NGOs and trade unions from across Europe. It also provides opportunities for sharing good practice with other coal regions globally. The platform for Coal Regions in Transition has made major developments with 18 regions actively involved in its regular meetings and 7 operative country teams.

The platform and its many stakeholders set out to provide solutions for a Just Transition. Trade unions are clear about the fact that this can only be achieved with the active involvement of social partners and trade unions as defined by the ILO in its Guidelines on Just Transition.

Participation in climate change initiatives – our role

IndustriAll Europe plays an active role at European level in a variety of policy initiatives dealing with climate change, addressing in particular the social dimension of transition processes. For coal regions in transition it is crucial to create the framework conditions for economic redevelopment and sustainable job creation. As trade unions we have a responsibility towards our members, their families and communities. We therefore promote a Just Transition that provides for a sustainable future for Europe’s fossil-based regions that are on the frontline of decarbonisation. We cannot accept the further deindustrialisation of regions that are already structurally weak and simply rely on the migration of workforce to other economically stronger regions.

The incoming European Commission under its President-elect Ursula von der Leyen has presented the European Green Deal as one of its headline targets with Just Transition at its core. IndustriAll Europe and its trade unions across Europe expect that this promising target is proactively pursued in genuine social dialogue with trade unions and employer organisations.

Contact senior policy adviser Corinna Zierold for more information or further comment.