Just Transition is not something that just happens, it is something that has to be created and shaped by people, workers and citizens who bear the brunt of change on their shoulders and who are directly affected by the transformation in their daily lives. For this reason, industriAll Europe has always put the spotlight on the need for workers’ participation in industrial policymaking, insisting that it should be the rule at every level, including EU, national, sectoral and local. To make it just, workers should not suffer from the transition, they should create it!

To spread this message to policymakers across Europe, industriAll Europe published its Just Transition Manifesto in 2022. The manifesto identifies the fundamental elements that are indispensable for a Just Transition process:

  1. the need for a comprehensive industrial policy that can ensure good quality jobs;
  2. the financing of the transition;
  3. the importance of stronger collective bargaining and social dialogue;
  4. the respect of workers’ rights and companies’ duties;
  5. the need to address skills needs and the right to training.

Our Just Transition Manifesto also calls for the establishment of a European Just Transition Observatory. This idea has already been floated within the European institutions, but so far it has remained theoretical and no concrete proposals for its establishment have been made. However, the existence of such a tool would be crucial in monitoring the implementation of strategies, policies and measures related to the European Green Deal. Today, the only means of exchange and active participation is the European Just Transition Platform that, although helpful, is just a first step and not enough to oversee, coordinate and share experiences regarding the transition. What is needed now is a stronger governance and monitoring of stakeholder involvement by the relevant authorities to ensure an inclusive transition.

Our call for a Just Transition Observatory is inspired by the experience of our affiliates in Spain, where the government and social partners signed the first comprehensive national Just Transition Agreements for the coal and thermal power sectors in 2018 and 2020. These agreements have led to a more ambitious approach, with the strong determination to learn from past failures and ensure that what is written on paper becomes a reality for affected workers and communities in the near future. With this ambition, Spanish workers have been involved in the creation of a Just Transition observatory at both national regional levels. In the Autonomous Region of Asturias, for example, trade unions, together with the co-signatories of the regional energy transition strategy, decided to create a Just Transition Observatory for the Asturias autonomous community (one of the most affected by the transformation).

The Spanish Just Transition Observatory has a public service mission. It provides public administrators and other stakeholders involved in the ecological transition process with a space for reflection and knowledge exchange to manage change, prevent potential conflicts and generate conclusions and recommendations for decision-making.

In short, its goals are:

  1. to develop studies on the populations’ perception of their knowledge of the transition;
  2. to produce short reports that allow the monitoring of the ecological transition and Just Transition process and its different dimensions, which are a reference at the state level on the evolution of these processes;
  3. to create spaces for meeting and reflection, where it is possible to share with the other actors involved the results of studies and analyses carried out within the framework of the Just Transition Observatory;
  4. to circulate documented information within the Observatory framework, as well as outside of it, to the widest possible audience involved in the process.

This is the Spanish experience.

IndustriAll Europe believes that the EU should learn from these good examples and make a proposal that would work on the EU level. This will be instrumental not only to ensure that the transition to net-zero promotes the cohesion of European regions (instead of deepening structural disparities), but also to ensure that the transition project is something that is owned and overseen by workers, trade unions and all stakeholders affected by the transition. If we are to achieve a Just Transition, it must take into account the needs of all and listen to the voice of those who are experiencing the transition and its consequences first hand.