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TUED Bulletin 123 – South Africa: Unions and Allies form United Front, Call for “Public Pathway” Approach to Energy Transition

The fight to defend public energy in South Africa has grown more intense in recent weeks. The country  has been hit by years of power cuts (“load shedding”) that is, TUED and its allies have argued, the direct result of years of political attacks on the public utility known as Eskom. 

In a major statement on July 26th, President Ramaphosa announced that the private sector was ready to address the country’s growing energy crisis, and the government intended to remove “red tape” in order to invite more investment from so-called independent power producers (or IPPs). South African Broadcasting Corporation footage of Ramaphosa’s statement is here. It includes a response from TUED’s Sean Sweeney towards the end of the broadcast that warned against expecting private companies to come to the rescue. 

The day after Ramaphosa’s statement, unions and allies in the social movements came together in Johannesburg to form a United Front to Address Loadshedding and resolved to fight for an alternative “public pathway” approach to energy transition. The meeting was organised by the Alternative Information and Development Center and TUED.  

Endorsing the United Front are key unions, including the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM); the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), the South African Trade and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU), and the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU).

 See: Full statement and signatories to the United Front initiative.

A similar statement was released by NUMSA .

Click here to read more.

Trade Unions for Energy Democracy (TUED) is a global, multi-sector trade union initiative to advance democratic direction and control of energy in a way that promotes solutions to the climate crisis, energy poverty, the degradation of both land and people, and responds to the attacks on workers’ rights and protections. TUED is is part of the Global Labour Institute Network. 

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Ukraine: Support workers’ struggle for labour and union rights

On 19 July 2022, in the middle of a war, the Ukrainian parliament adopted Draft Law 5371, which abolished labour rights for 94% of Ukrainian workers. This law introduced extreme liberalisation of labour relations, depriving workers of union protection. 

The Ukrainian trade unions actively opposed this anti-labour draft law for two years. But despite many warnings from the International Trade Union Confederation, the European Trade Union Confederation, and the International Labour Organization, the Ukrainian parliament adopted it. 

This new law will lead to a massive violation of workers’ rights — and Ukrainian unions are asking for our help and support in telling Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to veto the law.

Please sign this petition to show support for the Ukrainian workers today.
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ILO C190: ITF Transport Workers Toolkit

Violence and harassment is endemic in the transport industry, affecting women workers disproportionately.

In 2019, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) adopted ILO Violence and Harassment Convention (No.190) and Recommendation (No.206). These international tools were introduced to tackle violence and harassment in the world of work.

As we celebrate the second anniversary of ILO Convention 190 coming into force, the International Transportworkers Federation (ITF) has launched a transport focused C190 toolkit.

GLI Manchester was commissioned by the ITF to produce this transport toolkit on C190. The toolkit is a supplement to the joint GUFs toolkit, that was also produced by GLI Manchester.

Since transport is identified in C190 as one of the sectors most exposed to violence and harassment, this new toolkit highlights the issues and C190 language that are key for transport workers. The toolkit helps to recognise different forms of violence and harassment; it addresses the myths, stigma and shame around these issues; and includes tools to encourage and support union action to build and strengthen C190 campaigns.  

The toolkit includes a set of briefings on issues that affect transport workers most significantly and a separate briefing on identifying targets and allies to strengthen the campaign. Each briefing looks at understanding the issue and its importance for transport workers; what C190 can do to help; and includes activity to encourage to union action.

The toolkit aims to:

  • Demonstrate how violence and harassment in the world of work, including gender-based violence and harassment, impacts all transport workers, in particular women workers and other vulnerable groups.  
  • Raise awareness of C190 and R206 and their relevance for all transport workers and highlight the importance of ratification and implementation.  
  • Outline how C190 and R206 can be used as a tool for advocacy and encourage unions to plan and organise campaigns on violence and harassment.  
  • Encourage unions to use the language of C190 most relevant for transport workers to promote ratification and implementation, and to negotiate with employers and other key stakeholders.  
  • Emphasise the role of women transport workers in making C190 effective. 

Click here to read the toolkit in English.

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TUED Working Paper – Hydrogen in the Transition to a Low-Carbon Future: The Case for Public Ownership

Recent years have seen a surge of interest in hydrogen, and especially in its potential role in decarbonizing energy systems and wider economies. References to “green,” “blue” and “clean” hydrogen may at times be confusing, but can also leave the impression that the important issues around hydrogen are simple and well understood, or at least should be relatively easy to sort out. TUED’s latest Working Paper, True Colors: What Role Can Hydrogen Play in the Transition to a Low-Carbon Future? argues that such an impression could hardly be further from the truth.

The paper argues that mainstream policy voices and private-sector interests have largely shaped and driven the debates around hydrogen, without seriously questioning, let alone challenging, current policy and ownership patterns. As a result, these debates often take place as if the priority is to choose among technology options, without worrying about what else might need to change in order for any of those options to be able to really help solve the climate and energy crisis.

Hydrogen and the Decarbonization Challenge

Hydrogen already plays an important role in many industrial and other processes. Large quantities of hydrogen are used in refining petroleum, in the production of steel, ammonia and other chemicals, as a coolant in power stations, and much more. Hydrogen can be used to produce electricity through fuel cells, which can power vehicles or be fed into electrical grids. It can be used as a fuel for heat or to drive gas turbines, or can be converted into ammonia or other fuels. In principle, it can be produced from “carbon-free” sources and used as a fuel in ways that produce only water as waste.

But ensuring that hydrogen can play a significant role in decarbonization would require both a major expansion of its use — into more of industry, as well as into sectors where it is currently hardly used at all, like transport and power generation — as well as the decarbonization of its own production — either by “capturing” emissions generated during its production from fossil fuels (often called “blue hydrogen”) or, preferably, by producing it through processes that generate few or no emissions to begin with (often called “green hydrogen”).

The paper provides an overview of the technical facts about hydrogen’s current role in the economy, as well as the much-expanded role it is expected to play in major decarbonization scenarios, and the levels of investment required to achieve that expanded role. It also explains the various “colors” of hydrogen that readers might encounter in these debates, and outlines the technical issues and challenges involved in the main options for decarbonizing hydrogen production that figure in popular reporting and debates. 

Regarding “green hydrogen for grid storage” in particular — which many consider to hold significant potential as part of decarbonized electrical systems based on wind and solar power generation — the paper offers a deep dive into the production processes involved, the options for storage, and the reconversion of stored hydrogen into usable electrical power. It argues that, given the energy losses and technical hurdles involved at each stage, relying on private sector investment to drive the scaling up of hydrogen in ways that support the kinds of decarbonization we need seems highly unrealistic. The paper argues that, given the technical challenges involved in scaling up hydrogen in line with meeting the decarbonization challenge, there can be little doubt that doing so requires a dramatic shift in approach — a shift away from trying to “incentivize” private investors, and toward a planned, coordinated mobilization under public ownership and control.

Hydrogen and the Case for Public Ownership

The paper concludes by offering reflections aimed at developing an alternative approach that offers a better chance at achieving decarbonization, and at allowing hydrogen to play whatever role it can in helping to reach that goal — a “pro-public vision for hydrogen in decarbonization.” It argues that only an approach grounded in public ownership, decommodification, and freeing the development and deployment of hydrogen (and other technologies) from the imperatives of profit stands any real chance of delivering the energy transition that workers, as well as their unions, communities and allies, urgently need.

Trade Unions for Energy Democracy (TUED) is a global, multi-sector trade union initiative to advance democratic direction and control of energy in a way that promotes solutions to the climate crisis, energy poverty, the degradation of both land and people, and responds to the attacks on workers’ rights and protections. TUED is is part of the Global Labour Institute Network. 

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TUED Working Paper 14 – Beyond Disruption: How Reclaimed Utilities Can Help Cities Meet Their Climate Goals

In recent years hundreds of cities have adopted 100% renewable energy targets. This has left many with the impression that cities are “taking the lead” in addressing climate change, showing more ambition than most national governments, and taking measures to disrupt energy markets in ways that challenge the dominance of large energy utilities. Cities are believed to be both riding and driving a technological revolution that is reflected in the growth of local-level energy generation and the proliferation of “distributed energy resources” such as rooftop solar panels, battery storage, and digital control systems. Electricity users, on this view, are becoming increasingly active players in electricity markets, turning from “consumers” to “prosumers.” The days of centralized power generation, from this perspective, are thus numbered.


TUED’s Working Paper 14, Beyond Disruption: How Reclaimed Utilities Can Help Cities Meet Their Climate Goals, shows that this image of cities as “climate leaders” is misleading, as is the idea that large energy utilities are becoming obsolete. The paper documents  the technical limitations of city-level energy generation (principally solar photovoltaics), and shows that public subsidies, not “active consumers” or competitive markets, are driving many of the changes taking place. 

The paper also shows that cities will not be able to reach their renewable energy targets without sourcing energy from large energy companies. This is already happening through power purchase contracts with for-profit entities, producing outcomes that contribute to energy poverty, compromise energy security, and cause technical problems that threaten to put climate targets beyond reach. The real “disruption” in electrical power systems is being felt by working people, while large energy interests continue to reign supreme. 

As an alternative, Beyond Disruption proposes a “public-public partnership” approach in which  progressive municipalities can partner with utilities to drive energy efficiency, conservation, digitalisation, and a managed growth in distributed generation. For this approach to succeed, however, energy systems must be brought back into public ownership, and utilities still under public ownership (full or partial) must be fully “demarketized,” and issued a “new mandate” that reflects social and ecological goals and operating principles. Rather than being compelled to meet the needs of private investors for “acceptable returns on investment,” reclaimed utilities will be key partners in what will be a decades-long effort to decarbonize the economy. 

Just a few years ago, proposals to reclaim energy to public ownership would have been dismissed as “mission impossible,” but today many in the policy mainstream are questioning the current “energy for profit” policy framework. Concerns about climate change, energy security, and unreliable power increasingly demonstrate the need for a public pathway approach to the energy transition.

As many unions today recognise, a public pathway approach will require repealing the neoliberal reforms of the 1980s and 1990s and reversing the drive to further liberalise and privatise the electricity sector (a drive that is currently being pursued in many countries of the Global South).  A full-on energy transition must involve a phase-out of so-called competitive electricity markets and the decommodification of electricity, as articulated in the Trade Union Program for a Public, Low-Carbon Energy Future, which is already supported by 50 trade union bodies from two dozen countries and regions around the world.  

The reforms articulated by the Trade Union Program  would set the stage for strong partnerships between cities around the pursuit of climate targets and economy-wide decarbonisation. Reclaimed companies and municipalities should have full control over prices in order to address energy poverty and discourage the wasteful use of electricity.  Progressive cities that aspire to control their energy systems (including distribution grids) can build on what they have already achieved by using their political strength to insist on a full reclaiming of energy to public control. 

As the paper argues, “the incumbent energy companies will not be dis­rupted out of existence; rather, they will remain dominant as market players and, under the current neoliberal framework, they will help perpetuate an energy for profit regime. If this is not changed, then cities will not be able to reach their energy and decarbonization targets.

Trade Unions for Energy Democracy (TUED) is a global, multi-sector trade union initiative to advance democratic direction and control of energy in a way that promotes solutions to the climate crisis, energy poverty, the degradation of both land and people, and responds to the attacks on workers’ rights and protections. TUED is is part of the Global Labour Institute Network. 

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International Union Rights: Trade Unions & Climate Justice

The first 2022 edition of International Union Rights (IUR) journal explores key issues around climate justice and just transition.

Georgia Montague-Nelson from GLI Manchester contributed an article to this edition of IUR. The article explores the contribution of livestock production to the climate crisis. In the article, she puts forward a set of trade union proposals for the sector – developed by the IUF and GLI – which demonstrated the potential for engagement with climate activities around shared ideas about decentralisation and redistribution, reducing the size of supply chains and the role of global corporations in the food sector.

The International Union of Foodworkers (IUF) commissioned GLI Manchester to transform IUF research on the climate crisis in intensive livestock production into a guide to equip affiliated unions in meat, dairy, and agriculture sectors to influence the conditions for a just transition.

The guide ‘Fighting for our Future – an IUF Guide on Tackling the Climate Crisis in Intensive Livestock Production’ was released in March. The article is based on that guide. Click here to read the guide.

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Belarus: Biggest attack on a trade union in Europe this century.

April 19 was marked a black day in the history of the independent trade union movement in Belarus. The State Security Service (KGB) arrested more than a dozen trade union activists, including almost all the Union leaders.

For decades the independent trade union movement in Belarus has taken a strong stand against the dictatorial regime of Alexander Lukashenko. Despite a severe political crackdown, the BKDP has openly condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and demanded the withdrawal of the Russian troops from the territory of Belarus. Global unions, the ILO, Amnesty International, and others have already condemned the arrests and called for a stop of repression against Belarusian Trade Unions.

We demand the immediate release of all the activists and stop the prosecution of independent trade unions in Belarus.

Support and share the campaign for the immediate release of the Belarussian trade unionists.

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GLU Conference: GLI Panel on ‘Learning from the History of the International Trade Union Movement

‘Learning from the History of the International Trade Union Movement’ – Panel organised by the Global Labour Institute Manchester as part of the 15th Global Labour University Annual Conference. March 31st, 14:30-16:15 CEST.

This panel is a chance to find out about the history project that GLI Manchester is working on, with financial support from the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.

As part of the project, GLI Manchester is producing an illustrated trade union history book. The text is an introduction to the history of the international labour movement, the structures that make it up, and key ideas, debates, and incidents which have shaped it. This text will be available on the GLI website from the summer of 2022. 

The panel will begin with a presentation from the text’s author, Daniel Edmonds, outlining some of the key principles that can be drawn from the movement’s history, and the perspectives which have informed the writing of it.

This will be followed by a roundtable discussion featuring four activists from the international labour movement, talking about the value of labour history to their different organisations, sectors, and regions. The rountable participants are:

  • Baba Aye (Public Services International) 
  • Karin Pape (Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing / International Domestic Workers Federation)
  • Josua Mata (SENTRO, Philippines)
  • Daniela Biocca (International Transport Workers Federation)

This event is a break-out session within Global Labour University’s fifteenth annual conference, ‘Building a Post-Pandemic World of Work with Social Justice’, which will take place from March 30th– April 1st, and April 4th-5th.

The conference is free to attend and will take place online, with sessions hosted on Zoom. Attendance is free for everyone, and you can register here.

Viewers of the panel will be able to contribute questions and comments to all panellists. We look forward to seeing you there and hearing from you!

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Global Labour University 2022 Conference: Building a Post-Pandemic World of Work with Social Justice

The Covid-19 pandemic, digitalization, climate change, right-wing populism, and rising authoritarianism have changed the world of work. The 2022 edition of the GLU-Conference will analyse these developments and ask how we build anew our workplaces and societies based on social justice.

The 2022 GLU Conference offers discussions in 7 tracks on:

  • Inclusive social protection
  • Ending gender-based violence and racism at work
  • Worker organising for a just transition
  • Organising workers in and across the platform economy
  • Empowering migrant workers
  • Workers’ rights under rising authoritarianism
  • Global supply chains and joint collaboration of academics and trade unionist

The 2022 GLU Conference will take place between March 30 and April 5, via Zoom and in English without translation.

On March 31st 14:30-16:15 (CEST), Dave Spooner and Dan Edmonds from GLI Manchester will be running a conference session on ‘Learning from the History of the International Trade Union Movement.’

Click here to visit the conference page.

Click here to view the full programme.

Click here to register.


The Global Labour University is a network of trade unions, universities, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and the ILO working to deliver high-level qualification programmes. It offers Masters Courses in four different countries on trade unions, sustainable development, social justice, international labour standards, multinational companies, economic policies and global institutions and promotes research cooperation on global labour issues.

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All for One = One for All: A Gender Equality Guide for Trade Unionists in IUF Sectors

Unions that represent all workers are stronger unions and become more relevant to both existing and potential new members. Fighting against any kind of discrimination is a way to organise and build collective power. But women continue to face inequality in the workplace, in society and in the union. At the same time, the voices and concerns of women continue to be underrepresented.

The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent crisis has magnified vulnerabilities that exist in our societies. Women’s lives have been disproportionately affected. This reaffirms the need for continued and reinvigorated efforts in the fight for global equality.

On International Women’s Day 2022, the International Union of Foodworkers (IUF) has published the guide ‘All for One = One for All: A Gender Equality Guide for Trade Unionists in IUF Sectors.’ This guide was produced for the IUF by GLI Manchester.

Based on a previous guide the IUF published in 2007 – ‘All for One = One for All’ – this new guide is updated and extended with new chapters and stories. It intends to foster equality by promoting solidarity, building union strength and tackling the inequality issues that women face.

This guide is for everyone who wants to make the union stronger and more representative by promoting gender equality – at work, in society and in the union. But as this is a guide on gender equality – and historically women have been marginalised – it focuses mainly on women’s experiences.

This guide is divided into two sections:

Section 1: Fighting Inequality highlights gender equality issues on which we should work together to tackle.

Section 2: Union Power for All introduces organising strategies which can:

  • Build women’s union membership
  • Empower and strengthen women’s confidence and activism
  • Ensure that women’s voices and concerns are heard and taken up in the union
  • Persuade more men that including and listening to women is the right thing to do, will help the union and so is in their best interest too

Shaped by the experiences of IUF affiliated unions, this guide is supported by the stories of women from all over the world who have experienced inequality and have organised in response. It highlights the amazing work of union activists – including the support of male unionists – and their achievements in the fight for equality.

Click here to read and download the guide in English, French and Spanish.