Workers’ Climate Action held a two day conference over the weekend. We had workshops and a brainstorm about organisation and activities for the next year on the Saturday; and thrashed out organisational structure and workplan on the Sunday. At the end of it, of some of us went to the Reel News film showing at the MOTH club in Hackney. The latest reel is a run-up to Copenhagen special and contains 15 moving minutes on the Vestas campaign, featuring footage taken by the workers themselves inside the occupation.
The conference was titled ‘Building a class-struggle environmental movement after the experience of Vestas’ and, naturally, Vestas loomed large in all of our discussions. We assessed the role of WCA in helping to spark the campaign (vital), how well we did at building our network throughout the campaign (poor), and how we can build ourselves now.
On the Vestas campaign itself, we heard reports of the workers’ meeting held on Friday which discussed the idea of a green jobs fair on the Island, and the prospects for maintaining the ‘magic roundabout’ camp as a centre of operations for the campaign. A stand-out quote for me from the whole conference was ‘we want to build a movement that can cope with cold winters’!
The workers are looking to revive the trades councils movement on the Island, and consolidate the cross union solidarity that the Vestas campaign has sparked.
We identified three strands of work WCA wants to organise in relation to Vestas:
– a WCA speaker tour
– fighting for reinstatement of the 11 sacked workers from the occupation
– a workers’ plan for the Vestas factory.
The last was the most exciting idea and is a cross-cutting theme for all WCA’s work throughout the coming period, including in the run-up to the Copenhagen Climate Change conference. We need a transition to a low-carbon economy but we don’t think that can happen unless working class people make it happen, through developing plans for their own industries and workplaces that safeguard and create jobs through switching to socially useful, not polluting, production and services. Another way of putting this is ‘worker-led just transition’.
At the WCA conference on Saturday, Paul Hampton who works at the Labour Research Department outlined some of the history of this idea, brought to the fore by US union leader Tony Mazzochi. He also gave some inspiring examples of working-class environmentalism: the ‘green bans’ by the New South Wales Builders Labourers Federation in Australia, and the Lucas Plan developed by workers at Lucas Aerospace in the UK to save jobs and turn the company from an arms manufacturer to maker of useful goods.
The conference took place just as we had all heard about the postponement of E.ON’s plan to build a new coal-fired power-station at Kingsnorth in Kent. Many of those present had been involved in the climate camp at Kingsnorth in 2008, and some WCA activists had done follow-up work at Kingsnorth since then. We resolved that we should continue work in the area – a key point of WCA is that we are not for the closure of polluting industries at the expense of workers’ livelihoods.
We decided that the campaign would hold national meetings every three or four months around the country, to check on our progress and sustain the campaigns we are involved in. We are therefore hoping to hold our next or subsequent meeting in the Kingsnorth area.
If you would like to know more about Workers’ Climate Action visit the website, which has a new team in charge and should be updated more often and have more functionality than of late. To contact the campaign email firstname.lastname@example.org.