International Workers’ Memorial Day: Unions on the front lines of tackling climate risks  

International Workers’ Memorial Day: Unions on the front lines of tackling climate risks  

This International Workers’ Memorial Day, 28 April, UNI Global Union joins trade unions around the world to demand urgent action on the climate crisis.  

As temperatures rise, so do “Climate Risks for Workers,” the ITUC’s theme for this day of remembrance and recommitment. 

The global climate emergency has created new dangers and exacerbated existing ones for working people. Like with so many other occupational health and safety issues, trade unions and collective bargaining are necessary solutions. 

“The climate crisis is killing workers, and unions are on the front lines of making jobs – and communities – safer,” said UNI General Secretary Christy Hoffman. “Unions fight back against employers who cruelly intensify targets even in searing heat. We secure the mandatory breaks, vital equipment and necessary protections that save lives. We advocate for a just transition to a sustainable economy, leaving no worker behind.” 

A new ILO report finds a “staggering” number of workers – 2.4 billion or over 70 per cent of the global workforce – will face climate-change-related health hazards, including heat stress, cancer, cardiovascular disease, respiratory illnesses, kidney disfunction and mental health conditions. 

While much attention is rightfully put on industries like construction, mining and agriculture, service workers face these risks as well.  

This weekend, UNI affiliate the Korean Federation of Service Workers Unions (KFSU) will strike at Costco to protest unfair and unsafe labour conditions at the American multinational’s locations in that country. The strike is the second since an employee died on the job in June 2023 after extreme heat exposure.  

The deceased, 29 year-old man with no chronic conditions, worked as a cashier at the checkout counter. At the time of his death, he was in charge of parking lots, carts and parking management.  

He died during a heat wave, and the union says the company did not provide separate air conditioning facilities or thermometers for parking workers. Additionally, the company forced employees to stand throughout business hours, with no available seating or resting areas.  

KFSU President Kang Kyu-Hyok said at the time, “We strongly condemn Costco Korea for not hiring the necessary manpower, squeezing workers to cut costs, and failing to provide essentials for the lives and safety of workers in a timely manner. Costco must take measures to prevent [this kind of tragedy] from happening again.” 

Commerce affiliates in UNI’s Asia & Pacific region passed a resolution in support of the 27 April walk off calling on Costco Korea and CEO Cho Min-Soo to accept responsibility “for the preventable death of their worker as an industrial accident” and for the company to negotiate over conditions at the store. 

Amazon workers around the world have similar demands. For example, one of the company’s Southern California warehouses reached temperatures of 106F (41C) last summer, with employees having to work at brutal speeds to meet their production quotas. The GMB in the UK has made safety a pillar of its years-long organizing campaign at Amazon, and now workers are in an historic fight for union recognition. 

But it’s not just commerce workers. Climate risks touch all of UNI’s sectors.  

The ILO identifies athletes as a group with high exposure to extreme temperatures. That is why players’ unions like FIFPRO are organizing for greater protections against heat-stress induced disorders.  

In Brazil, graphical and packing union SINDICRIP helped WestRock workers beat rising temperatures by organizing around improved access to water on the job. Through a showing of collective interest, workers brought the company to the table to win additional water dispensers. 

Security officers often work outside and brave the elements – including boiling heat, extreme cold and increased exposure to cancer-causing UV radiation. Unions are taking action. With backing from UNI, the Gujarati Security Workers Union in India campaigned and won drinking water, a second uniform and shelter to help combat temperatures that climb to 113F (45C). UNI is also supporting our affiliate in Nepal, the All Nepal Security Workers Union, to get adequate winter coats for working in the freezing cold. 

Postal employees face the catastrophic consequences of a changing climate on a daily basis. In fact, UNI Post & Logistics identifies the climate crisis as one of the biggest risks for postal workers.  

Besides the direct dangers of working in extreme weather, governments often use postal workers and the postal infrastructure in times of disasters for supporting the affected people and aiding organizations. The 2022 flood in Pakistan is a prime example. 

Given the harm extreme climate has on workers, it is not surprising postal unions are increasingly vocal on not only workplace protections but also climate policy. UNI Post & Logistics has proposed a green new deal for post, and affiliates like the CUPW in Canada are taking the lead in pushing to make post sustainable. 

ITUC General Secretary Luc Triangle stated: “The climate crisis is no longer a distant threat; it’s a present danger to workers around the globe. It’s imperative that we demand robust policies and practices to protect our working people from the hazardous impacts of climate change. Our call to action is clear: we must integrate climate risk assessments and emergency preparedness into our occupational safety and health standards.” 

Meetings & Events

2024

03

Jun

UNI Europa ICTS Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee for Telecoms – 03/06/2024

ICT & Related Services

To the Members of the UNI Europa delegation in the Telecom Social Dialogue Committee

Dear colleagues,

We would like to invite you to the next Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee Meeting for Telecommunications which will take place on the 03rd of June 2024.

PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS MEETING WILL BE HELD EXCLUSIVELY ONLINE

04

Jun

Commerce Steering Committee

Commerce

04

Jun

Protected: Uni Europa Commerce Steering Committee meeting – 4 June 2024

Commerce