Climate Change and the Workplace often Overlooked by Experts

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If 80% of carbon dioxide emissions come from industrial production, as the International Labour Organization has suggested, then why isn’t more effort devoted to mitigating climate change in the workplace?

That’s the question ACW co-investigator Caleb Goods, based at the University of Western Australia, is asking in a new research note published by the Journal of Industrial Relations. “A central, yet, overlooked, aspect of contemporary employment relations is the growing impact climate change is having on workplace relations,” writes Goods.

With the world of work being responsible for so much in greenhouse gas emissions, he adds, “the workplace evidently needs to be a site of deep environmental change, a transformation that will shape and be shaped by core employment relations (ER) issues.”

Workers and the economy are being impacted by rising temperatures. For example, a 2015 heat wave in India resulted in taxi unions in Kolkata urging drivers to avoid working during the hottest periods of the day. Such rationalization of working hours will become more common in the future.

Even efforts to mitigate climate change will impact workers. As we transition to a low-carbon economy, people will discover that “green jobs,” as Goods points out, are often poorly paid, lesser skilled, non-union, and are in male-dominated areas of the economy such as energy and construction. These jobs will be replacing better-paid, and more secure high-carbon jobs, such as the 60,000 jobs in the Australian coal industry that were lost in 2015-2016.

The good news is that efforts toward “climate bargaining” can provide possible models for meaningfully advancing climate change actions in the workplace. Goods notes out that enterprises tend to have better climate outcomes when workers are involved. “More extensive and deeper participation, direct and representative, in workplace climate planning and action accompanies greater organizational climate change commitments,” he writes.


Read more in the Journal of Industrial Relations