SOSC 1510 Lecture Notes - Lecture 20: Sticky Wicket, Canadian Labour Congress, Global Warming

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25 Jul 2016
Global warming at work: how climate change
affects the economy and labour
Some jobs will change; others may disappear. Still, experts at a climate change and labour
conference say environmental protection needn’t come at the expense of the economy.
By: Raveena Aulakh, Environment, Toronto Star, Dec 01 2013
It is a sticky wicket and Hassan Yussuff knows it.
The secretary-treasurer of the Canadian Labour Congress is talking about the labour force and
its role in the environment, and Alberta’s oilsands crop up — the much-disparaged oilsands that
also provide employment to tens of thousands of people.
It’s a conundrum.
“These things are never easy,” says Yussuff. “But conflict is also unnecessary. We have been
consistent in saying that we need to slow down the pace of development there … because of its
incredible impact on the environment locally and nationally.”
If workers can be assured that by slowing the pace of development, technology can be
improved to limit the effect on the environment, he says, “they will recognize that change
needs to happen.”
But, he adds, they are not prepared to see the industry shut down.
Yussuff was one of dozens of speakers at Work in a Warming World, a conference held at the
University of Toronto’s Woodsworth College from Friday to Sunday.
The conference brought together academics, environmental groups and trade unions to debate
the impact of climate change on labour practices: how we work, what we produce and where
we produce.
The gathering was among the first of its kind, and came on the heels of a blockbuster report in
September by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which said the planet was on
course to becoming two degrees Celsius warmer. It also predicted heat waves will occur more
frequently and will last longer; wet areas will get more rainfall, dry regions will get less; and sea
levels could rise by almost one metre by 2100.
All of that will affect work in different sectors, in more ways than we can imagine, says Carla
Lipsig-Mummé. She is a professor of work and labour studies at York University, and director of
the conference.
How labour will change — and it is already changing — “depends on what climate you are in,
(what) sector you are in, but also what actions are being taken by government in terms of
regulating and by work groups like unions in terms of what they negotiate collectively for their
workers,” she said.
A warmer planet directly affects postal workers, landscape workers, construction and sanitation
workers, “and that means they need different kind of protection,” says Lipsig-Mummé. “These
jobs will have to be done radically differently.”
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