A just transition must fight for labour rights and workplace democracy

The Just Transition framework rejects the myth that we must “choose jobs or the climate”. Rather, it ensures that workers in carbon intensive industries maintain their dignity and well-being throughout the current collapse of the fossil fuels era, while labour is redeployed to an environmentally sustainable green economy. It acknowledges the skills, experience and expertise that these workers bring to the transition, and pledges to fund training and placement programs in order to ensure that no worker is left behind.

At the University of Toronto, supporting labour rights and workplace democracy must mean resisting the increased job precarity within our own institution. U of T has jumped on board the “gigification” train, having widely increased the use of contract labor versus full time and tenured teaching staff in the last decade. Globally, this trend disproportionately affects women and people of colour. At the University of Toronto we have a long way to go in combating gendered and racialized inequalities, as the UTFA stated in 2019. The  CUPE 3902 TA strike in 2015, which involved numerous Divestment and Beyond members, was a crucial organizing response to this rising precarity. 

The ongoing COVID-19 has made the critical contributions of precarious frontline workers more visible than ever before. We have an opportunity to leverage this visibility in order to call for stable and decent paying jobs for all workers, while also challenging the recent cuts to higher education that prevent universities from taking these important steps. Divestment and Beyond is made up of representatives from across staff, labour organizing, faculty and students, and is thus well positioned to integrate a commitment to labour rights into all our work. Read our op-ed from June 2019, calling on the University to take clear steps in order to support its employees through the pandemic. 

A few sources for further reading: