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Monday, November 03, 2008

Class, Climate Change and Clean Coal

Class, Climate Change and Clean Coal - a conference organised by the IWW (one big union) with support from National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Rail, Maritine and Transport Union (RMT) and green activists was held in Newcastle on Saturday 2 November.

Over 60 trade unionists, socialists, anarchists, greens and climate activists crammed into the room for this very welcome and ambitious conference. Though the platform in the morning was heavily nominated by "Pro- coal" 3 NUM fulltime or ex-fulltime official speakers including Dave Douglas, Arthur Scargill, and Ian Lavery, and just one critical of coal, Paul Chatterton (Leeds Univ and Climate Camp activist)

The room seemed evenly split with half retired miners / friends with suits and NUM ties, alongside many activists mostly half their age, and a handful of the organised left.

The morning didn't start too well, with an unfortunately biassed platform, speakers such as Ian Lavery (NUM) claiming that what ever scientists said he saw Coal as the future, and with NUM speakers failing to recognise that Paul was critical of all carbon based fuels(not just coal "what about gas, what about oil"), and was not saying that Clean Coal (Carbon Capturing Systems) couldnt be part of a "just transition" away from the present fossil fuel dependence which leads us sleep walking to environmental destruction.

Paul made significant efforts to recognise the importance of unions and history of NUM (his grandfather was a miner) while NUM speakers showed less understanding of the other activists present (socialist, green, anarchists, and other non-aligned activists) by referring to them as Green Party members (of which i am not sure any were!)

When the top table contributions were over the event livened up (though many NUM speakers including Scargill left after speaking)

When some of us challenged the bias and the amount of time for the top table, there was some recognition that this needed adjusting and the NUM chair limited afternoon speakers to 10 mins (in the morning they had 25!) this gave more opportunity for discussion and although by now many of the NUM had left, it did show that we had a lot more in common. Also at odds with Dave Douglas's (NUM / IWW organiser of this event) reports of Climate Camp, that of activists uninterested in unions or the history of the miners, this event showed that those critical of coal, were very keen to work with unions, to build links with NUM and understand the importance that unions play in challenging the government and bosses.

Kev Bland (Green Anarchist) explained that Workers Climate Action had made important links with Kingsnorth workers at climate camp explaining that our ways of workers are already moving towards a united response with workers. And myself and Paddy (Plane Stupid) handed out Workers Climate Action publicity that seemed to get a good audience. The NUM regional officer also agreed to discuss with the campaigners against open cast pits in Northumberand, working more closely together and helping with resources for the campaigns.

But the most important thing is that this event happened and at all, and for this we should congratulate IWW and NUM for organising it, and offer to work with them in this kind of initiative where we can

So where now?
This conference was an important first step and it was reported that NUM reps from Notts are talking about approaching Notts Trades Council  to organise something similar there.  Hopefully supporters of Solidarity, and those active in Workers Climate Action can help make this a reality and consider something similar in Yorks / Derbyshire / Leics areas?

We should also approach the speakers and see if we can get there speaches or articles published on Workers Climate Action website to contribute to the debate, or perhaps see if we can turn them into a pamphlet.

We cannot the seemingly huge culture change between climate campaigners and miners to prevent events like this from happening. We congratulate the IWW and NUM for organising this event and should look to work with them to make sure this is just the start.

Ed Whitby


ed whitby said...

oh i forgot

I am going to Workers Climate Action national gathering in London on 15/16 November, if anyone from Northeast is interesting in getting train down with me (or anyone else wants to come)
It is at London school of economics, holbourn, london
www.workersclimateaction.co.uk for more info

John said...

Hi Ed,

Can I ask a favour please? I'd like to add mention of your new posts to the blog aggregator for unions' and union activists' blogs at www.tigmoo.co.uk

It's aimed at building community and traffic for union blogs, and hopefully getting more union people out of the woodwork and blogging. Around 95 union blogs so far.

Would you mind if I include your blog? It will scan it every hour or so for new posts and then add the title, opening sentence and link to a list which people can subscribe to by RSS, letting them directly into your blog's latest story.

If you're happy with this idea, could you please let me know (and any other comments) at www.tigmoo.co.uk/?q=contact ?

Cheers, John