On February 14th PCS members were among trade unionists who joined school students and other environmental activists in Central London to make their voices heard to demand more action to avoid catastrophic climate breakdown.
This was the latest of the monthly school student strikes called by the UK Student Climate Network, and inspired by Greta Thunberg.
BEIS are the lead Government department responsible for achieving the Government net zero target by 2050. So it was fitting that PCS activists in BEIS took the lead in calling for trade unionists to rally under the banner “The Climate emergency is a Workers Emergency!” Dozens of trade unionists gathered outside of the BEIS HQ in Victoria Street. They were responding to the plea from school students for workers to join them in the ongoing struggle for climate justice which kicked off with last Septembers’ global climate strike that saw over 300,000 people take to the streets across the UK.
PCS activists from the culture sector, Defra, DfT and elsewhere joined the trade union bloc which then marched to join the student rally in Parliament Square which then headed to Downing Street.
Trade unionists have a specific angle to bring to the climate justice movement. BEIS not only lead on the Government’s woefully inadequate response to climate breakdown, but also are leading in attacking rights of workers to take collective action.
PCS activists in BEIS were especially keen to stand up and be counted in opposing even more Tory restrictions on our right to strike – activists called for BEIS to withdraw plans for new legislation to ban all-out strikes by transport workers saying; “We stand against all anti-union laws, both existing and proposed, and believe that free unions and a full right to strike, including over political issues, are essential for confronting the climate crisis.”
A just transition to a sustainable economy will mean climate jobs and will not be achievable without workers action. Meanwhile students took up a Valentine’s Day theme with a banner that expressed urgency: “Roses are red, violets are blue, our Earth is burning and soon we will too.”
As one activist from BEIS said after the rally; “I feel I have done more today to tackle climate change than I am allowed to do in my day job – and we are supposed to be the lead department!”
The next strike on 13th March.