“There Are No Good Jobs On A Dead Planet” – Histadrut representatives speak on the impact of climate change on labor relations and the future of work.

Adi Marcus
Sep 14, 2023

Histadrut representatives participated in a conference on the impact of climate change on labor relations and the future of work last week in Tel AVIV.

Dr. Robbie Nathanson, Director of the Macro Centre for Political Economics, and Dr. Claudia Bogedan, General Director of the Hans Böckler Foundation opened the conference. Bogedan highlighted the importance that the Böckler Foundation places on developing knowledge and promoting policies on climate change effects. Across the Hans Böckler Foundation’s institutes, there is significant work to understand how current conceptions on climate change actions may impact society, global economics and the world of work.

Adding to Bogedan’s opening remarks, Peter Lerner, Director General of the Hisadrut’s International Relations Division, presented the Histadrut’s position on one of the market’s main challenges: “How do we ensure that businesses stay strong during such sharp changes? The answer is clear, in cooperation with the employees.”

Lerner also remarked that the the Histadrut, which has been advocating for workers’ rights for over 100 years. And under the leadership of Histadrut Chairman Arnon Bar David, it operates responsibly and that today, the union must expand the envelope so that it includes the rights of every person to live on a healthy planet..

” There Are No Good Jobs On A Dead Planet…. It is on us, our generation. It is our responsibility to ensure that whilst we fight this challenge, we do not leave any worker behind. It is not only about jobs, it is about respect, justice and a sustainable future.”

“To promote a ‘green’ work world, we need to identify and develop new skills across the workforce, to level them with the new standards of workplaces.”    

Peter Lerner

Dr. Robbie Nathanson Speaking, Peter Lerner and Dr. Claudia Bogedan | Credit: Macro Center for Political Economy
Adam Blumenberg

Adam Blumenberg, Deputy Director of the Economics and Policy Division at the Histadrut, addressed the impact of climate change on labor relations and the plant level. He said that due to minimal cooperation on the government side, the Histdrut’s achievements in job security and inclusion of workers in green transformation are in instilling policy bottom-up.

Blumenberg referred to many initiatives that can ensure job security for factory workers that need updates to qualify with new environmental standards or to be completely shut and replaced. The Histadrut is working towards workers’ representation on boards. Where they can faithfully present the interests and commitment of workers to the changes that are required.

“One of the issues we are experiencing is that the government takes business decisions that may be considered as [being a part of] greening processes. Such as closing polluting factories in favor of developing Hi-Tech industries. But they do it one-sidedly in a non-inclusive manner. Entire families lose their income overnight this way. At the macro level, we (Israel) are losing when there is no preliminary work coordinated with us to transition those workers into the new industries. Making these processes inclusive is an investment that would bear fruits in the social realm and the green and climate transition in the long run.”  

Adam Blumenberg

Blumenberg highlighted two achievements of the Histadrut in adapting working conditions to a worker-centered market. The Histadrut’s effort to make workers’ representation on boards in the public sector is now a law. The Histadrut also shortened the weekly work hours from 42 to 40 in the public sector.

Amit Ben Tzur, Managing Director of Arlozorov Forum of the Histadrut, noted in his speech on climate change and the world of work in Israel, that the Israeli workers’ unions already understand that climate change should be addressed in policy. But there is not yet a consensus on how that should happen.

” More than a million workers in Israel are threatened by the effects of the climate crisis… We are promoting our research on the climate crisis and the labor market for implementation in the field so that it will provide practical tools for policy change here and now.”

Amit Ben Tzur
Jobs in Israel Under Threat | Credit: Arlozorov Forum

The conference was organized by the Macro Centre for Political Economics and the Hans Bockler Foundation. It hosted various speakers from Israel and Germany, including government representatives, socio-economic experts, and grassroots politicians who discussed their findings, experience and suggestions in relation to the impact of climate change on labor relations and the future of work.

Dr. Robbie Nathanson, Director of the Macro Centre for Political Economics, referred to the role he believes unions should have in the transition to environmentally sustainable society “This is a challenge for civil society, but it is also a challenge for the labor unions. The unions must mark environmental protection and climate change as central element in labor agreements. This must be a central issue in labor relations and in the world of work, and in negotiations that deal with terms of employment”.

Professor Sebastian Dullien, Scientific Director of the Macroeconomic Policy Institute of the Hans Bockler Foundation, talked about the current incapacity of numbers to predict the impact of climate change on the livelihood of people: “You have to see the maps that predict very different effects in different countries. It could be that if the temperature in Greenland rises a little – the productivity there will actually increase. But on the other hand, large parts of the world, in fact, the parts where most of humanity lives today – may become unbearable. People may lose the ability to support themselves, which will lead to huge waves of migration.”

Professor Dullien further discussed the alarming burden that lower-income households are expected to shoulder if governments do not intervene in financing transitory processes to decrease carbon emissions. His research found that carbon emissions taxation mechanisms are most likely going to contribute to inflationary pressures and price increases, unjustly affecting those with lower incomes to a greater scale. “Since [a government investment] is an investment for the benefit of future generations, it is fine and correct to do so. Besides, we do not have enough taxes on wealth, at least in Germany I think that taxation can be raised in order to finance some of the government investments and the reduction of carbon emissions.”

Professor Johanna Wenckebach, Scientific Director of the Hugo Sinzheimer Institute for Labor and Social Law (HSI) of the Hans Böckler Foundation, also presented little explored gender dimension of climate change policies. She said there is minimal data on the intersectionality between gender equality issues and workplaces’ transition to more sustainable practices. Specifically, she highlighted that many well-paying jobs for women are at risk, and that traditionally ‘female’ industries, such as early education, have lower bargaining powers, which may undermine the transition for women. Wenckebach called on participants to consider that on many levels, women are more vulnerable to climate change, if in their bodies’ capacity to sustain heat, in single mothers’ capacity to hold on rental contracts with increased inflation, or in the added risks women may experience facing climate crisis that entails relocation or refuge seeking. “Climate change is a gender issue. Climate politics should be too.”     

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