Climate change and Work, including improving the energy efficiency of buildings and the vocational education and training (VET) required for this, has been a growing area of work for ProBE over the last few years. Our research considers, in particular, the implications for the construction labour process and the VET needs of the construction workforce of reducing the energy footprint of buildings. It begins with the premise that the built environment is socially produced, and the transition process to green construction relates to the characteristics and dynamics of the construction labour process. With this in mind, we question whether and how the voice of labour is articulated in green transition policies, strategies and actions.
Since 2014, some of these themes have been developed through a partnership project with York University, in Toronto, Canada; 'Adapting Canadian Work and Workplaces to Respond to Climate Change – Canada in International Perspective (ACW)'. This is a large, seven-year international research project funded by the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, with a partnership grant for $2,547,130 (plus a further $2.2 million in matching funding and contributions from partnering organizations), led by Carla Lipsig-Mummé, Professor of Work and Labour Studies in York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, awarded August 2014. Professor Linda Clarke of the Westminster Business School (WBS) is an Associate Director, and Steering Group Member, with Dr Colin Gleeson of the faculty of Architecture and Built the Environment (ABE) and Prof Fred Steward of the Policy Studies Institute (PSI), co-applicants. The project includes 38 individual members and 19 partners, one of which is the University of Westminster.
The outputs from the ACW programme of research and activities include three databases: Collective agreement clauses globally, training programmes and modules, and trade union-led interventions in relation to climate change. Recognition of their significance was evident from a citation in a United Nations (Framework Convention on Climate Change) publication in 2016, 'Just transition of the workforce, and the creation of decent work and quality jobs'.
As part of this partnership, ProBE is currently involved in two projects:
ACW Green Transitions in the US and Europe: Breadth, Depth and Worker Agency
(January 2016-January 2017), Professor Linda Clarke, Dr Colin Gleeson, with Professor Fred Stewart (PSI) and Professor Dimitris Stevis (Colorado State University).
The project is overseen by the International Policy Working Group of ACW. It is intended to identify interventions by trade unions across US and Europe and map these according to the particular transition pathways implied. The project will provide a systematic overview of relevant and key practices and proposals in Europe and the US at the federal and sub-federal levels: (i) those that affect workers and to which workers and unions have to respond; and (ii) those by labour unions and/or directly involving labour unions, including proposals by unions or organisations in which unions play a leading role. The outcome will be an international and action based web directory of work-led environmental actions.
ACW Green Transitions in the Built Environment
(October 2016-December, 2017), led by Dr Colin Gleeson (ABE), with Professor Linda Clarke and Dr Melahat Sahin-Dikmen.
The project spans both the Built Environment and the International Working Groups of ACW. It seeks to: identify barriers to the successful participation of the workforce in developing pathways to low carbon construction; examine the current and potential role of unions in advancing the process of greening the built environment; analyse the workforce implications of policy tools, such as energy efficiency targets, building codes and contract procurement requirements in facilitating the transition to low carbon construction; and above all research the role of workers and the organizations that represent them in implementing specific, innovative low carbon projects which can serve as models for wider application in the building industry. The aim is to broaden and deepen the work currently underway by systematically capturing different built environment interventions, whether these take the form of practices, proposals, agreements or policy measures and to identify where ACW resources need to be focused to extend the scope of coverage.
Up to seven interventions will be investigated in depth, drawn from different Canadian Provinces and from European countries representative of different forms of capitalism, such as Rhineland, Scandinavian, Anglo-Saxon, and Mediterranean. Each of these regions differ in a variety of ways, including in terms of their industrial relations systems, energy requirements, vocational education and training (VET) systems and labour markets.