Environmental Committee Report

November 2013 – 1st Edition
As you can see we November
haven’t been able
to come
up with a suitable name for the Newsletter so
we need your help.
Please submit suggestions for a ‘Green’
Newsletter title to Sarah Broad by 31/12/2013.
(sarah.broad@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk). We will then
discuss as a committee and come up with a
winner. There will be a small prize for the
Welcome to the first edition of………..
a quarterly publication produced by
the PCS R&C Environmental Advisory
Committee (EAC). Through our pages
we will seek to keep PCS members in
HMRC informed about Green Issues
that we believe are important to us all
in our working lives.
The EAC are a committee elected
annually at Group Conference to
advise the GEC on issues and policy
that affect the environment.
But why do PCS believe that Green
Issues are so important and why is it a
trade union issue?
Trade unions have a long history of
taking action on environmental issues,
campaigning for a safer, healthier
working environment. The workplaces
in which we organise and seek to
organise in, burn energy, consume
resources and generate waste.
Over half of the UK’s carbon
emissions are work related and British
business and industry are estimated
to waste around £1 Billion of energy
each year. Workplaces are better
placed than individuals to install cost
effective measures
It is evident that people are likely to be far
greener at home than they are in work; this
is seemingly because at home people have
far more control over their actions. At home
people can make important choices such as
switching energy suppliers, recycling,
shopping ethically, composting, turning off
electrical equipment etc. However at work
they have very little control over these
things as the working environment is
controlled by their employers choices and
There is a second reason why Climate
Change is a trade union issue and that is
because overwhelmingly it is the workers,
the poorest in societies around the world
who feel the effects of climate change the
most; whether that be through famine
caused by drought, disease caused by
flooding and lack of access to unpolluted
water or the devastation that we have seen
caused by the increasingly frequent natural
disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, as
trade unionists we fight in the traditional
spirit of international solidarity to protect the
rights and lives of all workers regardless of
national boundaries.
Most unions have started over the last few years to have green workplace reps.
However their roles differ greatly depending on the nature and set up of their work
places. It is clear that the level of involvement in green issues varies greatly within
different sections of the trade union movement and in many respects across different
areas of industry. It seems that overwhelmingly small companies and employers fair
better in their environmental record and policies and there seem to be a few reasons
for this;
Smaller employers tend to be more in control of their estates and service providers,
larger companies and public services tend to have contracts with other larger often
multi national, companies which means that to some extent they have relinquished
control over the factors that effect carbon emissions and responsible purchasing etc,
cost also seems to be a factor as small companies tend to shop around for services
to find the most economical and often this can be the greenest option. Overall it
seemed that large public services such as government departments, hospitals and
schools have a long way to go. Ironically despite their own targets on carbon
emissions and the environment, it is the government’s relentless cost efficiency
savings within the public sector that are holding back the development of
environmental policies in these areas of industry as they focus on short term cost
saving rather than long term waste reduction and environmentally sustainable
For these reasons PCS believe firmly that Green Issues should remain at the
forefront of our agenda whilst negotiating with our employer and the EAC are here to
ensure that happens. Whether talking about cutting building emissions or creating
jobs improving our administration of green taxes, being green in the workplace will
ultimately save HMRC money and resources which we believe should be used to
lessen the effects of the austerity agenda and not just save jobs but create new
Green issues are a Trade Union issue
In an era of austerity, most union members would be correctly concerned about pay
and pensions. Issues around the environment, “green issues” have fallen very low
down in members’ concerns; indeed they may even question why the union has any
interest in these issues.
Green issues however are very much a union issue. Indeed, they form part of the
alternative to austerity, and can also affect workers directly.
For example , the one million climate jobs campaign http://www.climate-changejobs.org/about makes a convincing case for investment in green jobs such as
producing and fitting solar panels, wind turbines, insulating houses etc. This could
create one million jobs, help the environment and lower energy use and as such
costs to households.
Issues such as energy provision are union
issues. Nuclear power, for example, is
unpopular and the events at Fukushima
show how dangerous it can be. Unions
though represent workers in the nuclear
power industry and need to find solutions
to the problems. Redeployment into say
producing solar or wind alternatives might
be one answer
Climate change is also a big issue for
unions. In the last few months members
have battled through snowdrifts and
floods and then sat in overheated offices.
Weather patterns are changing and
temperatures veering to extremes. Union
members will need new agreements on
time off for adverse weather, different
working patterns to account for extreme
temperatures and a maximum
temperature limit as a start.
Green issues are union issues and need
to be brought up the agenda,
“When the last tree is cut and
the last fish killed, the last
river poisoned, then you will
see that you can't eat money.”
― John May, The Greenpeace
“Earth provides enough to
satisfy every man's needs, but
not every man's greed.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
Why I got involved in the union….
In October 2009 I saw a small article in
my office PCS newsletter asking for
someone to be the branch green rep.
As I have been interested in
environmental issues for some time I
thought I would give it a go. This was
the start of my foray into union activity.
Since this I have become an office rep,
branch organiser, branch green rep
and most recently a health and safety
rep. I am also on the Revenue and
Customs Group Environmental
Advisory Committee. So my union
journey started with my interest in the
environment .
The green rep work is perhaps seen as
a more ‘friendly’ aspect of union work
with a smaller amount of challenging
meetings. Some of the things I have
been involved in include, helping to
implement recycling bins in our office,
attending a national PCS Green
seminar and holding an event to
increase awareness of green issues
during Climate Change Week.
Obviously this is just a snapshot of
things I have done and if you’d like
more information feel free to contact
me (Sarah Broad).
How to get involved
-Ensuring your branch has a green rep
-Subscribing to the PCS green news
letter mailto:green@pcs.org.uk
-Subscribe to green e-group
-Make green issues a standing part of
your agenda
-Get involved with green campaigns in
your community