South African labour’s responses to the challenges of green jobs: a case study of COSATU and NUMSA

Manjawira, Zione Ruth
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Recently, the effect that climate change has on workers has become an important issue in environmental labour studies. The labour movement in South Africa has begun to show interest in responding to climate change and green jobs having realized the threat to health, jobs, livelihood and survival that climate change has on the working class and the ecological environment. This study aimed at investigating trade unions’ response to the issue of green jobs. It focused on the responses by COSATU and its affiliate NUMSA, through a case study on how NUMSA is responding to its SORE initiatives and the challenges labour movements in general are facing in implementing their initiatives. It used in-depth interviews as the main tool for collecting data and thematic content analysis based on the themes identified during the study. Interviewees were identified using purposive sampling from the trade unions, environmentalists, the academia and government departments that closely deal with climate issues. The study revealed that trade unions have slowly started responding to the issues of green jobs despite huge gaps in their strategies. Although labour is currently working with environmentalists and the academia, it seldom has fruitful engagement with government and seems yet to align its responses with those stipulated in government policies. Labour also faces political, social and economic constraints in its quest to respond effectively to the issues of green jobs. However, affiliates like NUMSA have begun to take some meaningful measures although these are still at infancy stage. These gaps could be attributed to the fact that the issue of climate change is new to the labour movement and that currently it is not seen as a priority unlike the traditional bread and butter issues. On the overall, it seems a lot has been said but little has been done by both the federation and the affiliates.