USW Participates in Global Union Nuclear Meeting to Address Energy Policy

Climate change is forcing many countries to rethink their energy policies, with ramifications for employment and labor relations in the nuclear sector on a global scale.

To discuss the changing energy mix and other developments within the industry, IndustriALL’s International Nuclear Workers’ Union Network (INWUN) met the end of June in Ankara, Turkey.

Jim Key, president of the USW’s Atomic Energy Workers Council, attended the two-day meeting. “There is much value to our council in reaching out to help other unionized workers in our communities, states and countries,” he said. “The cooperation between unions in the network is critical for exchanging information and sharing experiences.”

IndustriALL, a global federation formed in 2012, represents 50 million workers in 140 countries through its affiliates, including the USW. It creates international networks so unions in a particular sector or company can exchange information, mobilize and support one another.

The Turkish union— Energy, Water and Gas Workers Union (Tes-İş)—hosted the recent INWUN meeting. The union is working to increase its presence in the sector, as Turkey added nuclear power to its energy portfolio and will start operating its first nuclear power plant in 2023.

Besides the USW and Tes-İş, the meeting drew union participants from Belgium, France, Japan, Malawi, Russia, South Africa, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.

Country Reports

Various government and academic representatives joined a Russian labor leader and a company representative from the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation (ROSATOM) in a panel discussion about Turkey’s nuclear energy future. ROSATOM is building the Turkish nuclear power plant.

The Ukrainian delegation discussed the fallout and entombment of Chernobyl since this year marked the 33rd anniversary of the nuclear reactor core meltdown. What the Ukrainians said impacted Key.

“One of the mind-provoking items discussed was that 1,600 workers who were sent into the Chernobyl reactor core are no longer with us. These workers did not have any medical or life insurance coverage.

“Valeriy Matov, co-chair of IndustriALL’s energy section for nuclear power and president of Ukrainian union Atomprofspilka, said that workers who bought medical and life insurance were taxed so highly by their government that it was cost prohibitive for them to own these policies,” Key said.

Delegates addressed occupational health and safety through a discussion on the differences between radioactive substances and particles, and how they penetrate the body. They also reaffirmed the importance of the right to know workplace hazards, the right to refuse or shut down unsafe work, and the right to participate fully in decision-making through joint health and safety committees.

Long-Term Policy Needed

The network concluded on the need for long-term energy policies that provide a balanced energy mix and do not change with every new government.

“Energy policies should serve the general interest through legislative and regulatory framework supporting social cohesion, equal treatment, environmental protection and better access to energy for the world,” said IndustriALL Assistant General Secretary Kemal Özkan. “IndustriALL fully supports our affiliates worldwide in their fight against further liberalization and deregulation of energy markets.”

The INWUN unanimously approved a statement about the future of the nuclear sector.  It focused on developing a balanced energy mix through democratic participation, consideration of nuclear energy in a low carbon mix, and more research for new technologies and reactors.

The statement also emphasized that sustainable industrial employment is needed so that changes in the energy sector are done with fairness and justice to workers, their families and their communities.

After the meeting ended, the delegates visited the Sarayköy nuclear research and training center in Ankara.

Link to INWUN statement: usw.to/INWUStatement

Link to IndustriALL article: usw.to/INWUArticle

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