Protecting members’ jobs through assuring good environmental standards following E U exit (Brexit)

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2018 Water, Environment & Transport Conference
27 February 2018

Conference recognises that after the UK’s departure from the EU, the European Commission will no longer fulfil the vital function of overseeing and assuring the UK Government’s legislative and policy efforts to maintain and improve our environment. It notes that DEFRA Secretary of State, Michael Gove has proposed a new UK-based body to fulfil this role. Conference believes such a body is essential, but it must have all the necessary powers, freely exercised, if it is to fully replace its EU predecessor.

Members working within all parts of the WET Service Group are directly affected by these structures. In water, environment and transport the extent to which effective policy is developed, and then implemented and enforced, drives employer strategies and where resources are directed – including how many staff are employed to ensure compliance with environmental requirements and to reduce environmental impacts. Weak structures of assurance will directly impact on members’ jobs as employers reduce their investment in measures to protect the environment, and will lead to pressure on terms and conditions as policy imperatives no longer result in the investment of public money in environmental improvement.

Conference believes that trade union environmental reps would be perfectly placed to contribute to both policy development and assurance on correct implementation. To do this effectively they need to have appropriate legal protections and facility time, in the way Union Learning Reps and Health and Safety Reps do. Conference also believes that the Environment Agency could itself play a key assurance role, if sufficiently distant from Government and with its remit to develop and make policy officially restored. The loss of this ability, removed by the Tory Government, has been keenly felt in recent years, and has hampered the effectiveness of the Agency in its efforts to develop and implement robust and workable regulatory regimes.

Conference calls upon the Service Group Executive to:

1. Campaign for an environmental oversight body as described earlier, and work with other like-minded organisations to achieve this.

2. Campaign for Trade Union Environmental Representatives to have the legal status that would enable them to work effectively.

3. Press the Environment Agency to distance itself sufficiently from Government and develop policy capability, enabling it to independently act in the public interest on environmental issues, rather than as an agency of Government.

4. Through UNISON Labour Link, to make the case for all these changes to the Labour Party.