Staff and students have jointly demanded the University of Liverpool commit to net zero by 2030 as part of a ground-breaking green new deal claim. The claim has been submitted by the Liverpool University branches of University & College Union (UCU), UNITE and UNISON and is supported by the Liverpool Guild of Students.
The Green New Deal claim forms the most comprehensive set of bargaining demands that UK trade unions have ever made of their employer in an effort to take action and avert climate catastrophe. This is a new approach to climate change action, with unions and students pushing for collective bargaining to transition the university to a sustainable model that tackles environmental harms and economic insecurity at the same time. The joint unions consider these actions part of a ‘just transition’, and necessary for the university to fulfil its commitments as a signatory to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
The claim calls for:
A meaningful reduction in local and global emissions
Including for the university to bring forward its net zero commitment from 2035 to 2030, and the adoption of a carbon budget approach to ensure the steep absolute reductions needed to avert catastrophic climate change
The adoption of measures to ensure sustainable employment policies in line with the sustainable development goals that tackle casualisation and reduce the pay gap, including a commitment to tackling gendered and racialised pay inequalities and a commitment to a 1:6 pay ratio
Decolonisation and decarbonisation of the curriculum
A wholesale revision of teaching programmes along the principles of ‘decolonising and decarbonising’ the curriculum. This means addressing climate change by linking the struggle for climate justice to colonialism (the imposition of Western political and high-carbon economic systems on non-Western countries) and exploring how the inequalities driven by our system globally are closely linked to the drivers of climate change
A just transition in research
This will entail concrete commitments to: supporting and promoting research that tackles problems of climate change and the ecological crisis; working with staff and the campus trade unions to move the University’s research agendas away from unsustainable industrial, economic, social and political practices and processes; ending funding streams that tie the University to companies that are pursuing growth in unsustainable practices and processes
Continual improvement of the University’s divestment strategy.
Steps to reduce the universities entire investment portfolio in line with net zero, and a more rigorous approach to excluding companies implicated in environmental and social harms
The Green New Deal framework that preceded this claim is a crucial element of UCU’s climate change policy. The union has been building alliances with student organisations and their campaigns, including SOS UK, part of the NUS. The framework calls for a ‘Green New Deal for colleges and universities’ including urgent and meaningful changes from institutions to tackle the climate emergency.
The claim, and how UCU brought the climate emergency into its bargaining agenda, was discussed on this month’s episode of the Green New Deal Media podcast.
Liverpool UCU Green Rep Ben Crawford said:
‘We are submitting this claim because we know that action on climate and environmental harms won’t go far enough without pressure from workers and students. The university is taking welcome steps on sustainability, but more is needed. In higher education, as in all sectors, measures for the transition to a low carbon economy need to be negotiated with workers and must address questions of inequality and insecurity at the same time.’
Liverpool Guild of students Vice President Ella Hatch said:
‘I’m proud to be backing the green new deal, it is the radical policy that the university needs to ensure a transition to a green economy which has students and staff at the centre. The university has taken too long to take action against the climate crisis, the green new deal was needed years ago. I hope they take on these recommendations from the students and staff that are the heart of this organisation.’
Kim Johnson MP for Liverpool Riverside said:
‘As a major player in the local economy and employment market, it is vital that the University of Liverpool plays its part in working towards a decarbonised and decolonised future for themselves and the city. That is why I am happy to support the University of Liverpool joint trade unions and the Guild of Students’ Green New Deal bargaining claim and trust that the University will embrace this and set a positive precedent for the other universities in the city.’
Councillor Lena Simic, Labour Councillor for Anfield Ward and Deputy Chair of Climate Change and Environment Select Committee said:
‘University of Liverpool Joint Trades Union and Guild of Students “Green New Deal” Bargaining Claim is an ambitious and welcome call to the University of Liverpool. The claim is detailed and forward thinking – it outlines the necessary steps needed in the just transition to the zero carbon economy that our city and our universities must undergo.
‘Furthermore this is about ensuring the workers and Trade Unions with all their skills and expertise are fully consulted and engaged in the process. Mutual agreement on this document could provide a model agreement that all other UK universities could get behind. This would mean Liverpool leading the way in sustainability and just transition.’
Dan Carden MP for Liverpool Walton said:
‘Tackling the climate emergency is the defining challenge of our times and demands action at every level. It is great to see staff and students coming together to address questions about how the university can put climate justice at the heart of everything it does.’
Paula Barker MP for Liverpool Wavertree said:
‘I want to thank the UCU trade union and student bodies for all the work they have undertook in bringing these hugely important matters to the fore. I think many of the climate change targets leading organisations have set themselves are not early ambitious enough and I am pleased to learn that students, educators and our trade unions are working collectively to put pressure on the University.
‘As with any sector of the economy, a just transition is hugely important if we are to achieve favourable outcomes for environment, planet and crucially, working people. Our trade unions must be front and centre of this strategy as they, more than most, understand that addressing climate change can only be achieved through delivering climate justice for working people faced with an unprecedented cost-of-living crisis.
‘When power is unchecked, it is clear that the moneyed class and the bosses will not tackle the climate crisis with the required urgency because it is not in their economic interests to do so. This is why this joint work is so encouraging and I hope that it is replicated in other sectors of the economy.’
The GND claim was submitted to the University on Thursday 13th of October. Campus unions and students’ Guild representatives hope to move quickly into negotiation with the employer. Local MPs have already expressed their solidarity, and an open petition calls on students, staff and the wider Liverpool community to support the initiative. The joint unions hope that with support from all quarters within the city, the university will be willing to take decisive action on climate change, in accordance with the claim.