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E Tū Welcomes Commitment To ‘Just Transition’ For Tiwai Workers

E tū says Labour’s just transition approach will give workers and communities in Southland confidence to plan for a future with good jobs to replace those at the Tiwai Point smelter.

On Monday, the Labour Party announced its commitment to keeping the smelter open for an additional three to five years, rather than see it close in 2021 as proposed by Rio Tinto.

The extension will give the community and local leaders more time to develop a transition plan for Southland.

Tiwai delegate Owen Evans says the proposal to transition to other jobs and industries over a longer period “gives people options”.

“To get the three- to five-year extension is better for the majority. It means that a lot of young ones with big mortgages don’t have to quit straight away, and they can upskill while they’re still working.”

The transition would also allow for possible recovery of the aluminium market post-COVID-19, he says.

E tū Negotiation Specialist Joe Gallagher says the union supports Labour’s plan to give workers and the community more time to prepare.

“The proposed closure of Tiwai, which is due to take place in August next year, leaves little time to design and roll out new economic activity to replace jobs at the smelter,” he says.

“We’re very much in favour of a plan that will enable the development of a Just Transition for workers.”

Joe says the premise of a Just Transition is simple – it means the costs of the big structural change, such as a shift to low-carbon economy, must be spread evenly and not fall heavily and disproportionately on workers.

However, unions need to be part of the transition conversation too, Joe says.

“Just Transition is a trade union concept developed and used in many countries, including most recently in New Zealand in Taranaki.

“E tū has been active in driving Taranaki’s transition and any just transition process needs to have active involvement from workers and their unions.”

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