Labour leaders frustrated with McKenna for neglecting coal workers

To say that Canadian labour leader Hassan Yussuff was frustrated Wednesday would be putting it politely.

 “There are other adjectives I will not use,” the Canadian Labour Congress president told National Observer.

He was reacting to word from labour colleagues at the international climate change conference in Bonn that the federal government has no “just transition” policies in place, as promised, for coal industry workers who will lose their jobs in the move to a cleaner environment. Notices of layoffs in the industry have already started this week in Canada.

Yussuff, representing the umbrella group for unions across the country, spoke in an interview from Canada about the disturbing news from his colleagues in Germany following a meeting with Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna.

Yussuff and other union leaders say that McKenna and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised them last year to promote a “just transition” for workers who will lose their jobs due to a phaseout of coal-fired power plants. They were also told that McKenna would be the lead minister on the file.

Such a plan would require such concrete policies as improved employment insurance benefits and training programs to help workers transition into new jobs. The labour leaders said the government also promised to create a new task force to drive the issue forward and provide solutions.

But labour union representatives said they were told this week in Bonn that the federal government had nothing yet to put on the table for the workers. All of them expressed frustration about the lack of progress on the eve of a joint Canada-United Kingdom event promoting a wider phaseout of coal around the world.

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