Trade Unions and Environmental Policies: Friends or Foes? the Case of the Austrian Energy Sector
In recent years, there has been a marked increase of literature analyzing trade unions’ positioning towards environmental policy and more widely towards a social-ecological transformation. Alongside this growing field of research, we aim to contribute by analyzing the Austrian context. Specifically, we focus on renewable energy production, issues around energy efficiency and eco taxes as important and contested fields of policy making. To do so, we draw on expert interviews conducted with trade unions representatives on different organizational levels as well as in-depth analysis of relevant policy and mission statements, publicly-made statements of representatives in relevant print media.
The first part of our findings analyses the objectives and instruments put forward by Austrian trade unions in the realm of energy policies. Among others, the on-going liberalization and privatization as well as upcoming eco- and climate policies play a dominant role. Further, our findings suggest that considerable dilemmas exist in the nexus of environmental policy and the political goals of trade unions in the field of energy. We find obstacles preventing trade unions to strongly engage in issues around renewable energy as not being explicitly connected with their core competencies. Further, we find current power distributions within the organizational structure of trade unions but also in the labor market play a crucial role if trade unions are capable to adequately address environmental problems.