Trade Unions and Environmentalism – the Case of Austria

Monday, 11 July 2016: 11:55
Location: Hörsaal 16 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Kathrin NIEDERMOSER, University of Vienna, Austria
Although trade unions are crucial societal actors, their role in the current debates on social-ecological transformation is usually neglected (e.g. WBGU 2011). In Austria the relation between trade unions and environmental issues has a long, contradictory and conflicting tradition. The most important occurrences in the younger past are the conflicts around the nuclear plant “Zwentendorf” and the hydroelectric plant “Hainburg” in the 1970s and 1980s. Both conflicts must be considered as central experiences regarding the relation of the trade union movement and ecological issues. Although the sustainability debate also had certain impacts on Austrian trade unions (e.g. Ritt 1998), these experiences continued to shape the collective memory of the trade union movement regarding environmental questions. The central axes of conflict regarding the two power plants were the creation of jobs and competitive and locational advantages – arguments that are significant for the discourse on labour and the environment in general. For a comprehensive consideration of the relation between trade unions and environmental questions it is, however, inevitable to go beyond this discourse (cf. Räthzel/Uzzell 2012).

Following this assumption and considering the newly arising debates and coalitions in the wake of the crisis and its management, the project “TRAFO LABOUR” is asking the question how trade unions and workers’ interests can be appropriately taken into consideration in social-ecological transformation processes.