We are working to ensure that a Just Transition extends beyond EU borders. Northern Macedonia is in the process of aligning its energy and climate legislation with EU legislation, which will speed up transition, and trade unions must be ready to have a say when it comes to the future of workers!
Around 30 trade union leaders from North Macedonian lignite mines and thermal power plants affiliated to industriAll Europe affiliate SIER met in Ohrid, North Macedonia, on 15 and 16 November to discuss the energy transition and how to make it just for workers.
Despite North Macedonia's official ambitious plans to phase out coal-fired power generation by 2028, Just Transition is a relatively new issue for trade unions in the region. Many photovoltaic projects have been announced and some have already been implemented this year. According to the North Macedonian Minister of Economy, photovoltaic plants with a total capacity of 65.7 MW are currently connected to the grid, and 12 MW are expected to be added by the end of the year. In addition, the Northern Macedonian public utility Elektrani na Severna Makedonija is planning to install two photovoltaic plants with a capacity of 50 MW each in the former open-cast mines of REK Oslomej.
However, trade union leaders expressed scepticism about the plans in light of the current energy price crisis and expressed grave concerns that the announced photovoltaic capacity will not be sufficient to compensate for the loss of thermal power capacity.
The scepticism is reinforced by the recent public statement by the Prime Minister of North Macedonia, Dimitar Kovačevski, that coal-fired power generation could be used beyond the announced phase-out date. This comes against the backdrop of the current energy crisis the country is facing.
The complex situation leads to great uncertainty among the trade unions. But despite conflicting government announcements, trade unions must start now to anticipate the transition to ensure that it is fair for the workers of Northern Macedonia.
"Unions should not wait until plans are made without being able to influence them. A Just Transition means anticipating change and effective social dialogue between the government, employers and trade unions. Trade unions should not be on the menu but have a place at the table," said Mare Anceva, SIER's outgoing General Secretary.
IndustriAll Europe Deputy General Secretary, Judith Kirton-Darling, said, "We are continuing our campaign for a Just Transition to ensure that the move to a green economy is fair for workers and does not destroy but preserves and creates good quality jobs. We are working to ensure that a Just Transition extends beyond EU borders. Northern Macedonia is in the process of aligning its energy and climate legislation with EU legislation, which will speed up transition, and trade unions must be ready to have a say when it comes to the future of workers!"
SIER plans to continue its work with energy trade unions with the support of industriAll Europe. IndustriAll Europe will continue discussions with trade unions in the Western Balkans with a special workshop in 2023 and will also ensure trade union participation in the Coal Regions in Transition initiative for the Western Balkans and Ukraine, as well as the Energy Community's Just Transition Forum.