On 26 January, the European sectoral social partners of the gas sector, in the framework of their joint project, will hold their Final Conference ’Towards a Just Transition for the gas sector and its workers - Challenges and opportunities‘. 

Co-organised by industriAll Europe, EPSU and Eurogas, the Conference will assess the challenges and opportunities for employment in the gas sector in the context of the energy transition. The objective of this Conference is to discuss best practices, develop input, and validate the experts’ final results and conclusions.

The Conference comes as the final stage of a broader joint project, entitled ’Challenges and opportunities for employment in the gas sector in the context of the European Energy Transition: Ensuring a Just Transition for workers‘, which is supported by the European Commission and aims to help the European social partners get a better understanding of the employment structure and challenges ahead in the context of the energy transition, the European Green Deal objectives, the -55% emission reduction target by 2030 and the objective to achieve climate neutrality by 2050.

The gas sector is facing a major transition as it is required to fully decarbonise in the European energy transition. However, persisting uncertainties about the role of the gas sector and the pathways to integrate renewable and low-carbon gases affect the current workforce and future skills planning for the sector. The European sectoral social partners of the gas sector are convinced that the EU legislative framework must facilitate the essential transition of the gas infrastructure and organise a Just Transition for its workforce. Nonetheless, the unbundling provisions proposed in the Commission’s Decarbonised Gas and Hydrogen Package in 2021 could essentially undermine a Just Transition of a highly-skilled workforce in a context of imminent skills shortages. 

Unsurprisingly, the conflict in Ukraine has had a major impact on the European gas sector. Curtailments of supply after Russia's invasion of Ukraine have left the EU’s natural gas sector in disarray. The RePowerEU Plan sets out the investments required to reduce the European Union’s reliance on Russian energy imports, and it does so through a more rapid decrease in natural gas demand in the European Union. It also confirms the willingness of the European Commission to significantly develop the paths to green hydrogen and biogas technologies. However, it largely neglects the crucial question of skills needs and organising the job-to-job transition of workers.

All these reasons have led the social partners to call for action to achieve a Just Transition in the gas sector, which they do with recommendations:

  1. The methodology to be implemented in order to fully understand the future challenges of the sector.
  2. The concept of training as a major factor in the transformation of jobs and profiles.
  3. The issue of social dialogue as a key element in ensuring a Just Transition.
  4. The issues of attractiveness and diversity of the sector.
  5. Connections to other sectors.

The European social partners in the gas sector are strongly committed to effective social dialogue and collective bargaining that have proven to be essential tools for the creation and maintenance of high-quality jobs and fair employment transitions over decades. Expertise and know-how of the gas sector and its workers will facilitate and enable the transition to a decarbonised gas sector by 2050.