MENA: Workers want more heat stress protection, push for just transition

On 11-13 July, seven BWI construction affiliates from the Middle East and North Africa convened in Beirut, Lebanon, to commit to the global fight against climate change and to advocate for a just transition for all workers to a greener world of work. The unions, which are members of the Middle East and North Africa Trade Unions (MENAT) network and are supported by the 3F Danish Workers' Union, agreed that addressing the effects of climate change on workplaces must go hand in hand with attaining a fair and equitable transition to a more sustainable future for workers. The unionists also pledged to lead in their region BWI’s Heat Up Workers’ Rights, Not the Planet campaign, which was launched last week. 

While the region faces multiple challenges, trade unions have been concentrating on the dangers of occupational heat stress and massive heatwaves to workers' health, safety, and well-being. According to them, weather-related heat exposure has become a major health risk for many workers across the region. ''We have seen an alarming rise in temperatures in a number of countries. "In Jordan alone, temperatures have reached 50 degrees, exposing workers to potentially fatal heat stress," stated Mahmoud Salem Abbas AL-HIYARI, President of Jordan's General Trade Union of Construction employees (GTUCW).

In the run-up to this year's COP 28 in Dubai, trade unions developed concrete plans ranging from sustainable construction practices, standards, and regulations that advance workers' rights to labour education that equips workers with green building techniques, renewable energy integration, and responsible waste management. Antoun Antoun, President of Lebanon's General Federation of Building Construction Trade Union, backed the demand to form principled partnerships with employers and other industry players to achieve climate justice and a just transition to a sustainable construction industry. "In the transition to cleaner technologies and practices, no worker should be left behind. We will convince businesses to provide decent work, job security, retraining programs, and assistance to workers affected by industry changes," he said.