BWI joins LAC climate week, pushes for just transition and more health and safety protection

The Building and Wood Workers' International (BWI) actively took part in the Latin America and Caribbean Climate Week (LACCW), which took place in Panama from 23 to 27 October. In particular, BWI Project Coordinator Carolina Dantas on 26 October addressed the Action Track event with the theme "Advancing Building Decarbonization and Resilience in LAC Through International Cooperation," led by the Environment Programme Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction.”

BWI strongly advocated for workers' participation in the decision-making processes related to industry and workplace adjustments necessitated by climate change in the region's construction sector. The global union said that trade unions’ involvement is crucial as it directly impacts the working conditions of workers. Dantas emphasised that the shift towards bio-based and circular material economies could potentially heighten social risks throughout the entire construction value chain. This risk is particularly pronounced in informal economies where the enforcement of building codes is a considerable challenge. To address these issues, it becomes imperative to proactively identify and allocate resources to address potential problem areas during the transition. This is especially critical in traditional high-carbon sectors like cement. The goal is to ensure that the jobs lost in these sectors, often referred to as “brown jobs,” are offset by the creation of new “green jobs.” This transition leverages the opportunities presented by both digital and environmental advancements to equip, retrain, and educate workers for safer and environmentally friendly roles within the construction industry.

Despite being previously registered, three (3) representatives of SUNTRACS, including its General Secretary, Saul Méndez, were barred from attending the conference. Mendez, who also serves as one of BWI's Deputy Presidents, stated that the restrictions were extended to other Panamanian environmentalists. He said that this was upon the intervention of the Panamanian government with the approval of the secretariat of the United Nations Framework Conference on Climate Change (UNFCCC ). “LACCW serves as a platform for policymakers, professionals, companies, and civil society organizations to exchange information about climate solutions, identify obstacles to overcome, and seize opportunities within the region. The exclusion of trade unionists and other civil society representatives contradicts the principles and values of the United Nations and should be condemned,” Mendez said. 

The LAC climate week was part of the “Buildings Breakthrough Initiative,” which will be launched at the UNFCCC COP 28 in Dubai. The initiative, supported by the BWI, aims to accelerate a net zero and resilient built environment.