The Current

Some jobs in new energy industries come with a pay cut of $50K: coal miner

As industries change around plans to cut greenhouse emissions, will the "green jobs" that replace them match the pay and benefits of the fossil fuel sector?

With a year's training, you make half the money and get no benefits, says Roy Milne

An electrician retraining as a renewable energy technician would go from a $100,000 salary to $50,000 per year, according to a union president.
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Originally published on Dec. 13, 2018.

Workers in the fossil fuel industry are concerned that jobs in new green industries won't offer the same pay and benefits, according to a union president.

"There has to be a job there … that'll meet the equivalent of what we have now," said Roy Milne, a coal miner and president of United Steelworkers Local 1595 in Wabamun, Alta.

Milne is part of "the first group of workers in the first mine being phased out in Canada."

He told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti that a basic operator earns $80,000-$100,000 per year, with additional benefits and a defined pension scheme.

An electrician retraining as a renewable energy technician would go from that salary to $45,000-$50,000 per year, he said.

"With a year's training, you can make half the money and get no benefits."

If fossil fuel industries are wound down to reduce emissions, renewable energy industries could offer jobs for laid-off workers. (Patrick Pleul/dpa via Associated Press)

In 2016, the federal government announced a plan to eliminate the use of traditional coal-fired electricity by 2030 — which could affect approximately 42,000 people directly and indirectly employed by the coal industry, according to the Coal Association of Canada.

One activist is calling for the creation of a million climate jobs to replace those lost in fossil fuels, and he wants the government's help.

"It has to be a combination of federal, provincial, and municipal governments coming into it," said Bruno Dobrusin, campaign co-ordinator with the Green Economy Network, a coalition of labour, environment and social justice groups pushing for a new green economy.

He told Tremonti that the financing would have to come from the public purse, but noted that money is already going to support the oil industry.

"Part of our plan is saying: 'Let's divest part of those subsidies that go now to fossil fuels, and put them in massive scale towards this new economy.'"

You need 'meat on the bones of a plan'

A million new jobs is an excellent goal, Milne said, but there needs to be training provided, and compensation should measure up to the jobs people are losing.

Dobrusin agreed that green industries cannot be let "off the hook."

Just to have lots of plans ... doesn't work when you get your pink slip and you still have a mortgage and kids to feed.- Roy Milne

"They have to pay good salaries, they have to get a unionized workforce," he told Tremonti.

"It's a serious issue for a worker that has been there for 20 or 30 years, doing the job at that level of pay, and that now has to transition into something else."

Milne spoke to The Current from COP24, the UN's global climate change talks in Katowice, Poland. He's seen a lot of good intentions at the talks, he said, but "you have to have meat on the bones of a plan."

"Just to have lots of plans and say this will be all wonderful, doesn't work when you get your pink slip and you still have a mortgage and kids to feed."

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.


Written by Padraig Moran. Produced by Kristin Nelson and Julie Crysler. With thanks to Anne Penman, Suzanne Dufresne, Susan McKenzie, Mary-Catherine McIntosh, Kieran Oudshoorn and Ellen Payne Smith. 

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