Transition to a sustainable economy
Australian society needs to make major changes in response to climate change. To date the energy sector has provided the Australian economy with cheap energy, fuelled predominantly by locally-mined coal-fired electricity.
There is significant opportunity to initiate and drive action which helps the community respond to climate change, while creating access to wealth for those communities most at risk.
Australia can start to work our way out of the climate emergency while providing workers with secure and sustainable manufacturing jobs.
“The Earthworker Co-op will provide a tangible example of what is possible – green, sustainable jobs that see profits kept in local communities, while helping us to respond to climate change.” - Cam Walker, Campaigns Coordinator, Friends of the Earth
Meeting the challenge of climate change
To assist Australian communities to meet the challenge of climate change, the Earthworker Co-operative has been established to work our way out of climate emergency by establishing a network of worker-run sustainable manufacturing co-operative enterprises, initially producing solar hot water units primarily purchased through union enterprise agreements.
Establishing our first factory
Earthworker Co-operative wants to establish Australia’s first workers’ co-operative for sustainable manufacturing. Earthworker has a factory ready in Morwell, which we will call 'Eureka’s Future'; all we need now is the money for factory equipment and associated costs with the project. Eureka’s Future will be the first Earthworker Co-operative and will be the model for future Earthworker Co-operatives.
Australian union movement and community for Earthworker
“Earthworker is a practical, innovative and visionary attempt to begin the construction of a new economic system that respects the environment and workers at the same time. Our planet and our economic future depend on the success of such ventures.” - Colin Long, Division Secretary, NTEU Victorian Division
Earthworker has been endorsed by the peak body of trade unions in Australia, the Australian Council of Trade Unions. The leadership of the Earthworker is drawn primarily from the union movement with strong links to church groups and the broader community.
“Electricians understand the importance of the new green technologies and beginning the process of rolling them out. The question is ‘How does Australia achieve the new jobs in manufacturing, so that we are not only installers and maintainers in an economy which is already 80% service sector?’ Earthworker Co-operative provides an important part of the answer.” - Troy Gray, Assistant Secretary, Electrical Trades Union
“The Victorian CFMEU Mining and Energy District has worked hard to help Earthworker because we must all take steps to reverse and stop global warming. Co-operatives building environmentally useful products; what right minded person would not support that?” - Luke van der Meulen, President, Victorian District Branch, Mining & Energy Division, CFMEU
“One of the things we like about Earthworker Cooperative is it involves worker-ownership by communities, manufacturing renewables needed by our communities, where the goods create green energy for the common good.” - Len Cooper, State Secretary CEPU (Telecommunications)
A vision for sustainable manufacturing through small co-operatively run factories
The ideas behind the Earthworker project date back to an Earthworker initiative from the 1990s. It was through this initiative that unionist Dave Kerin met Bob Higginson, founder, innovator and former Chief Executive of Everlast (now deceased). Bob and Dave shared a vision for manufacturing solar hot water systems through small, cooperatively run factories. These ideas were later thoroughly explored with representatives of trade unions AMWU, ETU and CEPU (Plumbers); coordinated by the Moreland Energy Foundation Ltd.
In 2009 the Victorian CFMEU Mining and Energy Division decided to get behind the project as a means of creating new employment for people in Morwell in the Latrobe Valley. This significant development established a concrete basis for compiling a comprehensive business plan, as well as clarifying the location for the enterprise to be established. Earthworker became ready to co-operate.
Support for Earthworker
The Culture and Context Unit of the Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of Victoria and Tasmania decided to support Earthworker campaign by providing consultancy services in 2012. Also, EQubed, part of the Anglicare National Network, assisted with fundraising advice in that year as well for the Licence to Co-operate campaign.
Also in 2012 the Victorian branch of MUA union got behind Earthworker; in 2013 a membership levy from MUA members in Victoria provided much needed funds for the project.
“Our union supports the Earthworker Co-operative that will provide meaningful work that add’s to our common wealth, utilising sustainable energy. We encourage people to take the opportunity to support a Co-operative venture that does not sacrifice the future of humanity.” - Kevin Bracken, State Secretary Maritime Union of Australia (MUA)
"In our Jobs You Can Count On campaign we are very aware of the fact that our union and communities are demanding a sustainable and fair future from employers and governments. The great strength of the Earthworker strategy is that it enables us to act independently and build a sustainable and fair future on jobs and the environment." - Tim Kennedy, Victorian Branch Secretary National Union of Workers
“For the last two decades I have worked to highlight and resist the impacts of the nuclear industry in Australia. Australia is home to around a third of the world’s uranium resources and is heavily enmeshed in the global nuclear trade. Uranium mining means leaking tailings dams and permanent pollution at home and fuels nuclear risks and Fukushima’s overseas. The major political parties are in a race to the bottom and see Australia’s future as a quarry and a dump. But it doesn’t have to be this way: our country is rich, smart and blessed with renewable energy options. We could and should be a world leader in renewable energy technology - energy that doesn’t cost the Earth and instead might literally save it. We don’t need to leave a perpetual legacy of radioactive waste in order to enjoy cold beers and hot showers and that’s why Earthworker Cooperative is so positive and powerful. This initiative puts the real interests of people and the planet ahead of profit for a few. The revolution might not be televised but it will be well and warmly watered." - Dave Sweeney, Nuclear Free Campaigner - Australian Conservation Foundation