In transition to EVs, auto sector needs to safeguard workers, environment: Panel
A panel of investors, labor officials and human rights activists have said that the auto industry companies need to take into account their communities and workers through higher pay as well as greater environmental protections amidst the transition to electric vehicles. Globally, the auto industry is shifting towards electric mobility in response to pressure from countries and regions such as China and Europe that want to reduce carbon emissions.
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Auto OEMs are also facing growing pressure from investors on environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) matters. They are not only are charging ahead on the EV rollout, but also working to ensure a supply of battery minerals. "Every business will be significantly affected by the transition to a net-zero economy," Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs said at a conference held by the Council of Institutional Investors, a group of public, corporate and union employee benefit funds.
He added that while companies have a responsibility towards their investors, they also have duties towards their communities and their workers to prepare for this transition. “We can't let them bury their heads in the sand and pretend they don't need to make any changes," he said.
Part of this push includes good-paying jobs as well as access to union representation in plants. Cindy Estrada, vice president of the United Auto Workers union, which represents most US hourly workers at General Motors, Ford Motor Co and Stellantis, said the key is protecting worker jobs and wages in the EV transition.
She cited the numerous EV battery plants coming online in the US, saying that the battery plant workers are expected to be paid about $17 an hour, compared with the $30-plus workers in current engine plants earn.
Earlier this month, Tesla CEO Elon Musk invited the UAW to hold a vote to represent workers at its California plant. UAW officials have not commented on the invitation, but Musk has been hostile to the union in the past.
(with inputs from Reuters)