'No jobs on a dead planet', warns world's top union leader

The head of the international trade union movement has warned Australian unionists against putting coal jobs ahead of environmental concerns, as the CFMMEU pushes Adani for a commitment to long-term jobs at its controversial Queensland mine.

"There are no jobs on a dead planet," the International Trade Union Confederation's general secretary, Sharan Burrow, told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

Sharan Burrow says political leaders need to give working people confidence in a 'just transition' away from coal.

Sharan Burrow says political leaders need to give working people confidence in a 'just transition' away from coal. CREDIT:WAYNE TAYLOR

"Our motto is you can't deny that climate change is real - I'm shocked to see that some of our people in Australian parliament still do," she said.

"For an educated country, if you don't read the science - then, goodness gracious, really."

Ms Burrow, a former secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions who received the Companion of the Order of Australia in last week's Queen's Birthday honours, said while workers in fossil fuel industries "have brought us prosperity" and "deserve respect", Australian unions should join the international movement in making climate change a priority as the globe was at a critical turning point.

"We will work to see no one is left behind," Ms Burrow said.

"That's why we fought and won the idea of 'just transition' in the Paris Agreement and now we're working to see agreements with governments, with employers, to make sure that workers and their families are supported but also so that their community have hope for the future."

Ms Burrow's comments come as Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU) national president Tony Maher prepares to meet Adani Australia chief executive Lucas Dow in Queensland this week to discuss the company's long-term hiring plans.

Mr Maher wrote to the Indian conglomerate last month, before the Queensland government gave its Carmichael mine final environmental approvals, seeking "urgent clarification" about the number of permanent, ongoing jobs it would provide.

While thousands of indirect jobs would be created during the mine's construction, the number of ongoing positions could be as low as 800.

Mr Dow has previously said the Carmichael site would be set up "with a conventional industrial relations approach" and its workers would have stability via permanent jobs with Adani or its contracting partners.

A split emerged in the CFMMEU in the lead-up to last month's federal election after its Queensland mining division demanded all Labor candidates sign a pledge in favour of coal mining jobs, while the wider union movement pushed for climate action and a "just transition" away from coal.

Ms Burrow said she had always had the view that workers would "see the sense" about the environmental imperative to phase out coal, but acknowledged the concerns of those living in areas of unemployment.

"I understand the fear and despair of people who can't see a future because there are no agreements, there are no promises they can touch and trust because they've been part of a dialogue in developing them," she said. "But it is about their future ... We have to build sustainable futures."

Asked if Labor's electoral defeat showed that voters did not support the party's climate change agenda, Ms Burrow pointed to the use of advertising in the campaign to make people more fearful.

Working people needed to see "the kind of policy frameworks that they feel they can trust", she said.