SIPTU has called for a "Just Transition Fund" to provide financial support and redeployment options to workers in companies like Bord na Móna, who will be hit by Ireland's requirement to meet climate change targets and move to a low carbon economy.
Addressing the union's Transport, Energy Aviation and Construction conference, Divisional Organiser Greg Ennis said the transition away from fossil fuels may have "imminent and devastating" implications for hundreds of SIPTU members in Bord na Móna, as well as many other indirect jobs.
He called for a "Just Transition Fund" to provide financial and other assistance to workers negatively impacted by enforced structural changes in the labour market.
He said that given that 80% of global energy needs are provided by fossil fuels, the scope of the challenge ahead should not be underestimated.
He also urged Minister Richard Bruton to finalise the terms of the National Mitigation Plan.
In a wide-ranging address, Mr Ennis also called on the Government to bring housing construction back into the remit of local authorities - and to cut what it called the umbilical cord to developers, land hoarders, profiteers and vulture funds.
He argued that housing units could be built through local authorities for an average cost of €200,000 per unit - rather than allowing private developers to do so for €490,000 per unit.
He called on the state to put road and rail infrastructure into existing zoned land to facilitate construction and told delegates it was time to move away from what he called the "flawed and failing" market-led ideology.
Mr Ennis also criticised the failure of the state to address the issue of bogus self-employment in the construction sector, which he claimed was costing the state at least €60 million a year in reduced PRSI contributions.
He cited a report from late 2017 showing that 30% of all construction workers were employed in this way.
He queried the Government's commitment to stamping out bogus self-employment, arguing that the relevant division of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection known as Scope was under-resourced.
Mr Ennis accused the Minister for Transport Tourism and Sport of presiding over a "shambolic" approach to transport provision, which had led to predictable but preventable strike action in 2016 and 2017.
He said the state must be a provider, not a procurer of transport services, and rejected suggestions that future competitive tendering would automatically lead to better public services.
He urged the Minister to "solidify" good pensionable jobs in public transport.
He also criticised the Minister for failing to act on a 2016 National Transport Authority Rail Review which had recommended additional Irish Rail funding of €103 million per annum between 2017 and 2021.
On aviation, Mr Ennis said that SIPTU supports construction of a new €320 million runway at Dublin Airport, but sees no need for a third terminal now, or in the near future.
He told delegates that any future terminal must be state owned and state operated with a unionised workforce.
He also confirmed that SIPTU is in the process of organising ground handling staff in Ryanair.