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Unite Trident policy

ES2 Executive Council Statement: Peace and Disarmament

Covering Motion 55 plus 2 amendments

This is the statement carried by Conference in 2010 that Conference was invited to reaffirm in 2012.


The trade union movement has always been in the forefront of the struggle for peace and international disarmament.  Unite is proud to stand in that tradition. Our vision is of a world where wealth and labour are devoted to exclusively peaceful purposes, and where war is superseded by the control of disputes through international law and the United Nations.

This progressive outlook is more relevant than ever when Britain faces an acute budget crisis and public spending cuts are high on the political agenda of the new Tory-Liberal coalition government.  The moral and internationalist case for peace and disarmament is reinforced by economic necessities.  It cannot be right to spend large sums on weapons of mass destruction when essential services are facing cuts.

This makes the question of diversifying British manufacturing industry away from its over-reliance on defence spending urgent.  We recognise that many thousands of Unite members rely on the civil and naval nuclear programmes for their jobs and for retention and development of skill across many sectors. These include shipbuilding, aerospace, transport, mechanical and electrical design, project management and IT, as well as many more in the supporting supply chains. Furthermore the successful renaissance of the civil nuclear industry depends heavily on the retention and development of the skills of these Unite members.

We will therefore press the new government to ensure that Britain’s legitimate defence equipment needs are met from domestic producers and that proper forward planning of the defence budget is used to protect jobs and to promote the smooth transition of manufacturing to non-military production wherever possible. 

The question of Britain’s nuclear weapons system is not about employment alone, however.  It is first of all a moral issue, and then a strategic one concerning Britain’s place in the world and the international environment we wish to see.  Such weapons would, if used, constitute a mortal threat to humanity’s survival; they are massively expensive; senior military figures have described them as ‘militarily useless’ and said that they should be scrapped; and our possession of them encourages other countries to seek a similar arsenal while undermining the efforts being made by President Obama to advance the cause of international nuclear disarmament.

As a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Britain should therefore give a lead in discharging its obligations by not seeking a replacement for Trident and abandoning plans to spend an estimated £76 billion on a new generation of nuclear weapons.  We need a policy that would see the jobs and skills of Unite members preserved, and until we receive firm commitments to this end we will continue to support our members and their employment. 

Money saved by ending our nuclear weapons system could be used to sustain the process of defence diversification, vital to our manufacturing future, as well as freeing resources for investment in other socially-useful forms of public spending.