Unite, Britain’s biggest union for defence workers, said today (Monday 11 July) that defending and securing the jobs of tens of thousands jobs of defence workers involved in the successor submarine programme was its priority.
However, the union castigated successive governments for their failure to develop a robust defence diversification strategy that would safeguard defence jobs.
Ahead of next week’s vote in parliament on the renewal of the Trident weapons system, delegates at the union’s policy conference in Brighton overwhelmingly backed an executive council statement which stated that while opposed in principle to the possession of nuclear weapons, the union could not accept the obliteration of thousands of its members’ jobs saying:
“Unite does not and never will advocate or support any course of public policy which will put at risk jobs or communities.
“Defence diversification is not going to be taken seriously by this government and we cannot ask our members in the affected industries to buy a pig in the poke. The possibility of new jobs of similar quality tomorrow will not support workers and their families and communities today.”
The statement went on to say: “Until there is a government in office ready, willing and able to give cast-iron guarantees on the security of the skilled work and all employment involved, our priority must be to defend and secure our members’ employment.
“Unite commits to campaigning to secure a serious government approach to defence diversification, enabling Britain to play its part in nuclear disarmament and urges the Labour Party to give the highest priority to this aspect in it considerations.”
Moving the executive statement at Unite policy conference the union’s general secretary Len McCluskey said: “We can and do, in this statement, reassert our broad principles regarding opposition to nuclear weapons and our strong support for defence diversification.
“But we know that we do not have a government in place that has any interest in giving effect to either of those principles. Here in 2016, a vote against building those submarines would have only one immediate effect. The destruction of jobs, workplaces and communities of thousands of skilled Unite members, represented in this room today.
“The statement also underlines our ‘Defend our Spend’ campaign, to ensure that the UK’s defence budget is spent on procurement here in Britain and Ireland, sustaining the jobs of our members, rather than exporting them to the USA or elsewhere.”
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Notes to editors
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.