Delegates took part in a heated debate on the Trident nuclear weapons system on Wednesday afternoon. Delegates called on the government to scrap its plans to replace Trident.
Conference backed an executive statement reading, “As a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Britain should give a lead by not seeking a replacement for Trident and abandoning plans to spend an estimated
£76 billion on a new generation of nuclear weapons.”
Some delegates wanted conference to go further than this and demand the scrapping of Trident altogether. The main argument against this came from concern for jobs.
Norma Dudley opposed the executive statement saying, “I do fear it’s a fudge. There’s a real risk that this union will not campaign in practice against Trident replacement.
“As a health worker I can’t see any justification for nuclear weapons.
“When these weapons exist there is a very real risk that they can be used. The stakes are so high that we can’t put stopping Trident contingent on replacement jobs.”
Mike Hedges, another delegate, said, “This union has a proud history of standing up for peace and nuclear disarmament. While the executive statement says British should not replace Trident, it is not an anti-Trident statement.
“Let no one suggest that support for jobs and the scrapping of Trident are alternatives. Let’s fight for a just and sustainable future.”
Ian Bestwick, a Rolls Royce worker, spoke in favour of the executive statement.
“If I was talking about tens of thousands of our members’ jobs being lost there would be uproar,” he said. “But if you put the word ‘nuclear’ in the middle of it, it becomes ok.
“I say as trade unionists we should always put our members’ jobs first. Please do not approve any polices that threaten to take them away.”
Diana Beal, another delegate, spoke against scrapping Trident. “I live in Plymouth,” she said. “My parents were dockyard workers. We have a submarine refit complex and Trident there.
“I don’t campaign for Trident going now. I campaign for it to be phased out, because otherwise my friends and my family will be out of a job.”
Other delegates challenged the idea that scrapping Trident would have to mean job losses.
“We need to nail the myth that nuclear disarmament will be bad for British industry,” said Chris Bond. “Spending on Trident is diverting money away from constructive investment.
“Nuclear weapons do not represent the future.”
Joe Davis asked, “Are we asked to smoke 40 cigarettes a day to support the tobacco industry?
“Should we have supported hanging because of workers in the fibre and rope industry and woodworking industries? No.”
A significant minority of conference supported a harder position on Trident, but a majority voted for the executive statement. Delegates agreed to remit a composite calling for the abolition of Trident along with a motion calling on Unite to support the replacement of Trident.