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Heated debates over Trident and Europe at TUC

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Last week’s TUC conference saw a number of key debates for the union movement. Simon Basketter reports from Brighton
Issue 2019


Conference voted against replacing Britain’s Trident nuclear weapons system, saying the money should be ploughed into public services instead.

This vote came despite the TUC general council calling for more consultation on the issue and warning that jobs could be lost if Trident is not replaced.

Chancellor Gordon Brown has signalled his support for a successor to Trident.

Bob Crow, the RMT rail workers’ union general secretary, led the charge against the weapons system with a motion which branded the idea of replacing Trident as “immoral” and a “scandalous waste of public funds”.

Crow likened the chancellor to comedian Tommy Cooper, saying Brown refused extra money for services and industries but “just like that” could find £25 billion for weapons.

It would be hypocritical to go ahead with replacing Trident when Britain was telling Iran and North Korea not to develop nuclear arms, he argued.

Crow ridiculed the argument on job cuts, saying, “What about when we used to hang people? We had chief executioners – we had to diversify and find new jobs for them.”

Alan Gibson from the National Union of Journalists said nuclear weapons were part of Britain being a “boot boy” of the US.

The GMB union abstained on the motion while Amicus and Prospect voted against. The RMT motion was passed, but so was a statement from the TUC general council calling for more consultation on the issue.

Victimised for walking out

Three Unison union activists were sent home from the conference after walking out in protest at Tony Blair’s speech.

It is shocking that activists were removed from a Unison TUC delegation for refusing to listen to a warmonger and a privateer goading public sector workers with ideological dogma.

There had been no delegation discussion on the issue and therefore no instruction not to take part in any protest. The three insist that if there had been a delegation decision they would have followed it.

It will be an appalling diversion from seriously pressing issues if Unison takes any further action against the three.

Instead of moving against respected activists, Unison should concentrate all its forces on supporting the NHS Logistics strikes, fighting for pensions justice and campaigning to get the troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan.


Delegates accused the TUC leadership of offering “coded” support for a “neo-liberal” Europe.

The conference voted to endorse a general council motion which included an attempt “to relaunch the campaign for a social Europe”. The statement criticised the drive of the European Commission to push through deregulation and privatisation.

A number of delegates and unions attempted to get the motion referred back and criticised the pro-European view of the top table.

Doug Nicholls branded the statement “inaccurate and misleading”, while Unison delegate Bob Oram warned against backdoor attempts “to breathe life into the pro-privatisation EU consititution”.


Conference voted unanimously for a motion which calls “on the British government to maintain all funding to the Palestinian Authority and calls for the restoration of all EU and other international aid to the Palestinian Authority”.

Keith Sonnet, the Unison union deputy general secretary, said, “There is no more important thing than to bring peace to the Palestinian people and support their right to self-determination.

“Israel has not carried out UN resolutions and it ignores international law by refusing to demolish its apartheid wall.

“We should be applying sanctions. We should boycott Israel.”

Conference passed an emergency motion in support of the striking firefighters in Merseyside.


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