?We will never support such proposals and we will fight to defend the decent jobs our members and their communities depend on says GMB at the TUC Congress
GMB, the defence workers' union, is calling on the TUC Congress meeting in Brighton this week to oppose an anti-Trident disarmament motion and to support the role of defence workers' jobs in defending our nation.
Motion P17 [see Notes to Editors], to be debated on Tuesday afternoon after Jeremy Corbyn has addressed Congress, calls for the TUC, and unions like GMB with thousands of members employed in the defence sector, to campaign for a Shadow Defence Diversification Agency whose key aim would be to ask trade unionists to come up with ideas for replacing their jobs with something else.
The defence industry directly employs 142,000 workers and 4,300 apprentices, with a further 111,000 people indirectly employed.
Average pay in the UK defence sector is £39,000, some 44% above the national average.
Parliament voted to renew Trident 14 months ago by 472 votes to 117.
Labour’s manifesto at the general election stated "Labour supports the renewal of the Trident nuclear deterrent".
Justin Bowden, GMB National Secretary, said:
"Aside from the crassness of this proposition, the logical conclusion of such an agency would be to actually fuel the decline in defence manufacturing jobs the motion purports to prevent - akin to asking defence workers to become the proverbial turkeys voting for Christmas.
"GMB members in defence would not thank us for the approach this motion suggests, and would vote with their feet.
"The motion undermines Trident and the conventional defence industry through the back door.
"Over a quarter of a million people work in UK defence jobs, plus thousands of high quality apprenticeships.
"Exactly the sort of decent, well-paid, highly skilled jobs vital to communities all round Britain.
"Parliament voted to renew Trident 14 months ago by 472 votes to 117.
"Labour’s popular manifesto at the general election was explicit: ‘Labour supports the renewal of the Trident nuclear deterrent’, and the Party kept hold of seats on the back of that commitment.
"The motion fails to address the issues of appropriate defence strategies that can protect the security and safety of a nation of more than 65 million people in a very uncertain world.
"It is silent on the fact that we are an island nation, nowhere near being self sufficient in either food or energy.
"The security of the UK, and the well-being of its citizens, requires a strong navy and air force, both armed with the latest weapons, to keep the sea lanes open and to deter threats to our security.
"GMB members in the shipbuilding industry and the defence sector are as vital to our security as the RAF's pilots and the Navy's sailors.
"The proposals for unilateral disarmament implicit in the motion, and for adopting postures of neutrality, should be rejected by the TUC because they undermine the security and well-being of our fellow citizens, as well as undermining the job and communities of our members.
"GMB will never support such proposals and we will fight to defend the decent jobs our members and their communities depend on.
"GMB knows our members take pride in their work and their skills, we know they are proud of the contribution they make to their industries, their economy and yes - the defence of their country."
Contact: Justin Bowden on 07710 631351 or GMB Press Office on 07958 156846 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to editors
TUC Congress Motion P17
Defence, jobs and diversification
Congress welcomes the ‘Lucas Plan’ 40th Anniversary Conference held in Birmingham in November 2016 and agrees that the Plan was an idea from which we can learn much today.The Plan was a pioneering effort by workers at arms company Lucas Aerospace to retain jobs by proposing alternative, socially useful applications of the company’s technology and their own skills. Forty years afterwards, we are facing a convergence of crises – militarism and nuclear weapons, climate chaos, and the destruction of jobs by automation – which mean that we have to start thinking about technology as political, as the Lucas Aerospace workers did. However, in the four decades since the Plan was drawn up Britain’s manufacturing industry has shrunk from 25 per cent to 14 per cent of GDP, with the ‘defence’ industry now representing 10 per cent of all manufacturing. Britain cannot afford to lose any more manufacturing skills and capacity, and ‘defence’ workers are rightly concerned about the potential loss of jobs, for example if Trident replacement is cancelled.In line with the outcomes of the Lucas Plan Conference, Congress therefore calls on trade unions and the TUC to lobby the Labour Party to establish before the next general election a ‘shadow’ Defence Diversification Agency, to work closely with the Shadow Department for Industry in developing an overall national industrial strategy including the possibility of conversion of ‘defence’ capacity. The first task of this Agency would be to engage with plant representatives, trades unions representing workers in the ‘defence’ industry, and local authorities, to discuss their needs and capacities, and to listen to their ideas, so that practical plans can be drawn up for arms conversion while protecting skilled employment and pay levels. A key means for developing the national industrial strategy would be the National Investment Bank proposed by the Shadow Chancellor. Congress also urges trades union councils, trade unions and the General Council of the TUC to assist ?work of such a ‘shadow’ Agency if set up?.