TUC Deputy General Secretary Paul Nowak’s attendance at the Nuclear Education Trust’s recent launch of a report on defence diversification is highlighted in the General Council’s report to the 2018 Congress which takes place in Manchester, 9-12 September.
The report says:
‘In line with resolution 17, which called on the TUC to lobby the Labour Party to establish a shadow defence diversification agency, the TUC has met regularly with unions with an industrial interest in the sector, and with the Labour Party.
‘We have made the case for the development of a long-term strategy for defence jobs that can respond to future changes in government policy, within the context of a broad industrial strategy aimed at delivering good-quality jobs across the UK.
‘Paul Nowak, deputy general secretary of the TUC, spoke at the launch of a report on defence diversification by the Nuclear Education Trust to stress the importance of engaging workers in the defence industry in discussions about the future of the sector.
‘The TUC also welcomed the commitment by the Labour Party to build the next generation of Royal Navy ships in the UK, in order to ensure that UK government defence spending supports jobs and skills within the UK.’
The defence industry is increasingly automated, and skilled employment is in long-term decline. No surprise then to learn trade union attitudes to defence diversification are finally shifting.
In his 2015 leadership campaign Jeremy Corbyn ‘set out a clear commitment to establishing a Defence Diversification Agency’ (DDA) so that ‘engineering and scientific skills are transferred into more socially productive industries’ should a decision be taken to decommission the Trident nuclear weapons system.
Two years later, at its 2017 Congress, the TUC backed a DDA. Motion 17 recalled the ground-breaking plan for socially useful work pioneered by the Lucas Aerospace workers in 1976, and agreed 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’.
In July 2018, Unite took a step forward when the 2018 policy conference backed Executive Statement 1 which welcomed the ‘renewed focus Jeremy Corbyn has placed on defence diversification, in the context of the priority he rightly places on world disarmament’. Whilst reiterating the union’s first priority remains the protection of members jobs, the statement calls for ‘a serious government approach to defence diversification’ and ‘urges the Labour Party to give the highest priority to this on taking office’.
Labour CND welcomes the decision of the TUC Congress 2017 to lobby the Labour Party to set up a Shadow Defence Diversification Agency before the next general election, and work to develop a national industrial strategy which includes the possibility of arms conversion.
Motion 17, Defence, jobs and diversification, from the Artists Union England, recalled the ground-breaking plan for alternative, socially useful work pioneered by the Lucas Aerospace workers in 1976. It highlighted ‘a convergence of crises – militarism and nuclear weapons, climate chaos, and the destruction of jobs by automation’, and acknowledged that defence workers ‘are rightly concerned about the potential loss of jobs, for example if Trident replacement is cancelled’.
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