The current attitude of the UK's trade union movement to the arms trade is mixed. Many individual trade unionists are opposed to the arms trade, and some union branches have policy against all or aspects of it. However, some trade unions have members in the arms industry and are therefore supportive of it. Unions like Amicus and the TGWU actually spend time arguing for the government to prop up the arms industry and support new arms export deals.
Arms trade employment is actually much lower than is popularly supposed, especially that which is dependent on exports, but in any case CAAT doesn't want to see anyone out of work. That's why we argue that an end to arms exports must be accompanied by government intervention to ensure that new employment is available in comprable industries (more details in the issues section of our website). This could include renewable energy or transport where skilled engineers are required.
In addition, arms exports are antithetical to the long and proud history of internationalism in the trade union movement. It is often trade unionists in other countries who are on the receiving end of state repression meted out using arms from countries like the UK.
If you are a trade unionist, there are lots of ways you can get involved in our campaigns:
It was AUT members at SOAS who pressured the college into selling its shares in arms companies with figures from our 2005 Clean Investment campaign. Unison branches have also been putting pressure on local councils to disinvest. Unison nationally have also produced a guide to ethical investment and international trade (called 'Free for All?') which includes a section on the arms trade.
Affiliate to CAAT
CAAT depends on our supporters for most of our funding. By affiliating your union branch, you can help us to continue our vital work and raise issues surrounding the arms trade in the trade union movement. Pass this model motion in your branch. You could also take a similar motion to your trades council or national union.
Your union and the arms trade
Unions like Amicus, the TGWU and Prospect which have members in the arms industry also have members in many other industries, some of whom want to see an end to arms exports. If you are one of these people, get in touch. Amicus, USDAW and the TUC pension scheme are among those who still have investments in arms companies. There is a powerful argument for the trade union movement to oppose the arms trade, but for that argument to gain support it needs ordinary trade union members to put it.
For more information on what you can do, contact Ann Feltham: email parliamentary(at)caat·org·uk or phone 020 7281 0297.