About Trade Unions and CND

As part of CND’s campaigning, CND works with many trade union groups to achieve our shared goal of scrapping nuclear weapons. Trade unions are an important part of the fight against Trident replacement and supporting defence jobs diversification. It is no surprise that many trade unions are affiliated with CND. CND regularly attends trade union conferences and works closely with our natural allies to spread the nuclear disarmament message throughout civil society.

UNISON, PCS, RMT, FBU, TSSA, NUT, NUM, the Musicians’ Union and ASLEF are all nationally affiliated to CND. Unite North East, Yorkshire and Humberside regions are also affiliated, as well as regions and branches from across the trade unions, together with trades councils from around the country.

Many other unions have also supported CND’s call to scrap Trident.  Why not check out your own union’s policy? Why not affiliate in order to be actively involved in the discussion around nuclear weapons?

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Trade Unions, Covid-19 and defence jobs conversion

Whenever the idea of defence jobs conversion is advanced, we are told it would be far too complicated, would involve massive job losses and is just not viable. The idea is always kicked into the long grass. But as Sam Mason from PCS says, ‘Given the choice, I’m sure most workers would rather be doing healthy and socially productive jobs.’

With Covid 19 and PPE, we now have a stunning example of what can be achieved when the political will and overwhelming public interest come into play.

From April 2020, an Airbus factory in North Wales which normally manufactures aircraft wings, instead turned to producing thousands of government approved hospital ventilators for Covid-19 sufferers. What is not acknowledged is the huge part the 400 workers and trade union organisations have played. They are very well-organised, highly skilled and committed to making production as speedy and efficient as possible.

The Unite convenor cited in particular the role that the Health and Safety reps played, pre-empting the problems of turning the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (part of Airbus) into an adapted sterile environment for ventilator components – and solving them in advance.

“Without the union, it would have been chaos; lots of problems without any procedure to resolve them. We’ve built up a tried and tested organisation and established procedures for solving them….able to pre-empt problems and solve them in advance.” (Unite convenor, Airbus.)

CND works with many trade union groups to achieve our shared goal of scrapping nuclear weapons and the unions are an important part of the fight against nuclear weapons and Trident replacement, and in support of defence job diversification. We now know that with the political will and with workers and unions involved, diversification is both possible and desirable.

Engineers in the industry have ethical decisions to make about the uses their expertise is put to – see article by Prof. Roger Orpwood who spent his career as a design engineer in the aerospace industry as well as in medical engineering and academia. He was Director of the Bath Institute of Medical engineering.

Why we oppose nuclear power

The suggestion by nuclear power corporations and a number of trade unions that nuclear power is safe and an essential component of future energy supplies is false. This is not an ideological statement of “outdated prejudices and pickled dogmas” as suggested by Gary Smith, General Secretary of the GMB trade union in the UK – read full statement here. Current science and economics identify three big problems with nuclear power. Read more here.

Trade Union opposition to Trident

In 2017 the TUC passed a motion urging the Labour Party to set up a defence diversification agency as part of its national industrial strategy.  The motion referred to the 40th anniversary of the Lucas Plan when workers at Lucas Aerospace came up with plans for defence diversification.  Read the full text here.

This followed on from the 2013 motion when the TUC re-affirmed its opposition to Trident replacement, called for a policy ensuring that the skills of workers in the sector be preserved and noted: ‘Public finances can also be improved by addressing tax avoidance and scrapping the replacement of Trident. Money saved by ending our nuclear weapons system could be used to sustain the process of defence diversification, vital to our manufacturing future.’ [CWU motion ‘Economic Policy’]

The motion, which passed overwhelmingly, was supported by the TSSA, FBU, FDA, and Unite. ‘Such a policy would need to ensure that the jobs and skills of tens of thousands of workers in the sector were preserved.’  This corresponds with CND’s calls for Britain’s skilled workforce to manufacture for peace not war in the publication Jobs not Trident and of the Nuclear Education Trust’s Barrow Inquiry, followed by their 2018 report Defence Diversification .

‘Tagging on behind the coat tails of US imperialism is not a role we should continue with. We want to be a force for peace. Trident, and its replacement, only makes sense if you envisage our country’s future as enforcing some sort of order upon the world.’

Read the full text of Billy Hayes’ speech to the TUC here.

Why trade unionists oppose Trident

“As a Trade Unionist and a Socialist there is a moral position when it comes to Trident – I don’t want the UK to produce weapons which could kill tens of thousands of innocent people.”  – Tony Kearns, Senior Deputy General Secretary of the CWU.

Just one Trident warhead is eight times stronger than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan which killed over 200,000 people. Britain currently has approximately 220 of these bombs. Trident is the same system that was originally designed to “flatten Moscow”. Research shows that if it were ever used it could result in 5.4 million deaths. Its very existence is immoral and illegal.

For many working people, the main reason to oppose Trident, besides its lethal immorality, is its extreme cost.

The current bill for replacing Trident is at least £205 billion. Trident sucks billions out of the MOD budget (currently with a deficit of £21bn according to the public spending watchdog), as well as the wider economy, leading to widespread job cuts across the armed forces. At this time of cuts to jobs, housing, NHS and public services, £205 billion could be better spent elsewhere.

Across the country, unions are organising the fight back against austerity. Trident must not be ignored in this debate. To find out what you can do, click here.

Trident and Jobs

Many trade unions oppose the replacement of Trident on principle but have concerns about replacement jobs for workers employed by the nuclear weapons industry.

Trident and jobs: the employment implications of cancelling Trident replacement : This CND report looks at how the money saved by not replacing Trident could be used for a massive level of investment that would create many more jobs than the current or future nuclear weapons systems can provide.

Defence Diversification: international learning for Trident jobs : read this independent report by the Nuclear Education Trust which concludes that it would be possible to disarm the UK’s Trident nuclear weapons system without massive job losses, on the basis of evidence from defence diversification projects around the world.

CND and Trade Union support throughout the years

Since the establishment of the Campaign in 1958, trade unions have been at the forefront of spreading our message. As early as 1960 the Transport and General Workers’ Union took a stance in favour of disarmament and in 1961 won the position at the Labour Party Conference.

In the 1960s and 1980s, many trade union branches sent their banners on CND demonstrations, as well as sending donations and delegations to peace camps at bases such as Greenham Common and Molesworth.

We thank all our Trade Union affiliates for their support and hope that you will also join us in securing peace and safety for our world.

Contact Us

For more information on CND and Trade Unions, please contact:  tradeunions@cnduk.org or call 020 7700 2393.

If you would like to read more about CND and Trade Unions, use this order form for our free leaflets on disarmament, job diversification and trade unions.