The TUC Congress debate over whether to restate its policy of supporting the expansion of nuclear power and hydrogen as the default means of heating buildings (Composite Nine) highlighted the nuances of inter trade union relationships. Essentially, the unions with members in the nuclear industry (Unite and GMB) were in favour of it and focussed on potential job losses that would be caused by the shrinking of the nuclear sector, while the unions without members in this industry were against it and advocated focussing on solar and wind power. The reasons given for voting against the motion were convincing, as UCU and PCS pointed out the length of time taken to build new nuclear power plants (12-14 years) and the difficulties in storing nuclear waste; however, there was no clear answer as to what would happen to the jobs of workers in the industry. Unite and GMB won the day (as two of the three largest unions they would be expected to win in a block vote), but the debate was interesting. There were speeches against the motion from PCS and UCU, and speeches in favour from GMB and Unite. UNISON, RMT, and TSSA all signified their opposition to the motion, but wisely decided not to bother speaking against it. Condemning one union as outdated or backwards because it has concerns about its members in the energy sector is not helpful. Any transition to a greener economy must create good jobs, without trade union input this will not happen. However, to have this input, organised labour must be unified, and while the debate on the expansion of nuclear power showed the natural friction that exists between different bodies of labour, it also showed there is scope for discussion and progress.
Left Foot Forward 19th Sept 2021 read more »