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Tolpuddle Festival Report – Trident and Jobs

At the Tolpuddle Festival CND asked Trade Unionists what they would do with £100 billion if they were in Government. Would they spend the money revitalising the NHS, building tens of thousands of new homes, caring for the elderly and funding playgroups schools and universities?

Or would they spend it on a nuclear weapons system with the power to kill 320 million people and render large parts of the planet uninhabitable?

The economic crisis has brought into sharp relief the fact that we are spending billions on nuclear weapons that we can never justifiably use. However for a small number of people Trident provides their livelihoods.

CND’s Tolpuddle Talking in Tents event was an open discussion that aimed to find the common ground between those who want to scrap Trident and those whose jobs depend on nuclear weapons. CND General Secretary Kate Hudson was joined by the Senior Deputy General Secretary of the CWU Tony Kearns and Plymouth activist and CND Council member Tony Staunton. The meeting was chaired by CND’s Trade Union Officer Tansy Hoskins.

Tony Staunton outlined the impact of the Trident nuclear weapons system on the local community at Plymouth. Explaining that he was emphatically not campaigning to close the dockyard, he highlighted the fact that huge job cuts had taken place at the dockyard in recent years despite Trident: “I’m not against the dockyard in Plymouth but jobs in the nuclear industry prevent other jobs coming through. To scrap Trident doesn’t mean a move to mass unemployment, it means a transition to other jobs.”

He also highlighted the huge job cuts that Plymouth now faces in local service providers like the hospital and local council and questioned whether these could have been prevented if money wasn’t being spent on nuclear weapons.

Trident is so expensive that every job it provides costs millions of pounds, explained Kate Hudson. Trident is actively stripping money and resources away from the rest of the economy: Trident is an abuse of public money; it’s not in our security interest, it’s not in our economic interest, and it’s not in our trade interest.”

Kate Hudson went on to define exactly how many jobs depend on Trident 4,700 at the Barrow Shipyard and 4,350 at Aldermaston. There are also 589 people working at Faslane many of whom are MoD police and could simply be redeployed. In addition 1,200 jobs exist at the Rolls Royce plant in Derby where the propulsion units for the Trident submarines are built.

The UK defence budget is facing deep cuts over the next ten years, if Trident is replaced, thousands of jobs will be lost in conventional defence manufacturing and the armed forces. She stated. Trident is simply not in Britain’s economic interests especially at a time of massive Government spending cuts.

Tony Kearns praised the PCS for affiliating to CND despite having some members working in the nuclear industry. He said this showed that the PCS recognised that nuclear disarmament needed the commitment of the entire Trade Union movement.

He called for the creation of a million climate jobs to provide for the ten thousand jobs that rely on Trident and to re-orientate the UK’s economy towards developing renewable and environmentally friendly sources of energy.

During the question and answer section of the event a Trade Unionist from the Rolls Royce plant in Derby expressed concern that cutting Trident would mean big job losses.

This, Tony Kearns said, was why the TUC had called for a million climate jobs to bring about a Just Transition to a low carbon green economy.  He outlined the importance of taking the skills of people employed in industries which are declining or being phased out and re-training them to work in clean, socially useful production in the same locality. “The skills set of workers in Trident could be harnessed to work in renewable energy production or engineering, public transport and energy networks.”

In summing up, Tony Kearns questioned whether socialists and Trade Unionists should ever support the creation of nuclear weapons. “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.