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THE TUC voted overwhelmingly today to support a composite motion backing the provision of “moral and material aid,” including weapons, to Ukraine.
Moving the motion, GMB president Barbara Plant said Ukraine was fighting for its survival in the face of a brutal Russian onslaught.
“Putin intends to extinguish democracy and fundamental labour rights,” she said, arguing that the denial to Ukraine of the means of self-defence would be like the arms embargo that crippled the Spanish republic in the 1930s.
TUC general secretary Paul Nowak said the general council backed the motion with an explanation, in which he insisted the motion’s call for the “the immediate withdrawal of Russian forces from all Ukrainian territories occupied since 2014” (thus including Crimea) should not be considered a precondition for peace talks.
Seconding the motion, Aslef assistant general secretary Simon Weller condemned the “neoliberal British government [for] advising the neoliberal government in Ukraine on labour ‘reform’,” but said Ukrainian unions were not subject to bans, while Russia’s recent declaration that the International Transport Federation was an “undesirable organisation” would put the rights of many workers, particularly seafarers, at risk.
The only speaker in debate to oppose the motion, Jamie Newell of the Fire Brigades Union, condemned the way debate on Ukraine has been shut down in Britain.
Firefighters have provided practical aid to Ukraine, but “we do not think the escalation of war is in the interests of the Russian or Ukrainian working class,” he said.
Imperialist interests “exist on both sides of this conflict,” Mr Newell stressed, pointing to the succession of aggressive wars by Western powers over the past two decades and the role of Nato in the region.
A Congress which had debated the rise of the far right across Europe should not be blind to the role of far-right units on both sides of the Ukraine war either, he argued, while a TUC general council that opened Congress with a commitment to world peace should not back a motion supporting the expansion of British military exports.
Some speakers backing the motion criticised aspects of it, with Mark Serwotka of PCS and Gail Cartmail of Unite rejecting the comparison to the Spanish civil war.
Only the FBU opposed the motion, though some other unions, including the NEU and RMT, abstained.
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