Unite delegate Mahf Khan yesterday (September 12) made the case for defence diversification, on behalf of defence, aerospace and shipbuilding workers at Rolls Royce in Derby.
Speaking in support of motion 17 on the penultimate day of TUC Congress, he said the idea of defence diversification is not a new one to Unite or its predecessor unions.
“Last year, Unite published the most comprehensive report including our long history of members advancing ideas for new work and spin off technologies – including the Lucas Aerospace Plan and ‘Oceans of Work’, the Barrow Shipyard’s version,” he explained.
He warned Congress that the track record of success in defence diversification in the UK is poor.
“Serious consideration must be given to a system with teeth and money if it is to be a reality,” he said.
“Much has changed in the global defence industry since the Lucas Plan 40 years ago,” Khan added. “But this should not stop us using it as inspiration.
“However, this needs to be tempered with a realisation of the current situation and an understanding of the experience of the past.”
Khan noted that there must be industrial and political will in any defence diversification strategy or else “such plans will fail and risks leaving UK manufacturing fatally wounded.”
He highlighted how Unite, in its report has supported the creating of a separate Defence Diversification Agency but he added that it “will not work in isolation.
“It has to be accompanied by detailed plans outlining legislation, funding and investment, in order for it to be credible for all key stakeholders including existing defence workers in the UK,” Khan pointed out.
He made clear that Unite’s position on defending and supporting defence workers and on the Successor programme has not changed.
“But we will engage positively in the debate about a Defence Diversification Agency,” Khan said. “This must be on the basis of like for like replacement jobs for existing and future workers in the industry.”
Khan made clear to Congress that Unite “will fight – without reservation – to defend every single job of our members in the defence industry.”
Despite what he described as “some deficiencies in the motion” he said it was broadly in line with Unite’s defence diversification strategy and urged Congress to support the motion.
The motion passed.
Find out more about Unite’s policy on defence here.