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TU Group Statement on boycott of Russian oil tanker in Orkney

Trade Union Group statement on boycott of Russian oil tanker in Orkney. The photo (above) depicts the scene of the Trade Union House in Odessa, where trade unionists were burnt alive by neo-Nazi’s in 2014, Ukraine, photo courtesy YouTube user 9plus0

The WPB Trade Union Group has noted with concern a report in the Daily Record newspaper on 27th February, where Unite the Union Scottish Secretary, Pat Rafferty, said that:

“Unite should support our members should they choose to boycott these ships in an act of solidarity with the people of Ukraine. We call on the Scottish and Westminster governments to act now in enforcing sanctions that will ensure that this situation does not arise again.”

The Trade Union Group further notes a tweet posted by Unite’s General Secretary, Sharon Graham, on 6th March which stated that:

“I am very proud of [Unite the Union’s] members taking a principled stand to prevent Russian oil coming to our ports. But it is appalling that they have been put in this position by the [Government], which is still dragging its feet on sanctions.”

The WPB Trade Union Group believes that, while it is to be expected that a General Secretary of a trade union would publicly support the actions of its members, if British workers feel motivated to protest and show solidarity with oppressed people, their focus should be on non-cooperation with war crimes committed by our own government, not least the ongoing supply of arms used in the disgraceful war on Yemen which a British Court ruled illegal in 2019.

In 2003, fifteen ASLEF members courageously refused to move arms from Glasgow factories to Glen Douglas (an expansive Nato arms dump). In carrying out this action, ASLEF members prevented the use of arms intended to kill Iraqis in what is now universally understood to have been an illegal and unjust predatory war.

The situation in the Ukraine is of a different character. The Russian action in Ukraine comes after the US-backed overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically-elected government in 2014, and its subsequent replacement with a government influenced from within and without by the most reactionary, fascistic and nationalistic elements in the country. The actions of western imperialism has created a situation whereby Russia’s actions, whilst regrettable, became almost inevitable.

The WPB Trade Union Group believes that Mr Rafferty’s statement demanding sanctions against Russia, and Ms Graham’s tweet intimating the same, will cause untold hardship on the Russian working class and could lead to an energy crisis, which will wreak havoc across Europe, causing real harm to the working class across the continent and in Britain where a cost of living crisis is already beginning to bite.

The WPB Trade Union Group calls on Unite the Union to reflect on recent statements made in its name on the crisis in Ukraine and to not commit or offer support to actions which could actually harm the best interests of its own members.

WPB TU Group

6th March 2022

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