TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber yesterday opposed a boycott of Israel and did not answer a question about why there were no motions to the TUC Congress this year calling for the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq.
At pre-TUC Congress press briefings in Brighton, News Line asked the trade union leaders why there were no resolutions on Palestine and Iraq on the TUC Agenda this year and whether or not they supported a boycott of Israel and the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq.
Barber said: ‘The unions’ interest on these issues remains strong.
‘We’ve made strong representations to the Iraqi authorities to recognise trade unions.
‘The TUC have not been asked to support a boycott of Israel.
‘We’ve long had a good association with the (Israeli) Histradut (trade union) and with the General Federation of Palestinian Trade Unions.
‘The TUC emphasis is to make links with ordinary people.
‘I don’t think it helps these efforts by hurting the Israeli economy.’
PCS civil servants’ union general secretary, Mark Serwotka, said: ‘We have two motions at the TUC.
‘We felt we had to prioritise resistance to jobs, cuts in services and pay cuts.
‘We expect there will be an intervention on the TUC Report on Colombia, Venezuela and Other Issues.
‘There is no dilution of international issues.’
UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis replied to the absence of motions: ‘We do stand up for Palestine and Iraq.
‘We are very much involved in the anti-war movement, but when we come to the TUC we have only had two motions and what is of concern to our members is housing and public services.
‘It doesn’t mean to say we don’t support the issues of Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan.
‘We believe both Israel and Palestine should exist within safe boundaries.’
TGWU leader Tony Woodley said: ‘We have a limited number of resolutions.
‘While world peace is one of the most important issues, we have to put forward our members’ priorities.’
Amicus leader Derek Simpson added: ‘On Iraq, we like the bulk of people think it should never have happened and the sooner it ends, the better.’
RMT General Secretary Bob Crow was asked why there were no motions on Iraq and Palestine and said: ‘I can’t help that, unions decide what their priorities are. Ask the NUJ what their resolutions are.’