Delegates at UNISON’s National Delegate Conference in Glasgow voted overwhelmingly yesterday to demand British and US troops are withdrawn from Iraq by the end of this year.
NEC Motion 112 called for British and US Governments to ‘Set out precise timetables for the early withdrawal of all troops, but certainly no later than the end of this year when the UN mandate expires’.
This was amended by St Mary’s, Paddington Health Branch to add that UNISON also ‘Insists that the withdrawal of all British troops must not be further delayed and must be fully completed without fail before the end of 2005.’
Amendment 112.1 and amended Motion 112 ‘Iraq – Reconstruction and Solidarity’ were both voted for overwhelmingly by conference.
This was after Lambeth UNISON withdrew its amendment calling for ‘Immediate withdrawal of British and US troops’.
Proposing Motion 112 on behalf of the NEC, UNISON Deputy General Secretary, Keith Sonnet, said: ‘We condemn the continuing occupation by British and American troops – Iraq and its assets must be returned fully to the Iraqi and Kurdish people.’
He continued: ‘Last year the resolution passed by this Conference called for immediate withdrawal, I was going to oppose that today if it hadn’t been withdrawn’.
Sonnet insisted: ‘Withdrawal had to be planned’.
He continued that when he and the UNISON delegation had changed the union’s position on this point at last year’s Labour Party Conference, it was because ‘We got very firm commitments at the Labour Party Conference which were fully in line with UNISON policy.’
These commitments had centred around UN Resolution 1546, he said, stressing that: ‘This deadline expires at the end of December this year’.
Francis Prideaux, of St Mary’s Paddington Health Branch, moved the successful Amendment 112.1 which insisted that withdrawal by December ‘Must be fully completed without fail’.
He said: ‘Twelve months ago this Conference called on the UK and US Governments to withdraw immediately. Then in September the entire TUC backed a timetable for withdrawal.
‘Various arguments were used unfortunately to get this motion changed at the Labour Party Conference – and the troops are still there. So now, a year later what is to be done?
‘Now is the time to step up our demands that the process of withdrawal is begun’.
Backing this Amendment Rahul Patel, of Westminster UNISON, said: ‘Only one per cent of Iraqis have benefited from the reconstruction that has taken place.
‘We need to set a timetable very clearly to show that we want troops to leave by the end of the year.’
He added: ‘We want the troops out, but I tell you what, we want Blair out – because we’re not going to get the troops out without getting Blair out as well.’
Susan Carey from Scottish UNISON, supporting withdrawal from Iraq, said: ‘I don’t want to see our troops in Iraq for one day longer than they need to be there. What this British Government has done should never be forgotten.
‘Let’s support a planned withdrawal of the troops, there can be no real democracy in the streets of Iraq while we have British troops there’.
Tony Phillips of London Fire Authority UNISON, referring to troops killed in Iraq, said: ‘Our loved ones deserve justice and our families the truth. The relatives of those killed in Iraq will never recover from the loss of their children’.
He added: ‘Earlier this year I was at a conference in Cairo in Egypt, one session was addressed by Doctor Salaam, the first doctor to arrive in Fallujah after the attack on it.
‘He witnessed the corpses of 400 women and children, many of them were lying face down having been shot in the back’.
The Standing Orders Committee of the Conference had announced earlier in the morning that if Motion 112 and Amendment 1 were both passed, all the six remaining resolutions on Iraq from other branches would immediately fall.