Trident is bad for jobs

IssueApril 2011
News by Kate Hudson

CND has never and will never advocate military spending.

What we have done is explain the impact that replacing the Trident nuclear weapons system will have on jobs in the defence sector.

Why have we done this? To explode the myth that Trident is good for jobs. As the controversial briefing Trident, jobs and the UK economy was aimed at a trade union audience, which is understandably most concerned about the jobs issue, we thought it was right to spell out in full detail exactly what the implications of Trident are for that particular industrial sector. If people feel they may face redundancy then they are not going to be satisfied with sweeping statements – no matter how principled and morally correct they may be. They want hard facts and that is what we gave them.

Talking about the jobs cost of Trident does not imply that we support military spending of any sort. In fact the recommendation of the report was that government should ensure alternative employment in the communities most affected and specifically Barrow – particularly the development and production of marine and sub-sea energy.

Such government-funded programmes are already the norm in the US – under the “base realignment and closure” programme and the report also recommends a similar approach at AWE Aldermaston.

Just Transition

This would also be in line with the TUC’s 2009 support for “Just Transition” towards a fuel-efficient, green economy. At its congress in 2009, the TUC’s main economic resolution stressed three things: the need to rebalance the economy away from an unsustainable reliance on financial services; the need for a radical enhancement of an activist industrial policy to provide investment in new manufacturing jobs and sustain the research and development required to create such employment; and the importance of developing the technologies required for the green economy, for minimising carbon emissions and for alternative sources of energy. The “activist” approach is particularly important if Britain is to redevelop its industrial economy in a viable and sustainable fashion.

What is absolutely clear is that the very high-level scientific, design and technical skills held within the workforce at Barrow, and also the scientific skills at AWE, are precisely those required for at least some of the technologies needed for a transition to a green economy.

This is particularly so for marine energy technologies. This is an area identified by the International Energy Agency as one in which Britain has much developmental work to do, but also one in which it has great potential and the opportunity to secure niche markets. Britain already has more businesses developing tidal stream and wave power technologies than any other country. But the technology, unlike wind and solar energy, is not yet fully mature – in fact it is ten years behind these other energies. The smaller-scale wave and tidal stream arrays being established in the Pentland Firth and off the coast of Orkney will be followed by much larger arrays of second- and third-generation systems from 2015 and truly large-scale deployment in the period from 2020.

That is when the boom in construction, installation and maintenance will occur and the boost to upstream supply industries.

The shipyards at Barrow are ideally placed to be adapted to build equipment to harness wind and marine power. The skills that are needed for complex submarine and shipbuilding, such as steel working and engineering and marine design expertise are similar to those required for marine energy developments.

The basic message of the report is that if we invest the money saved by cancelling Trident, we could make Britain a world leader in wave and tidal power technology and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs in Britain, more than compensating for the jobs lost by cancelling Trident. But the report also makes a very clear point: that the issue of jobs in this sector, which affects the lives of thousands of families in Britain, is not more important than the lives of people in other lands.

The Trident nuclear weapons system is a weapon of indiscriminate mass slaughter. It threatens innocent people and makes the people of Britain a potential target.

As the report itself says: “We now have an opportunity to stop the production of weapons of war, change to socially useful work and tackle the real enemy – climate change – at the same time.” While some people find the emphasis of the report unpalatable, it is a serious contribution to winning hearts and minds and giving hope for the future in a very difficult arena – and we believe, from feedback we have received within the trade union movement, that it has had a positive impact.

Topics: Nuclear weapons