The following was published by Trade Union Friends of Israel on 19 September. TULIP is publishing it as part of a series of articles commenting on the recent TUC decision to support a partial boycott of Israel.
British trade union leaders backed off from calling for an outright boycott of Israeli goods at the annual Trades Union Congress (TUC) in Liverpool on 17 September 2009.
There was some confusion about what was actually passed as both the Fire Brigades’ Union (FBU) motion, which called for a full consumer boycott of Israel, and a much softer negotiated statement by TUC General Council, were both passed by the conference floor. But through the rules of the TUC, the statement superseded the extremist FBU motion.
In effect, the statement becomes the policy of the TUC and marginalises the attempts by the FBU to boycott Israel. Trade union leaders democratically opposed the full boycott and the statement shows that the majority of trade unions in the UK want to provide meaningful help to the people in Israel and Palestine.
The General Council statement says the TUC will support a boycott of goods only from illegal Israeli settlements; however it then adds the caveats that each union should operate within its own aims and objectives and that pressure to boycott such products should not be applied to union members. This means that the TUC leadership will not put pressure on affiliated unions, or its members, to implement any such boycott.
There were some positive things that came from the statement, in particular it highlighted the TUC’s commitment to support both Israeli and Palestinian trade unions and welcomed a recent policy statement by the Histadrut (Israeli TUC), which outlined the federation’s support for Palestinian workers’ rights and a two-state solution.