Trade unions embrace bigotry and step up boycott

The TUC this week voted to review its relationship with the Histadrut, Israel's General Federation of Labour, and reaffirmed its commitment to the boycott movement in partnership with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

The unprecedented move was voted through on the last day of the TUC's annual congress in London and could lead to the severing of a relationship that goes back to the 1920s.

A wide-ranging motion on the Middle East was proposed by Andrew Murray, chief of staff at the Unite super-union, who is also chair of the Stop the War Coalition. The motion restated last year's TUC decision to "disinvest from, and boycott the goods of, companies who profit from illegal settlements, the Occupation and the construction of the wall."

An amendment calling for the Histadrut review was proposed by Hugh Lanning, deputy general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union and chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. It called on all unions "to review their bi-lateral relations with all Israeli organisations, including Histradrut." The amendment was opposed by the RMT, the rail workers' union, which argued that the TUC should continue to work in partnership with fellow trade unionists in Israel.

Both the Jewish Leadership Council and the Histadrut have written to TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber to express their concern at the move, which marks the growing influence of the boycott movement within UK trade unions. Supporters of Israel believe the move could lead to the international isolation of the TUC and remove it from future discussions between Israeli and Palestinian trade unionists working for peace.

Trade Union Friends of Israel said it would continue developing British trade union links with Israeli workers, despite what it described as a "discriminatory policy" towards the Histadrut.

But the PSC welcomed the amended motion, which also condemned moves in the Knesset to outlaw organisations supporting a boycott of Israel.

Mr Lanning said: "Today British trade unions have decided not to buy into the Israeli occupation".

Last updated: 1:42pm, September 15 2011