Trade union group asked to send delegation to Gaza

By Marcus Dysch, August 30, 2012

Delegates at the Trades Union Congress will push for an official delegation of British trade unionists to visit Gaza.

Only one motion on Israel and the Palestinians has been tabled for the four-day congress, which begins in Brighton on September 9.

But the Communication Workers’ Union is leading the call for the TUC’s general council to “organise a delegation to Gaza, in conjunction with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, to determine how the TUC may most effectively contribute to the end of the blockade”.

The motion makes no mention of rocket attacks on Israel or the wider circumstances in the Middle East.

The preliminary agenda for the congress includes no reference to the violence in Syria or the issues surrounding Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

It is expected that the motion will be passed by delegates, although one source claimed TUC leaders had little desire to send members to Gaza and had expressed concerns over whether the delegation would be required to meet Hamas leaders.

Trade Union Friends of Israel (Tufi) director Steve Scott said this year’s congress was unlikely to produce substantial changes to the status quo. TUC voted two years ago to continue its boycott of Israeli goods from West Bank settlements and strengthen its links with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, but stopped short of imposing a full boycott of Israel.

Mr Scott said: “Our worry was that there would be more calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions. The motion tabled is not great and will be passed. The PSC is calling the shots.

“We have written to the CWU about what is happening in Israel and Gaza in order to put the record straight regarding rocket attacks.” Tufi was “concerned” that the motion included no reference to attacks on Israel.

It is understood that a number of unions have refused to support an amendment condemning rocket attacks from Gaza.

Tufi will host a fringe meeting at the congress to discuss Israeli trade union activity and social justice issues. The speakers are due to include outgoing TUC general secretary Brendan Barber, Bicom’s Professor Alan Johnson, Israel’s deputy ambassador to Britain Alon Roth-Snir, and former TUC president Roger Lyons.

The congress will also mark the start of Frances O’Grady’s reign as general secretary.

It is thought she is unlikely to want to ruffle feathers over Middle East issues as she settles in to her new role.

Last updated: 3:08pm, August 30 2012