Fire-fighters call for TUC Israel boycott

By Leon Symons, September 3, 2009

The Trades Union Congress has come under international pressure over a motion to its annual conference calling on it to review its links with Histadrut, its Israeli counterpart.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has tabled a resolution for the conference, to be held in two weeks’ time, which also calls for a ban on the importation of all goods from “illegal settlements”, the ending of all arms trading with Israel, a boycott of Israeli goods and divestment from companies “associated with the occupation”.

However, an amendment from the GMB union, Britain’s general union and the third biggest in the country, removed the “review” clause and called for stronger relations with Histadrut.

The FBU has cited Histadrut’s support for Operation Cast Lead in Gaza as the reason for its motion. However, the FBU has been accused of double standards because only four months ago it joined Israeli firemen in the creation of a new international fire-fighters’ group.

Steve Scott, director of Trade Union Friends of Israel, said: “It is ironic that they were at the same event of international fire-fighters and now the FBU wants to boycott Israel.

“The motion goes against everything that the Israeli and Palestinian trade union movements are doing. On July 27, the Israeli transportation union and its Palestinian equivalent signed an agreement for a two-day vocational seminar. There is also a joint project for the construction industry. This is what the TUC has supported in the past.”

Mr Scott said trade union movements in America and Germany have told the TUC of their concerns about such a motion.

The TUC general council is due to meet next week to review the motions for the annual congress, due to start on September 14 in Liverpool.

Mr Scott said it was possible that the council could decide to issue a statement setting out its position and not allow the resolution to be put to the congress.

A spokesman for the FBU said: “The Fire Brigades Union is proud of our history of opposition to racism. Our motions to the TUC are in that tradition of international concern.

“We are aware that there are progressive elements in Israeli society who strive for peaceful coexistence with the Palestinians and the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state. Our TUC motions aim to strengthen that movement towards peace.”

Last updated: 11:50am, September 3 2009