Arms Trade

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2007 National Delegate Conference
1 June 2007

Conference notes that a survey undertaken by Campaign Against Arms Trade in 2006 revealed that the 99 United Kingdom (UK) local authority pension funds invested at least £723 million in the world’s eleven largest military-producing companies and the UK’s five largest weapons manufacturers. A number of these pension funds also held additional investments in pooled funds that are likely to include further holdings in arms companies.

Conference further notes that 67 of these local authority pension funds invest £244 million in BAE Systems, the UK’s largest arms company recently criticised for arms exports to Saudi Arabia, India and South Africa. Thirty-three funds invest nearly £20 million in Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest arms company and arguably the world’s biggest nuclear weapons maker. For example, Lockheed manufactures Trident nuclear missiles. Overall investment in United States (US) arms companies totalled over £120 million.

Conference believes the arms trade has a devastating and destabilising effect worldwide, and on the lives of young people in particular. UK, European and US arms companies profit from exporting weapons to conflict zones including Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East, to areas of tension such as India and Pakistan, to human rights abusers such as China, and to countries with huge development needs, for example South Africa, diverting resources from spending on health and education etc.

Investments by local authority pension funds in the UK and overseas arms companies are incompatible with UNISON’s aims and objectives. UNISON members work to sustain individuals and communities in the UK. Profits made from arms exports by arms companies are made to the detriment of people and communities elsewhere in the world. Research has revealed, for example, that the arms trade is not essential to the UK economy, that by ending investments in UK arms exporters would only exclude investment from less than 2 per cent of the FTSE 100 and that ethically invested funds can outperform other funds. A University of York and Ministry of Defence report stated that arms export job losses would lead to an increase in job creation due to the transfer of skilled workers into the civil sector. Finally it is not widely known that the UK government provides an estimated £900 million subsidy to the arms trade meaning that, far from benefiting from this deadly trade, the UK taxpayer is shelling out to finance it.

Conference notes that recent United Nations guidance on fiduciary duty by trust investors is helpful and indicates that considerations of non-financial performance of investee companies are not only permissible, but also necessary, for compliance with fiduciary duties. Companies that damage the environment, fail to comply with employment legislation, have a negative impact on communities, are a risk to investors both in financial and social terms. Conference therefore instructs the National Executive Council to:

1)support the Campaign Against the Arms Trade’s call for the end of arms investments by local authority pension funds by requesting UNISON representatives on local authority pension funds consult pension beneficiaries on whether they wish to see their funds withdraw investment in companies that are involved in the manufacture and selling of arms. That where UNISON does not have any representation on the pension schemes, branch secretaries should raise the issue with councillors and canvass amongst UNISON members of the fund who are beneficiaries that they request a change in investment policy which moves investments from companies involved in the manufacture and selling of arms to those that reflect their social and ethical aspirations;”

2)ensure initial and subsequent regular training for newly-appointed and existing UNISON representatives on local authority pension funds on social, environmental and ethical Investment;

3)call for the Trades Union Congress (TUC) to ensure initial and subsequent regular training is provided on social, environmental and ethical Investment to all trade union representatives who are appointed to pension funds.