Arms conversion was one of the four strands of the discussion at the November 2016 Lucas commemoration in Birmingham. The groups and individuals working on that strand formed the core of an Arms Conversion Defence Diversification (ACDD) group which has been working together ever since.
The trade unionists, local authority personnel, academics, disarmament campaigners and others which form the ACDD group couldn’t even agree whether the terminology should be “arms conversion” or “defence diversification”. However, they did all agree there was great value in working with each on the issue. The current focus is on getting the Labour Party to set up a shadow Defence Diversification Agency (DDA).
2017 TUC motion
A process initiated by Newcastle Trades Council (one of the groups involved in the ACDD) led to the TUC adopting Motion 17, seconded by Unite, in September 2017. It called on the Labour Party to set up a shadow DDA.
Unite endorsed its policy on a DDA at its biennial Policy Conference on 2 July 2018 by passing the Executive Statement: Defence and Defence Diversification.
The ACDD is now working to encourage the Labour Party to act on the resolution and set up the DDA. There have been meetings with relevant shadow Ministers as well as online actions by supporter-based organisations. The trade unionists in the ACDD are keeping up the pressure in the trade union movement.
On 3 November 2018, the North West Labour Conference passed a motion which adopted the creation of a shadow DDA as policy and called for discussions with relevant shadow Ministers, unions and businesses about its development. There are many arms industry jobs in the region.
Defence Diversification Agency (DDA) – proposed aims and roles
- To encourage diversification of the local economy in areas strongly dependent on Defence employers, enabling those areas to become more resilient to changes in the national/ international security situation (which could reduce Defence industrial activity)
- To seek to redeploy skilled professionals from the Defence sector to alternative industrial sectors which provide clear social and/or environmental benefits
- To provide or facilitate relocation funding for civilian industries to move into areas with high levels of Defence industry employment, especially those in growth areas such as cleaner energy
- To provide or facilitate funding for workers in the Defence industry who are considering leaving the industry to start up new businesses in the local area with a civilian focus
- To provide of facilitate funding for workers in the Defence industry looking to retrain and/or relocate away from the Defence industry
- To compel Defence industry employers to engage in meaningful collective bargaining over bottom-up proposals for defence diversification
- To assist in the organisation of regional coalitions of stakeholders including local industry (such as Defence corporations), local government, trade unions, academia and civil society to support workers and affected communities in making decisions for diversification
- To work across government departments as part of a coherent industrial strategy that addresses areas of multiple economic restructuring as a response to revisions in defence/security policy, climate change, automation and other key areas of technological change
- Employment in local areas which are heavily dependent on the Defence industry are especially vulnerable to downturns in national military spending or the ending of major defence contracts (whether for the UK military or for export). There are generally sound security and/or human rights arguments behind reductions to military work (especially in the export of arms and the production of weapons of mass destruction), but the local workforce should not suffer when such decisions are taken. Greater economic diversification in a local area – especially in industries which use similar engineering skills – would help to repurpose workers’ jobs which are threatened by any downturn in military contracts. Key growth industries which could especially fulfil this role include wind energy (both offshore and onshore), marine energy (including tidal and wave), and energy efficient/ renewable energy powered shipping.
- The role of the DDA would not simply be to assist Defence manufacturers to find civilian markets for their products. Experience has shown that is often expensive and unproductive, and the Defence industry often abandons such work when there is a prospect of future upturns in military contracts.
Arms Conversion/ Defence Diversification Group, May 2018 .pdf version