At its meeting on Tuesday 15 March, the NEC discussed the crisis in Ukraine.

A statement submitted by Paul Holmes, Andrea Egan and Kath Owen – as the Presidential Team – was agreed as follows: 

“We oppose and condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We call for an immediate ceasefire and for all Russian armed forces to immediately withdraw from Ukraine.

The war in Ukraine is an extremely dangerous development. Implicit in the situation is the risk that it may spread and escalate, drawing other countries into a growing international conflict. The working class has nothing to gain from war and will pay the biggest price, both in Russia and Ukraine.

We particularly note the danger of escalation into nuclear conflict and the threat to human existence this would entail. We reiterate our opposition to use and maintenance of all nuclear weapons.

Despite the terrible situation, we support the building of unity among workers across national boundaries. The workers of Ukraine and Russia have common interests.

We stand in solidarity with those in Russia who have protested against the invasion, despite police repression. We support the building of a mass anti-war movement, including among Russian troops.

We support workers in Ukraine acting independently of the Zelensky regime and building their own organisations and taking independent action. This should include attempts to build dialogue and links with rank-and-file troops in the invading Russian forces.

We condemn any far right or fascist group, on either side of this conflict, seeking to take advantage of the war to build their own organisation and activity by further provoking national and ethnic tensions.

We send our solidarity to Ukrainian public service workers, delivering humanitarian service in the most appalling conditions. We will seek to build support and send practical solidarity where possible, including through the relevant trade union where appropriate.

This war is also a proxy conflict between Russia and NATO prompted by NATO expansion into central and Eastern Europe. We oppose this expansion and any intervention in this conflict by NATO forces.

We note that economic sanctions will disproportionately hit working people, and will be seen as an aggressive measure by the west and may well strengthen support for Putin.

We have no trust or confidence in the Johnson government on this or any other matter. They have demonstrated for more than two years their utter disregard for human life through the deliberate mishandling of the pandemic, leading to the loss of more than 150,000 lives in the UK.

We note the hypocrisy of those in the UK government criticising the state repression of protest in Russia, whilst the police, crime and sentencing bill will serve to create authoritarian restrictions on protest and democracy in the UK.

We oppose the UK government’s disgraceful racist restriction on the right of refugees fleeing the war to enter the UK. We call for refugees from this and other conflicts to be welcomed. We are also horrified by the scenes at some of the borders where Black people have been prevented from leaving Ukraine. Racism will only divide us and weaken our opposition to war. This shows how important it is to oppose the Nationality and Borders Bill.

In wartime, as in peace time, we defend the democratic right to speak out, discuss, debate and protest. We condemn any attempts to shut down discussion within the Labour movement and to bully and threaten those with different views. We continue to support Stop the War Coalition and CND, and urge our members to join anti-war protests called by them.

Workers in Ukraine and Russia – and across the world – have common interests. Even in this appalling situation, we stand for workers’ unity and internationalism.

In Britain, we demand that workers do not pay the price for this and other crises such as Covid. Workers should receive pay rises above RPI inflation. We oppose the massive rises in energy prices and call for the re-nationalisation of the gas and electricity companies. We support refuge be given to those fleeing from Ukraine and other war-torn areas. The wealth of the oligarchs and super-rich should be expropriated to help provide the resources needed for working-class communities.”

A further statement agreed by the International Committee was also agreed:  

“15 March is the international trade union day of action called by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) in solidarity with Ukraine and against the war.

UNISON unreservedly condemns Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and stands in full solidarity with the millions of victims of the attack. UNISON calls for an immediate cease-fire and a withdrawal of all Russian forces from Ukraine.

UNISON supports the call of the global trade union movement for: 

  • World leaders to take urgent and definitive steps to initiate dialogue and find a peaceful solution to this crisis in line with the Charter of the United Nations
  • Sanctions which focus particularly on oligarchs and the entourage of President Putin and not the working people of Russia. UNISON notes that the UK has a particular responsibility in this area given the large-scale money laundering by Russian oligarchs using the City of London and the UK property market
  • Governments to provide safe-haven for all refugees fleeing the conflict – Ukrainians and foreign workers and students. The UK government has a shameful record of creating a hostile environment for refugees, which is now impacting those fleeing the conflict in the Ukraine and must do everything in its powers to welcome and support all refugees from Ukraine and elsewhere as determined under international law. UNISON condemns the widely documented racist treatment faced by Black refugees seeking to get out of Ukraine
  • Governments to provide additional support to disabled refugees fleeing the conflict both during the application process and when they arrive in their host country. We have already witnessed disabled people struggling to access the visa application process with little or no support available for those wishing to come to the UK. UNISON recognises neurodiverse people, people with learning disabilities, mental health conditions or communication difficulties could experience significant and differential long-term trauma from the conflict and calls on governments to ensure funding is made available to provide appropriate and ongoing professional support for everyone who needs it
  • The protection of civilians and safe humanitarian access. UNISON wholeheartedly condemns attacks on civilians seeking to flee cities such as Mariupol which has been subjected to a brutal siege by Russian forces

Workers – in Ukraine, in Russia and throughout the world where people’s freedom, living standards and jobs will be affected – must not bear the brunt of war. UNISON supports those Russians who have bravely protested Putin’s war at personal risk of assault and arrest.

UNISON supports a comprehensive programme of support for UK workers, their families and companies impacted by such actions above, including wage protection and company support while alternate supply chains are established as set out by the TUC, UNISON, and other UK unions in a letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak last week.

UNISON’s NEC welcomes the speedy donation by the union to the ITUC Ukraine appeal and salutes the response by UNISON branches and members both in supporting the ITUC appeal but also the Ukrainian people, which represent the best traditions of international trade union solidarity.