Unite union leader condemns pro-Palestinian activists ‘targeting members at work’

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Unite union leader condemns pro-Palestinian activists ‘targeting members at work’

In scathing letter Unite general secretary Sharon Graham confirms union members 'have recently been attacked directly, been spat at and called 'child killers'"

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary
Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham has launched a scathing attack on pro-Palestine activists for targeting members of the trade union who “have recently been attacked directly, been spat at and called ‘child killers'”.

In a letter sent to all staff, organisers and officers at Unite, Sharon Graham wrote:”We have watched on with horror the bombardment and destruction of Gaza, and the unbearable terror, suffering and death of its innocent civilians. 

“We have been unequivocal that the deliberate killing of civilians, hostage-taking and collective punishment are war crimes and should be identified as such.”

But turning her attention to the targeting of union members who work in the UK defence industry, Graham continued:”We cannot and will not endorse any organisation which decides unilaterally and without any discussion (let alone agreement) with the workers themselves, to support the targeting of our members’ workplaces or their jobs. 

“To be clear, this will not happen. No outside body, no matter what their political position, will be allowed to dictate terms to our Union and our members.”

The outspoken union leader, who has been unafraid to criticise Labour leader Keir Starmer in the past, added:”We are a trade union with thousands of members employed in the defence industry. 

“It is the views of affected members that take precedence in a trade union. That will not change and nor should it. Unite members have recently been attacked directly, been spat at and called ‘child killers’. We cannot and will not endorse this.”

Graham stressed that Unite had actually been “the first major union to publicly and unambiguously call for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.”

But she argued that “there is no contradiction for a trade union to hold a position of solidarity with Palestinian workers, while at the same time refusing to support campaigns that target our members’ workplaces without their support.”

In a further put down on far-left foreign policy dogma Graham also wrote:”Similarly, we cannot be expected to affiliate to organisations that actively work against our members and their jobs.

“Examples include groups that look to build networks inside trade unions to undermine the defence industry or demand the disbandment of NATO and AUKUS.”

Under Graham’s leadership Unite has also taken great strides in attempting to  combat antisemitism within the movement.Despite early claims that the left-wing leader would seek to move the union away from Labour and disaffiliate, Unite now appears to be opting to become a “critical friend” of the Starmer led Labour Party.

By remaining affiliated to the party Unite are able to continue to exert influence through its position on Labour’s NEC.

In contrast to the stance taken by former leader Len McCluskey, Graham also seems to be recognise that many of the union’s members do not favour far-left policies.

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