Call to end pensions investment in arms trade
(19/06/07) UNISON's national conference opened this morning with a united call from delegates to end arms investments by local authority pension funds.
"The human cost of the arms trade is immense," said Manchester local government branch's Wendy Allison, "and the scale of pensions involvement in that trade is phenomenal.
"The money going into arms is shameful; it is disgusting."
Conference noted that a survey undertaken by Campaign Against Arms Trade in 2006 revealed that the 99 UK local authority pension funds invested at least £723 million in military-producing companies and weapons manufacturers.
There were compelling moral arguments against such investments, delegates agreed.
They noted that arms companies profit from exporting weapons to conflict zones including Iraq and Afghanistan, to areas of tension such as Pakistan, to human rights abusers such as China, and to countries like South Africa, with huge development needs, diverting resources from spending on health and education.
Furthermore, investments in the arms trade are incompatible with UNISON's aims and objectives, conference noted.
"By allowing our pension funds to invest in arms we are undermining all the good work done by the union," said Salford rep Matthew Egan. "We are shooting ourselves in the foot."
Young member Rebecca Taylor agreed: "Bullets and bombs shatter the lives of innocents around the world. "My pension investment in the arms trade makes me feel like I'm pulling the trigger."
One member nearing retirement age pointed out she didn't want to receive a pension that's contaminated by the blood of others. Though pension fund managers have a serious legal duty to be fiscally responsible, they also have a moral duty to act ethically, she said.
And Colm Magee from the NEC explained it is possible to take your duty to fund-holders seriously and make sound ethical decisions. The UNISON pension fund, of which he is a trustee, has introduced a policy to ensure the fund makes socially responsible investments, and screens out investments in the arms trade.
Conference also instructed the executive to ensure UNISON reps on local authority pension funds are trained in social, environmental and ethical investment.