Britain's largest union condemns Russian invasion, NATO expansionism

'The working class has nothing to gain from war.' Image: UNISON

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 organisation 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 organisations 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.

The 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 [Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament], 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.

[UNISON is Britain's largest union, representing more than one million workers in public services. This statement was agreed upon by the UNISON National Executive Council on March 16.]