The Socialist Unity Network

Call for Peaceful Production in Yeovil

Pamela Smith

Residents of Yeovil and district held a peaceful demonstration this morning
outside Westland Helicopters in Yeovil to highlight the human and
environmental cost of the arms trade and to call for a peaceful economy for
the town. The demonstration aimed to highlight the fact that military
helicopters are attack weapons, and are one of the most commonly used
weapons in conflicts around the world. At least 90% of production in
Westland is military production.

“All three major political parties in Britain support our current
aggressive military stance” said local craftsman Chris Hudson. “The
government subsidises the arms trade by about £888million per year, which
distorts our economy by starving away investment from peaceful
technological development. The arms trade is very capital intensive, and
the same expenditure would create far more jobs in civilian industries.”

“The workers and the plant at Westland could be producing high quality
renewable energy technology, but they are not given a say in what they
make. We hope that the Trade Unions and employees in Westland will
challenge our Government’s military policy”.

The demonstrators enacted a street theatre performance simulating the
aftermath of a helicopter gunship attack on an Iraqi town, and handed out
leaflets to employees.

It costs far more to create one job in the military sector than in civilian
industries: about £9,000 - £11,000 per job in the UK. Only 0.3% of our
workforce is employed in the arms trade. The same expenditure would create
far more jobs in other, less capital intensive sectors such as transport,
environmental technology or health. A recent MoD/York University report
stated that if subsidies were cut by 50 per cent, 49,000 job losses would
be offset by 67,000 jobs created in the civil sector.
After the USA, the UK is the world’s largest arms exporter. These exports
are heavily promoted. The Government subsidises the arms trade by £888m per
year: more than £30 per taxpayer. The UK continues to arm repressive
regimes around the world, such as Algeria, Indonesia, Israel and Saudi
Arabia. In 2000, the UK licensed military exports to 30 of the 40 most
repressive regimes in the world. British weapons are being used in most of
the world's current conflicts. What is more, in modern armed conflicts
nearly 90% of casualties are civilians with about 40% of those being
children. Around 2000 children are killed or maimed in wars every day. Most
attacks on Iraqi people by the occupying forces have been carried out by
helicopter gunships.

Westland is owned by Finnmeccanica, an Italian company which bought out
GKN’s 50% share in the company in Spring 2004. We believe US aeronautical
giant Boeing now have a share in Westland.

Westland employs about 4,000 people. Although it is one of the biggest
employers in Somerset, jobs have been lost and “restructuring” is likely to
continue, since military manufacturing is becoming less labour intensive
and more capital intensive. The decline of engineering means new options
for engineering jobs are needed. At present the trade is very reliant on
the military.


September 2004


For Socialist Unity ~ For Internationalism ~ For Peace ~ For Justice ~ For Unity ~ For Socialism