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Trade unions call for ‘emergency support’ from Chancellor in response to Ukraine crisis

Rishi Sunak takes part in a specially convened video conference call with G7 finance ministers who were addressed by Ukrainian finance minister Sergii Marchenko
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Trade unions and the TUC have written to the Chancellor, @RishiSunak, calling on him to use his spring statement to introduce ‘emergency support’ in response to the conflict in Ukraine.

This includes measures to support Ukrainian refugees, ensure that sanctions are effective, and protect UK families from the impact of rising energy prices.

The TUC has condemned the invasion of Ukraine, expressed its solidarity with the Ukrainian people, and called on governments to pursue all diplomatic efforts towards peace.

The letter from the TUC and unions says that the Chancellor must now step up with new financial measures to both support the Ukrainian people, and respond to the impact of the conflict on the cost-of-living crisis in the UK.

The letter calls on the Chancellor to:

  • Ensure that sanctions are effective by increasing enforcement funding for measures in the economic crime bill that would crack down on money-laundering in the UK; and consider a 100 per cent windfall tax on the profits of companies still invested in Russian state enterprises. 
  • Provide safe routes to the UK for those fleeing the conflict, and scrap legislation plans that would close the door on all people fleeing war and threats to their lives. 
  • Fund wider humanitarian assistance for displaced people, including essential medical supplies.
  • Protect working families against further energy price rises as a result of the crisis, by giving grants rather than loans to recued energy bill, increasing the warm homes discount, increasing universal credit, and accelerating a home energy efficiency retrofit programme. 

The letter also calls on the government to ensure that those working in supply chains are protected from disruption, including by considering the use of a short-time working scheme.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“Trade unions condemn the illegal invasion of Ukraine. We know that working people in Ukraine, Russia and across Europe want peace. The UK government must pursue all diplomatic efforts to achieve that goal.

“The Chancellor must use his spring statement to act too. That means ensuring that sanctions are more effective, with funding to crack down on money-laundering in the UK. And he should fund greater humanitarian assistance for Ukrainians, including safe passage for those fleeing the war. 

“Working people in the UK will need protection from even steeper hikes in gas bills from the conflict. The Chancellor should introduce grants to help with energy prices, roll out an emergency programme of home insulation, and fund it with a windfall tax on excess energy profits.”  

On Ukrainians seeking safe haven in the UK, Frances added: 

“The government must provide safe routes to the UK for those escaping conflict. And ministers should scrap their Nationality and Borders Bill, which will close the door to people fleeing war and threats to their lives.”

Full text of the letter to the Chancellor:

Pray for Ukraine

Dear Chancellor 

Protecting working people from the impact of the invasion of Ukraine

The trade union movement is united in its condemnation of Russia’s illegal invasion of a sovereign nation. Our solidarity is with the working people of Ukraine. Working people always suffer in conflict and the pursuit of peace is a fundamental trade union value, an essential condition to secure safety, social justice and workers’ and human rights.

The UK government must now take further action to support and strengthen international efforts to impose significant and effective sanctions on Russia and to support all diplomatic efforts towards peace. And it must play its part in supporting humanitarian assistance for forcibly displaced people and welcoming refugees seeking to come to the UK. 

The government must also ensure that it takes every step possible to protect working people here at home from the impact of the conflict and measures taken in response to this. We urge you to use your forthcoming budget to act. We call on you to:  

  • Target sanctions on wealthy elites linked to the Russian government – and ensure they are effective.  We welcome the proposed register of overseas owners of UK property through the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Bill, but this needs to be backed up by sufficient powers and funding for Companies House to enforce. 
  • Fund humanitarian assistance for displaced people, and welcome refugees to the UK. The new Ukrainian visa proposals are inadequate and fall well short of what is needed. Limiting asylum to Ukrainian immediate family members of those already settled in the UK will not reassure Ukrainians fleeing war and bloodshed that they will be able to seek sanctuary in our country. The government must establish a safe route, so all Ukrainian families, who through no fault of their own have been forced from their homes, can easily apply for a humanitarian visa to travel to the UK. The Nationality and Borders Bill must be scrapped. Thousands of Ukrainians fleeing war may try to find sanctuary in the UK.  If the Bill is passed many of these Ukrainians, along with others around the world fleeing conflict, threats to their lives and seeking safety may find themselves treated as criminals and deported, instead of being offered sanctuary.
  • Protect working families against rising gas prices, by raising funds through a windfall tax on energy profits and a new tax on profits made by UK companies invested in Russian state businesses. The current energy price crisis is hitting workers hard, and prices are likely to rise further. Government should implement existing TUC calls for: 
  • Support for households in the form of a grant, not a loan (replacing the energy price rebate proposed by the government). 
  • An increase in the warm homes discount, and a permanent increase in Universal Credit. 
  • Rapid implementation of an accelerated and expanded domestic home retrofit programme, delivered by local councils who are best placed to deliver fast 
  • Funding for these measures by the implementation of a windfall tax on north sea oil and gas companies. 
  • An immediate increase in the national minimum wage to at least £10 an hour and a strategy to protect pay across the economy, including public services.

In addition, the government should consider implementing a new 100 per cent tax on additional profits made by UK based companies from their shareholdings in Russian state-backed enterprises that have profited from the gas price crisis. For example, this includes profits made by oil companies Shell and Vitol from their shareholdings in oil and gas fields in Russia in joint ventures with state-controlled companies Rosneft and Gazprom.

  • Protect jobs in supply chains now and build future supply chain resilience. For companies sourcing parts and supplies from Russia, sanctions could have a significant impact. To protect jobs, the UK government should: 
  • Re-introduce the furlough scheme or a permanent short-time working scheme in order to allow companies to protect jobs while they seek to shift their supply chains. 
  • Begin an urgent programme to provide investment support to help companies to invest in UK supply chains and jobs. 

Trade union leaders would be happy to meet you to discuss these issues, and the steps we must take now to support working people in Ukraine and in the UK,

Yours sincerely 

Frances O’Grady, General Secretary, TUC 

Sue Ferns, President, TUC

Christina McAnea, General Secretary, UNISON

Sharon Graham, General Secretary, Unite

Gary Smith, General Secretary GMB 

Kevin Courtney and Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretaries, NEU

Paddy Lilis, General Secretary, Usdaw

Patrick Roach, General Secretary, NASUWT

Dave Ward, General Secretary, CWU

Mark Serwotka, General Secretary, PCS

Mike Clancy, General Secretary, Prospect 

Ged Nichols, General Secretary, Accord 


Britain needs a pay rise demonstration: The TUC is holding a mass demonstration in Blackpool on Saturday 19 March. Thousands of people from across the UK will march through Blackpool – as the Conservative party spring conference begins at the Winter Gardens – to demonstrate against the cost of living crisis and call for a pay rise for workers, decent sick pay, an end to zero hours contracts and more. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady will address the march.

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