StWC Chair Alex Kenny: Join trade unionists from across the UK on 9 June to discuss how we continue to build pro-Palestine and anti-war initiatives in our unions


Thousands of people packed into Whitehall on Tuesday with just 24 hours notice in response to Israel’s atrocities in Rafah, which are being live-streamed onto our devices day in, day out. It was an incredible achievement for the movement we have been building and which continues to grow, in solidarity and resistance with the people of Gaza and in demand for the immediate end to the British government’s arms sales to Israel.

At the heart of the trade union movement lies international solidarity, which the Palestinians so desperately need. So it’s important that, as part of this work in building our coalition of anti-war organisations, we continue to work with the trade unions in recognition that war and peace are class issues and Palestine is very much a trade union issue.

So on Sunday 9 June, the Stop the War trade union conference will ask the key question: with the world at war, how do we stop the warmongers?

Our May Day day of workplace action saw some really inspiring initiatives, from morning protests at factory gates and lunchtime meetings, to talks, film screenings and fundraising activities. It was particularly good to see so many workers joining student encampments, providing solidarity and support at a time when so many students are taking a determined stand, demanding their universities divest from Israel.

But we need to deepen this work. The power of organised working people has the potential to force the biggest change in our society. Marches and rallies have been shown to be incredibly powerful, and public opinion has undoubtedly been moved the more we stay on the streets.

Seven in 10 British people say Israel must immediately stop the bombing. Only between 8% and 13% think it should continue, depending on which polls you take.

But while we are seeing increasing numbers of trade union banners on national, regional and local marches, the national leadership of many of our unions is still absent.

Surely, when British-made bombs and components are raining down on Gaza before our eyes, the argument that bread-and-butter economic issues are for the unions and that political ones around imperialism and war are a distraction look increasingly weak.

Both main political parties are pledging to raise military spending if they win the general election. There’s always more money for bombs, while working people face continuing austerity. The fact is that every pound spent on increased militarisation is a pound less for tackling the cost of living and housing crises, rebuilding our crumbling schools and hospitals and reducing NHS waiting lists.

Working people need welfare not warfare.

The fact is that when workers withdraw their labour, they can shut things down. Those brave Rolls Royce workers in East Kilbride who refused to carry out repairs on General Pinochet’s war planes are testament to that. But any such action requires the support not just of the grassroots membership, but leadership from the top.

But of course this isn’t just about workers in the arms industry. We’ve seen the magnificent work of health workers for Palestine in not only speaking out for their colleagues on the frontline of Israel’s onslaught on both people and their healthcare facilities, but joining them on it too. And teachers and their unions speaking out for the children of Gaza and the West Bank, orphaned, maimed, shot at and slaughtered in their tents on a nightly basis. Education workers don’t just care for the young people in their classrooms, but around the world.

As human beings we are horrified and repulsed by the suffering of fellow humans and this must be at the heart of our trade union principles. So please, join trade unionists from across the UK on 9 June to discuss how we continue to build pro-Palestine and anti-war initiatives in our unions and workplaces.

Source: Labour Outlook

05 Jun 2024 by Alex Kenny

Sign Up