BAE Systems blockade by union members and workers (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Workers, school pupils and university students were gearing up for another day of action in solidarity with Palestine this week.

Action for Palestine in workplaces across Britain, that could hit the source of profits, would hugely increase the pressure on Rishi Sunak to break from support for Israel.

Trade unionists, university and school students and campaigners were set to take part in activity called by Stop The War and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament on Thursday this week.

Stop The War called on “all those in work, college or university to Stand With Gaza by organising a walkout, lunchtime or early morning protest or other collective action” to support a permanent ceasefire.

Pickets were also planned outside some arms factories. Palestinian trade unions have called for workers to refuse to make armaments for Israel. 

At least 79 firms in Britain are part of the supply chain for the F-35 aircraft that are bombing Gaza. The rear fuselage of every F-35 fighter is made by the British firm BAE Systems at Samlesbury Aerodrome in Lancashire.

A day of action last week saw grassroots activists organise rallies and other action at over 60 workplaces. And students at dozens of universities launched walkouts.

But this isn’t remotely enough. Every workplace and student act of solidarity is valuable.

 It helps spread the message of resistance against the support for Israel from Sunak and Keir Starmer. Socialist Worker encourages all its readers to push for the highest level of action possible in workplaces, beginning with an argument about stoppages.

Holding a lunchtime rally is good. Walking out to join a rally and not returning to work, even for 15 minutes, is a big step in the right direction. 

That would be much easier if union leaders encouraged it. But they have utterly failed to call the sort of action that’s needed.

The trade unions are miles behind the mood of the huge numbers who have joined the pro-Palestine marches. 

Look at trade union websites and you would hardly know that mass murder and ethnic cleansing was taking place in full view in Gaza and the West Bank.

Most unions made a statement soon after 7 October condemning Hamas, but asking the Israelis not to be too harsh in response.  

Some have subsequently called for a ceasefire. But even those calls have not built the mass demonstrations, let alone called for action in workplaces.

And union leaders might have been okay to speak at Palestine demonstrations but have opposed opposition to arms sales in the name of “protecting jobs”.

All the trade union leaders were set to meet on Saturday to discuss the critical issue of the new anti-union laws. 

But they also have a responsibility to talk about the slaughter in Palestine and to call immediate protests and strikes. That would be the best way to confront present and future anti-strike laws.

Scrap anti-union laws

The TUC union federation special conference on Saturday is certain to agree strong opposition to the new Tory anti-union law.

The law will demand that workers scab on their own strikes with Minimum Service Levels enforced in key sectors. It’s pro-boss legislation designed to take away the right to strike effectively from five million workers.

The law could start taking effect in the ambulance service, rail and border workers this month. Regulations for the fire and rescue service, education and nuclear decommissioning will follow. 

Union leaders have made passionate speeches about the anti-union laws. But words need to be turned into action. That means unions calling strikes and then refusing to tell their members to defy the new law.

That could trigger fines and threats to union funds. This is where general secretaries fear to tread. Pressure from below will be needed to turn the slogans of Saturday into reality.

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