“Today’s action takes place within the context of a wave of protests demanding an immediate ceasefire as both Rishi Sunak & Keir Starmer continue to refuse calls to back this call, despite polling showing it has the support of the majority of the public.”
By Our Correspondent
A group of over 400 trade unionists under the banner “Workers for a Free Palestine” have blockaded the BAE Systems’ factory in Rochester, which provides weapons for the Israeli military.
BAE Systems is the UK’s leading arms manufacturer, which produces 13-15% of the value of Israel’s F-35s stealth combat aircraft, the world’s most advanced fighter jet currently being used by Israel to bombard Gaza. The ‘active interceptor system’, which is used by pilots to direct and manoeuver the aircraft, is made by BAE Systems Rochester.
They are demanding an immediate ceasefire to halt the killing of civilians in Palestine and an end to British complicity in Israeli war crimes.
The group includes health workers, teachers, hospitality workers, academics, artists and more who are members of a wide range of trade unions including Unite, UNISON, GMB, the NEU, the BMA, UCU, BECTU and BFAWU.
The blockade has been organised as part of an International Day of Action called by Palestinian trade unions to end complicity in Israel’s war crimes, which is seeing protests and direct action by workers around the world, including the US, Canada and across Europe. This follows actions taken in recent days by workers in the US and Australia to disrupt ships carrying arms to Israel, and trade unionists in Belgium and Barcelona refusing to load military equipment being sent to Israel.
In spite of its illegal occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem since 1967, the UK has consistently sold arms to Israel. UK industry – which includes the site being blockaded – provides 15% of the components in the F35 stealth combat aircraft that are currently being used in the bombardment of Gaza.
Today’s action takes place within the context of a wave of protests across the UK demanding an immediate ceasefire as both Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer continue to refuse calls to back this call, despite polling showing it has the support of the majority of the British public. As well as national marches of hundreds of thousands of people, activists in the UK have organised peaceful sit-ins in train stations, boycotts, wildcat strikes, and protests outside Downing Street and at the local offices of Members of Parliament.
Alexandra, a teacher and NEU member taking part in the blockade, said:
“I’m joining this blockade today because as a teacher and trade unionist it’s impossible to stand by and watch as our government supports Israel’s genocidal assault on Gaza, including with arms from this very factory.
“As a teacher, seeing 185 schools and other educational institutions in Gaza bombed is utterly heartbreaking. If our government and the Labour opposition won’t support a ceasefire, as workers we will continue to take action to stop the slaughter of civilians in our name, funded by our taxes.
“The British arms industry, which is subsidised by public money, is involved in the mass killing of Palestinians. We’re here today to disrupt the Israeli war machine and take a stand against our Government’s complicity and we urge workers across the UK to take similar action in their workplaces and communities.”
A member of Workers in Palestine, a coalition of major Palestinian trade unions that is calling for industrial action and civil disobedience to halt the arms trade with Israel, said:
“Massive marches send a powerful message but it’s equally important to exert targeted pressure on governments and corporations that profit from the arms trade with Israel. We salute all trade unionists who took up the call made by the Palestinian trade union movement and acted decisively against complicity, only such clear actions by people of conscience can bring an end to Israel’s impunity.”
- Read here about how to join Saturday’s demonstration and other actions on the Palestine Solidarity Campaign website.
- ACTION: Add your name to Labour and Palestine’s call for Labour to back an immediate ceasefire
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