Trade unionists block 4 sites involved in arms supplies to Israel on International Workers’ Day

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‘If arms company bosses and Britain’s political elite won’t impose an arms embargo, we, the workers, will enforce it from below’

This May Day, over 1,000 workers across Britain have mobilised to blockade four sites involved in the supply of arms to Israel, in a response to calls from Palestinian trade unions.

In solidarity with Palestinian workers as the onslaught on Gaza reaches its 208th day, trade unionists in Britain have blocked entry to the UK Department of Business and Trade in London and three BAE Israeli arms factories in Scotland, Wales and Lancashire to protest the government’s refusal to suspend the sale of UK arms to Israel. 

BAE Systems has been targeted as the UK’s leading military goods manufacturer which profits from arming Israel, while workers have blocked the UK Trade Department in support of civil servants who have expressed fears that they could be complicit in war crimes in Gaza if Israel is found to have broken international law. 

Civil servants’ union PCS is considering bringing legal action to prevent their members being forced to carry out potentially unlawful acts, after staff requested to “cease work immediately” on arms export licences to Israel. 

Canada, the Netherlands, Japan, Spain and Belgium have suspended the sale of arms to Israel, while the British government continues to refuse. It comes as a legal challenge over the British government’s role in allowing weapons to be sent to Israel has been given the go-ahead to be heard in the High Court later this year. Many articles feeatured from LeftFootForward today.

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Anti-strike law: Paul Nowak perfectly dismantles bill ahead of Parliament vote

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The legislation is an attempt to ‘drive a wedge between working people’

General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) Paul Nowak took to the airwaves this morning to speak out about the anti-strikes bill which will be voted on by MPs this evening.

He slammed media accusations of union ‘scare tactics’ by laying out the reality of the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill which could see workers lose their job for taking strike action.

As media presenters sought to play down the implications of the bill, Nowak said threatening workers with the sack was ‘untenable’ and that the real reason it was being put through was to ‘demonise trade unions’ and ‘drive a wedge between working people’.

“There is no public appetite at all to see nurses, paramedics, teachers, railway [ workers …] sacked for exercising what most people will think as a fundamental British liberty, the right to strike,” Nowak said on Sky News.

“To remove it would put the UK as a real international outlier.”

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RMT rejects ‘unacceptable’ offer from train operators in pay and jobs dispute

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RAIL bosses’ latest offer to end six months of strikes across the network was rejected today by the RMT union, which warned of “thousands of job losses and the use of unsafe practices.”

RMT condemned the “unacceptable” proposals from the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents the 14 train operators involved.

Talks continued today ahead of the next round of industrial action — a series of intermittent 48-hour strikes between next Tuesday and January 7.

Bosses claimed that their pay offer amounts to an 8 per cent pay rise by next year — still below soaring double-digit inflation — but the union pointed out that the deal is conditional on damaging changes to working practices.

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The women who sparked the Labour movement

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The Match Women of Bryant and May formed Britain’s first women’s trade union and won the right to better conditions. So why do so few know about their achievement?

by Lyn Brown, Labour MP for West Ham.

object on black match with smoke

Hearing of the grim conditions, Annie Besant investigated and published an article in her weekly newspaper, The Link, headlined: “White Slavery in London,” prompting Bryant and May to threaten libel action. The company put pressure on the women to discover who had spoken to Besant.

Bryant and May identified and dismissed “ringleaders,” provoking around 1,400 women to walk out on strike. The workers put a picket line in place. The factory was at a standstill.

The striking women marched daily through the streets, collecting money to sustain their families. They marched on parliament where they lobbied and impressed MPs. Bryant and May was forced, through public, social and political pressure, to accede to the women’s demands for safer working conditions and the cessation of arbitrary fines.

Crucially, the company allowed them to form a trades union, so that “future disputes, if any, may be laid officially in front of the firm.” The Union of Women Matchworkers, the greatest union of women and girls in the country, was formed.

The Star newspaper congratulated the workers on their “magnificent victory, a turning point in the history of our industrial development.” Truly, it was.

Given Bryant and May’s political and economic power, the strike by these impoverished women was particularly audacious and by no means predestined to succeed. The struggle of these women, played out in the glare of publicity, had repercussions far beyond the betterment of their own conditions.

The Match Women’s Strike was a vital catalyst for ‘new unionism’. It was openly acknowledged by the dock strike leaders a year later in 1889 when the call went out from John Burns to a meeting of tens of thousands of strikers to: “Stand shoulder-to-shoulder. Remember the match women, who won their fight and formed a union.”

The Match Women demonstrated to working people that it is possible for marginalised, unskilled workers to bind together in solidarity in trade unions and succeed in their demands for reasonable pay and conditions.

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