More than 1,000 union members with Workers for a Free Palestine blockaded four weapons factories in the United Kingdom Thursday that make components for planes being used by Israel to bomb Gaza.
The workers, who include teachers and healthcare and hospitality professionals, said they had shut down plants in Bournemouth, Lancashire, Brighton, and Glasgow.
“As healthcare workers, we are tired of mourning the deaths of our colleagues — fellow nurses, doctors, dentists, medical students, and other health workers — along with all of the Palestinians massacred by the Israeli regime,” a participating doctor named Mesh of Health Workers for a Free Palestine told Tribune. “We stand here ashamed that the weapons used in the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestine are partly made on our own doorstep.”
All of the plants targeted by the workers make components for the F-35 fighter jet. Israel has killed 21,731 people in Gaza since October 7, including 8,697 children, according to Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor. The Geneva-based group said the death toll has risen by 40% since a temporary cease-fire ended last week.
“Our government could only bring itself to advocate for a temporary pause in these atrocities,” Mesh continued from one of the blockades. “Israel has now resumed its violence: turning hospitals into graveyards, using equipment manufactured in this very factory. As health workers, we have a moral responsibility to act and we will not rest until the occupation ends.”
More than 600 workers shut down all three entrances to the Eaton Mission Systems plant in Wimborne near Bournemouth in Dorset, the group said. It added that plant makes in-flight refueling probes for F-35s and that Eaton Mission Systems has an open export license for all F-35-related equipment.
Protesters carried banners reading, “Weapons made here kill in Gaza” and, “This factory arms genocide.”
📍 WIMBOURNE, ENGLAND— Workers for a Free Palestine (@Workers4Pal) December 7, 2023
All three entrances to Eaton Mission Systems have been SHUT DOWN!
The company an open export licence to export goods for the F-35 aircraft.
The factory currently being blockaded makes the F-35's in-flight refuelling probe at its facility in Wimbourne. pic.twitter.com/7enHYCu8At
More than 200 trade unionists also blocked two entrances at BAE System’s Samlesbury Aerodrome in Lancashire, which makes rear fuselages for all F-35s, the group said.
📍 LANCASHIRE, ENGLAND— Workers for a Free Palestine (@Workers4Pal) December 7, 2023
Over 200 trade unionists have blockaded two entrances at the Samlesbury Aerodrome in Lancashire.
The rear fuselage of every F-35 fighter jet – currently being used in the bombardment of Gaza – is made by BAE Systems at this site. pic.twitter.com/sIWkDD7qLg
Workers for a Free Palestine also blockaded the BAE Govan site in Glasgow, which makes components for the F35s and the Mk 38 Mod 2 machine gun system. In coordination, Brighton & Hove Action for Palestine protested the L3Harris Release & Integrated Solutions Ltd factory in Brighton, which equips U.S.-made F-16s and F-35s. Workers for a Free Palestine also said that allied groups were carrying out similar actions in Denmark, France, and the Netherlands. Workers protested Exxelia in Paris and Terma Group in Denmark and the Netherlands, Al Mayadeen English reported.
The European and U.K. trade unionists are responding to a call for solidarity from Palestinian trade unions and professional associations.
“Palestinian trade unions call on our counterparts internationally and all people of conscience to end all forms of complicity with Israel’s crimes—most urgently halting the arms trade with Israel, as well as all funding and military research,” Workers in Palestine wrote. “The time for action is now — Palestinian lives hang in the balance.”
Specifically, the Palestinian workers called on the international labor movement to refuse to build or transport weapons for Israel, to pass union-wide motions backing those refusals, and to put pressure on complicit companies and governments.
“We salute all those in the trade union movement taking a stand to disrupt the flow of arms to Israel,” Workers in Palestine said in a statement to Tribune. “Shutting down four factories across the U.K. today, along with several simultaneous blockades in Europe, are critical acts of solidarity, refusing to conduct business as usual in the face of Israel’s relentless bombardment of Gaza and ongoing genocide.”
“As the British government refuses to call for a cease-fire and directly supports Israel’s military attack, a rapidly growing movement of workers are clearly saying ‘not in our name,'” the workers continued.
Workers for a Free Palestine, whose members belong to unions including the National Education Union (NEU); the British Medical Association; the University and College Union (UCU); the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Communications, and Theater Union (BECTU); and the Bakers, Food, and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU), is demanding that the British government stop being complicit in Israeli war crimes, that a permanent cease-fire be enacted immediately, and that Israel end its occupation of Palestine.
Before Thursday’s action, the group had targeted an Elbit Systems subsidiary factory in Kent in October and another BAE Systems plant in Rochester in November, Tribune reported.
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