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

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

Workers for a Free Palestine blockade

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.

Workers for a Free Palestine, the group behind today’s protest, has called the May Day action a wave of “People’s Arms Embargoes” as workers in Britain are taking it upon themselves to enforce an embargo through direct action. 

Community worker Aisha, who is blockading the arms factory in the North of England, said: “On May Day, which has historically been a day for workers around the world to rise up against injustice, we’re mobilising against the bosses who exploit workers at this factory and other arms producing sites across the UK, who are making millions from a genocide in Gaza, in support of Palestinian trade unions and in solidarity with Palestinian workers.”

“I’m taking this action because I simply can’t stomach arms to Israel’s murderous regime being supplied in our name by companies which are subsidised by our taxes – if the company bosses and the Government continue to refuse to listen to us, we will keep shutting them down and impose our own arms embargoes.”

Tania, a trade unionist and organiser for Workers for a Free Palestine taking part in the London blockade, said: “The Government has sought to play down the scale of its arms supplies to Israel, but the reality is UK arms and military support play a vital role in the Israeli war machine, and evidence that three British aid workers were killed by a drone partly produced in the UK shows the extent of British complicity in Israel’s genocide.

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

(Image credit: Workers for a Free Palestine)

Hannah Davenport is news reporter at Left Foot Forward

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