The National:

Welcome to the first edition of our new On the Picket Line newsletter, where we take a deeper look at the biggest trade union stories of the week. You can subscribe here to receive it every week straight in your inbox!

For our first newsletter we’re looking at how trade unions across Scotland have responded to the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza as a result of the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

Factory blockades

We’ve already seen protest group Palestine Action block access to factories in the UK with alleged connections to Israel.

Members of Unite, Unison, the National Education Union (NEU), the University and College Union (UCU), the British Medical Association (BMA) and the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers’ Union (BFAWU) took place in the action in Leicester at the end of October, which temporarily prevented lorries and vans from entering and leaving the site.

But what about in Scotland?

Protests have been ongoing since the escalation of the conflict on October 7, with thousands of people turning out for the Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign demonstration outside BBC Scotland at Pacific Quay, Glasgow.

The National:

Protests were also organised for Dundee, Aberdeen, Forres, Edinburgh, Dunfermline and Stirling.

The weekend prior, thousands of people turned out for the Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign demonstration in Edinburgh.

The National:

The Scottish Trade Union Congress (STUC), which represents more than half a million trade unionists in Scotland, said “the human suffering of the past month is unimaginable”.

It continued: “We utterly condemn the killing of civilians at the hands of Hamas and call for the immediate release of all hostages.

“Just as previous wrongs can never justify the attack on the defenceless by Hamas, neither does this recent tragedy justify the unfolding humanitarian disaster caused by IDF bombing and siege.

“Cutting off supplies to Gaza is a war crime. International law must be upheld. The UK Government and our political leaders stand complicit in the suffering inflicted on the Palestinian people unless they call for the unlawful siege to end.

“Silence is not an option.”

The STUC told The National it would continue to support all protests calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Education at the forefront

The Education Institute Scotland (EIS), Scotland’s largest teaching union with more than 56,000 members, told The National it had previously attended the Stop the War Coalition demonstration in George Square, Glasgow on October 28.

It also provides a resource to members on the conflict, which were created before the escalation on October 7.

In a statement released on October 19, the union said it called for “an immediate stop to the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force in Gaza.”

“The EIS unequivocally condemns the attacks by Hamas and its brutal murders of civilians in Israel in this recent escalation of violence.

“Neither the killing of Israeli civilians nor what the UN has described as the collective punishment, illegal under the Geneva Convention, of the people of Gaza, will end the illegal occupation of Palestine by Israel, or bring about peace.”

The union expressed concern with the destruction of schools in Palestine, as at least 219 educational facilities had been damaged as of October 25, including 29 schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

The University and College Union (UCU) also released a statement on the conflict, saying, “as a trade union, we are committed to achieving peace and an end to violence and oppression.

“We are utterly horrified at the violence that we have seen in recent days in both Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the targeting of civilian life by both Hamas and the Israeli military, and we also condemn instances of Antisemitism and Islamophobia that we have witnessed since the violence unfolded.”

Where do we go from here?

Workers and unions feel now is the time to place increasing pressure on political leaders to call for a ceasefire in Gaza, as both the UK’s Prime Minister and leader of the opposition have failed to do.

Whilst First Minister Humza Yousaf and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar have both called for a ceasefire, Sunak and Starmer have refused, leading to the suspension of various frontbenchers and ministers demanding they do so.

The National has since revealed that Labour MPs are considering joining forces with the SNP to force a vote in Westminster on whether to call for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

Trade unions have made it clear, in the words of the STUC, that in their view “silence is not an option”.

Industrial Reaction

School strikes set to take place on Wednesday in South Lanarkshire, Dumfries and Galloway, Edinburgh and Fife have been called off after Unison said it would consider a fresh pay offer from local government body Cosla.

Caledonian Sleeper train staff are also considering strike action, after the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) accused the operators of refusing to crew services “adequately”.

Last week also saw several museums in Glasgow forced to close amid ongoing strike action by Unison following a dispute over cuts to jobs and services.