Is there any situation so bad that this Tory government cannot make it worse?

Heathrow strikers
Heathrow workers on the first day of a four day strike
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Christmas message to United Left from Chair Jim Kelly

The usual greeting at this time of year of wishing friends and family a happy and prosperous Xmas & New Year seems strangely out of place.

The contrast between an incompetent, uncaring and corrupt Tory government and the inspirational and self-sacrificing response of ordinary people since March could not be more pronounced. 

As if things are not bad enough Johnson continues to play brinkmanship in the negotiations around an EU trade deal. The red line issues for trades unionists should be worker’s rights, continuing access to the EU marketplace for UK goods and services and rebuilding our manufacturing base around a new green deal strategy, one capable of combating environmental breakdown. 

The Johnson government of Bullingham boys and bullies like Priti Patel will not have to suffer any detriment if they screw up the negotiations. Like Dyson, Ratcliffe, Lawson, Rees- Mogg and other leading Brexiteers they have used the last two years to squirrel their investments and assets to the EU, Singapore or to offshore havens.

Unite members and activists are already fighting back with recent industrial action by HAL members at Heathrow and Rolls Royce in Barnoldswick. The only two certainties for 2021 is this struggle to defend our living standards will intensify and Unite members will be ready and able to meet any challenges thrown at us by this corrupt dysfunctional Johnson government.

International solidarity

While working people in the UK have suffered enormously since March, we should not forget about the struggles and the resilience of our sisters and brothers throughout the globe who have not only had to deal with COVID, but also with oppressive governments and ongoing human rights abuses. 

United Left supporters have been the main driver in formulating our international solidarity work at policy conferences, branches, regional and sector committees. We should be especially proud of this work, giving practical and political support to sister unions and working people in Palestine, Colombia and many other countries struggling against oppression, poverty, and violence.

Trades unionists are still being murdered by state forces in Colombia. Despite the peace deal in 2016 and the demobilisation and reintegration of FARC troops, social activists and trade unionists remain targets. At least 18 trade unionists have been murdered this year while many others have suffered threats, attacks, harassment, arbitrary detention and forced displacement.

Unite branches can support Colombian trades unionists through practical solidarity with our sister union in Colombia, Fensuagro, and by affiliating to Justice for Colombia, a UK trade union initiative with strong involvement from Unite.

In Gaza, the only laboratory in the territory able to analyse COVID-19 test samples has ceased its work “due to a lack of equipment”. Gaza’s health service has been a prime target for the many incursions by the Israeli Defence Forces since Operation Cast Lead, which began in December 2008 and has been repeated on at least two further occasion, in 2012 and 2014. 

The tiny, densely populated enclave is home to two million people and has been under Israeli blockade since 2007. It has been described as the largest open prison in the world. It has only one crossing intermittently open to the outside world.

Authorities closed Gaza’s borders early in the pandemic, allowing entry to a limited number of people, who were then required to isolate for three weeks in quarantine centres. Unemployment in Gaza is now officially registered at 49%.

In mid-August, Gaza had recorded only around 100 COVID-19 cases, but the past month has seen a steep deterioration in containment. The Gaza government ordered a lockdown on 11 December, which continues to the end of the month.

In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, separated from Gaza by Israeli territory, the government — run by the Palestinian Authority – had imposed a week-long lockdown in four out of 11 provinces, which ended on 17 December. The tourist economy has collapsed in historic Palestinian cities and towns such as East Jerusalem and Nazareth in Israel and Bethlehem and Nablus in the West Bank, leading to increasing unemployment, especially amongst Palestinian youth.

While the Palestinian people have had to struggle with next to no medical resources, last week, it was reported that Israeli Chief of General Staff Aviv Kohavi virtually met with Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir Nick Carter and signed a joint agreement to “formalise and enhance” military co-operation between the UK and Israel. The deal is understood to encompass military training, organisational design, as well as cyber, maritime and air warfare.

The Trump administration cut off humanitarian aid to Palestinians in 2018. Other Arab countries followed suit as they lined up to sign treaties with Israel that ignored Palestinian self -determination, continuing illegal settlement building, which undermines a two-state solution.

Unite activists and branches can help by making links with Palestinian trade union through the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions, and by donating to Medical Aid for Palestine

While we prepare to defend our jobs and terms and conditions in 2021, we should ensure we also strengthen our links with our sisters and brothers in Palestine and Colombia and other peoples fighting for self-determination, worker’s rights, and democracy.

United Left members can be proud of their commitment and track record of international solidarity; we will ensure that solidarity will be strengthened in 2021.