The labour movement has a long tradition of speaking out against war, human rights abuses and advocating for workers’ rights globally. In this spirit, the Union of National Employees (UNE) joins the unions and labour activists in Canada and worldwide in calling for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza, a two-way arms embargo with Israel, and the facilitation of the immediate, safe and unhindered flow of humanitarian relief to respond to the humanitarian devastation in Gaza.

The UNE grieves the loss of all civilian lives in Israel and in Palestine. Approximately 1,200 Israelis were killed in the October 7th, 2023, attack by Hamas, and around 200 civilians taken as hostages, including children. As of April 23rd, 2024, approximately 42,510 Palestinians have been killed, including 15,580 children, and 3,661 have been forcibly detained and/or kidnapped, including children (Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor).

In the ongoing retaliatory actions by Israel the whole population of Gaza, 2.1 million Palestinians, have been internally displaced several times within the enclosure of Gaza, while it is continually bombed. Israel has cut off fuel, electricity, water supply, as well as any entry of food or medical supplies. This constitutes collective punishment under international law and is a war crime.

Over the last seven months, we have witnessed unrelenting violence against the Palestinian civilian population, including the ongoing bombardment and destruction of homes, workplaces, hospitals, schools and universities, historic and cultural sites, and civilian infrastructures resulting in widespread starvation and disease. Medical staff, humanitarian workers and journalists have been targeted, which is another infringement of international law.

This violence has completely impeded the ability for Palestinian workers to earn a livelihood. These actions have constituted a grave violation of human rights and workers’ rights. There is no better time than now to advocate for these protections.

In its January 31, 2024 ruling, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) found it plausible that Israel’s acts could amount to genocide.

Palestinian human rights are a labour issue. In this spirit, the UNE also acknowledges the decades-long occupation and oppression of human rights of the Palestinian people. It is important to highlight that, since the 1970s, Israel has benefited from an accessible and low-cost Palestinian labour force. You can read more about the current labour conditions faced by Palestinian workers in the Report of the Director-General of the International Labour Organization from May 2023,

We echo the call of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), and the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), demanding that the Canadian government immediately suspend the trade of arms and military equipment with Israel. The Government of Canada has been a strong military, economic and political ally to Israel; between October and December 2023 alone it sent $28.5 million of new military exports to Israel (The Maple, February 2024). Workers, unions, human rights groups and people of conscience have been active across the country in blockading arms manufacturing companies. Nicaragua warned Canada and three other countries of its intention to take them to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for continuing to allow the export of military goods to Israel, which Nicaragua said contributed to Israel’s violations of the 1948 Genocide Convention in Gaza.

The UNE supports the Call to Action from the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions- Gaza Strip:

UNE calls on the Canadian government to:

  • Call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza
  • Call for an end to the 16-year-long blockade of Gaza
  • Call for the release of all Israeli hostages and all Palestinian political prisoners
  • Call for the immediate, safe and unhindered flow of humanitarian relief to respond to the humanitarian devastation in Gaza
  • Call for the end to illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank
  • Support South Africa’s application to the ICJ to investigate the State of Israel for possible genocide
  • Immediately implement a two-way embargo of arms’ and military equipment’s trade with Israel
  • immediately suspend all military and financial support of the Israeli government and its military
  • To review its recent immigration rules for the Palestinians fleeing death which have discriminatory application requirements and change them to be equitable to that for other peoples escaping wars, such as what was done for the Ukrainians for example
  • Work towards a political and peaceful solution in the region that respects the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination.

UNE will:

  • Join more than 1,000 international organizations and unions in supporting South Africa’s application to the ICJ accusing the State of Israel of genocide.
  • Join other unions in supporting and applying the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) campaign, including working on divesting funds in the federal public service pension, which has $637 million invested in companies complicit in Israel’s aggression.

The UNE would also like to take this opportunity to offer our heartfelt sympathies to everyone impacted by this crisis. Closer to home, we acknowledge that many of our members are experiencing profound pain and anxiety due to the ongoing violence. We also recognize that some members may be directly affected since they are terrified for their relatives and loved ones who are living in the region.

The UNE and its members condemn all acts of violence against civilians. We also condemn the alarming rise of Islamophobia, antisemitism, anti-Arab racism, and anti-Palestinian racism in Canada and around the world. We encourage informed and respectful dialogue and support meaningful peace and justice initiatives.

The UNE stands in committed solidarity with all people being denied basic and advanced human rights, which include workers’ rights – and we call on the Canadian government to stand for the same.


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