Socialist Worker

Protests and strikes take on the COP26 conference

by Sophie Squire
Issue No. 2779

Extinction rebellion activists arrive in Glasgow after walking from London.

Extinction rebellion activists arrive in Glasgow after walking from London. (Pic: XR Art Blockers)


Protests at the Cop26 ­climate conference kicked off last weekend as world leaders started to arrive in Glasgow.

Hundreds of Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists marched to the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh for the opening ceremony of the demonstrations.

They unfurled a banner that read, “Cop26—We Are Watching You.”

One activist told the Edinburgh Evening News, “I’m an ordinary person and have never thought of myself as an activist, but this will take every one of us, on the streets, demanding that our governments treat this like the emergency it is.”

The rebels paraded a 30-foot “serpent of capitalism” sculpture on the march.

Members of Ocean Rebellion hosted a “dead merpeople” ­protest. Activists performed in front of the river Clyde to highlight the ­destruction of marine life.

Crowds also greeted the various groups of climate “pilgrims” to the city, some of whom had walked over 1,000 miles to attend the conference.

26 reasons to protest at Cop26
26 reasons to protest at Cop26
  Read More

The XR Red Rebels ­organised actions and then set off from ­various train stations across Britain, from York to Oxford.

Greenwashing

Activists organised protests against the arrival of repressive, right wing leaders and greenwashing leaders to the city.

Members of Sikh groups ­gathered in the centre of Glasgow to ­protest at the arrival of hard-right Indian prime minister Narendra Modi at the conference.

Signs read, “Punjab farmers—we stand with you.”

French protesters gathered on a bridge in Glasgow to demonstrate against Emmanuel Macron’s cosy relationship with the fossil fuel industry.

And world leaders weren’t the only ones arriving in Glasgow this week. Hundreds of people greeted ­climate activist, Greta Thunberg, at Glasgow Central train station on Saturday.

She warned that those inside Cop26 must take urgent action to avoid climate chaos.

Emergency

“As citizens across the planet, we urge you to face up to the climate emergency. Not next year. Not next month. Now,” said Thunberg.

Activists arrived in Glasgow from across Europe on a chartered train on Sunday as part of the Rail to Cop initiative.

Hundreds of activists at the ­station greeted them.

There were already early signs that the police are looking to crush protests.

Activists who greeted those ­arriving in Glasgow by train were reportedly threatened with arrest.

Police Scotland’s Iain Livingstone warned cops are likely to “physically engage” with protesters. In the face of escalating police aggression, ­protests on the 5 and 6 November need to be as big as possible.

There is still time to build ­protests to be even larger.

They will send a clear message that ordinary people won’t stand by as the planet is destroyed.

Join protests- Friday 5 November, 11am, Glasgow Assemble: Kelvingrove Park, at the Prince of Wales Bridge

Saturday 6 November, 12 noon Glasgow Assemble: Kelvingrove Park
London Assemble: Bank of England, Threadneedle St, EC2R 8AH
For protests in other towns and cities see cop26coalition.org


Climate actviists joined a cleansing workers picket at the Dawsholm depot on Monday

Climate activists joined a cleansing workers' picket at the Dawsholm depot on Monday (Pic: Friends of the Earth Scotland on Twitter)


Glasgow council workers are right to strike during the climate conference

As Cop26 began, Glasgow city council cleansing workers began a pay strike.

They were right to do so. Criticism that their strike distracts from the conference is utterly wrong.

Workers fighting for better conditions in life is not separate from the climate battle.

We need more working class fights that link pay and job conditions to environmental issues.

Greta Thunberg and striking workers to unite at Cop26 protests in Glasgow
Greta Thunberg and striking workers to unite at Cop26 protests in Glasgow
  Read More

Members of the GMB union working in refuse collection and school janitors and caterers began their strike on Monday.

The strikes were initially called off on Friday by the GMB leadership following a new pay offer.

But talks fell flat and strikes were back on.

Council workers in the Unison union were also set to strike for five days from Monday of next week—but the union wrongly called off the action.

The agreed deal only offers a one year real-term pay rise for the lowest-paid council workers.

Its only improvement on the previous offer was that the pay deal would be backdated to January 2021.

And those earning over £25,000 will get an increase of just one or two percent—well below inflation.

Jim Main, a Unison activist in Glasgow, told Socialist Worker it was wrong to suspend the action. “There’ll be tremendous anger and frustration in Glasgow,” he said. “Given where we had the employer—they were squirming with Cop26 on.”

Jim added, “The good ballot results in some branches show there was an appetite for action. Striking after the GMB would have meant two weeks of serious industrial action. The employers would have been very vulnerable to that.”

Everyone should offer solidarity and get behind the striking workers.

Those at the top of GMB were right not to accept the deal.

But they must move beyond a chest-beating glee at upstaging Unison and push for hard-hitting action over pay and climate issues.

This would be a huge step forward for creating stronger links between the climate movement and organised workers.

Glasgow pickets at 7am at Polmadie, Shieldhall, Queenslie, St Rollox, Anderston, Dawsholm, Bridgeton, Blochairn

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