Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2672

Workers are set to strike on global day of climate walkouts

This article is over 4 years, 2 months old
Friday 20 September could mark a turning point in the struggle to stop climate chaos, writes Sarah Bates
Issue 2672
Students have led the way in the fight against climate change - now more workers are set to join the struggle
Students have led the way in the fight against climate change – now more workers are set to join the struggle (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Workers were this week preparing to join students for the first time as part of a global strike on Friday to demand action on climate change.

There were plans for walkouts, lunchtime rallies, protests and ­pickets. In some places, workers hoped to stage unofficial strikes.

In Camden, north London, council workers planned a lunchtime rally, with councillors set to speak alongside activists.

Camden Unison has also ­co-ordinated a delegation to join school student strikers in the afternoon.

Liz Wheatley, branch secretary of Camden Unison, told Socialist Worker that workers had organised to leaflet different workplaces in the run-up to the action.

“A lot of people think there needs to be action to stop the climate emergency getting worse,” she said. “They want to see leaders taking action—not just us.”

The TUC union federation conference last week called for a “30-minute workday campaign action” on 20 September.

Action by workers will follow six strikes organised by ­students—most of them secondary school age.

Sixth form student Charlotte Lastoweckyi has helped to organise the strikes in Manchester.

She told Socialist Worker that adults joining will “get local government and parliament thinking that more people care about this”.

Many trade unionists have seen lots of interest from union members about climate justice.

We need to scrap fracking to tackle climate change

We need to scrap fracking to tackle climate change (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Some workers at the London Fire Brigade have voted to walk out. Tony Philips, a Unison member there, said “quite a few” people say they back the action.


“We’re going for a rally at 12 noon outside fire brigade headquarters,” he said. “If many go out, we could stay out for longer.” 

Friday was set to be the biggest and broadest action by workers over climate catastrophe, and could represent a turning point.

Suzanne Jeffery is co-chair of the Campaign against Climate Change. “This is the beginning of the trade unions being at the cutting edge of the climate movement,” she said.

“We need to fight for climate justice in our own workplaces, putting the needs of workers and the planet at the forefront.”

In Portsmouth, workers plan a mass rally. Council bosses there agreed that all 4,000 of its workers can request to be released to travel to and attend the rally.

Jon Woods from Portsmouth Unison said, “The council has declared a climate emergency so it is a logical next step.”

Council workers hoped to link up with other trade unionists on the day. “Guards on South Western Railway who have been striking are also coming to the rally,” said Jon.

“And we hope to get support from students and workers at the university.”

At Edinburgh College, EIS union members were set to join the strike. “We’re fighting for a much larger delegation than normal,” said Penny Gower, EIS branch secretary there.

“We’re looking to set up a staff and student climate body. Edinburgh university is doing the same as us—it might be really big.”

University student striker Elizabeth said so many young people are on the streets, “because it’s directly to do with our future”.

She hopes the strike will “empower people”. She said, “They can find a community they didn’t know existed.”

All trade unionists spoke to Socialist Worker in a personal capacity

Rallies across the globe will put green demands

In Australia, trade unionists from maritime, education, manufacturing and electrical unions will join a rally in Sydney.

Canada will see a mass “rally and teach-in for climate justice” by members of the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association.

The General Federation of Belgian Labour, which represents more than 600,000 workers, voted to support the climate strike.

It said it would back its members who staged walkouts.

Zwelinzima Vavi, the secretary general of the South African Federation of Trade Unions, joined calls for action.

He called on members “to support climate strikes by joining and initiating marches and demonstrations to demand action from our government and corporate sectors”.

Over 1,000 Amazon workers in the US have signed a pledge to join the walkout.

Amazon Employees for Climate Justice are demanding the firm commits to zero emissions by 2030, and cancel contracts that accelerate gas and oil extraction.

It’s also calling on the firm to stop funding climate denying lobbyists and politicians.

Catherine Han, a software developer said, “Finding a voice together has been a very transformational experience for a lot of people.”

Climate protest in Germany hits car industry

Up to 25,000 people demonstrated outside the Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA) in Germany last Sunday against the car industry’s contribution to climate change.

The march was part of Sand in the Gearbox—a weekend of action organised by Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and Extinction Rebellion.

The campaign was started to put an end to the use of combustion engines and call for a move towards emissions free vehicles.

The demonstration marched past the IAA—one of the biggest car shows in the world.

Sand in the Gearbox spokeswoman Marie Klee said, “The days when VW, Daimler and BMW and co celebrated their destructive tin cans without any interruption are over.”

Sign up for our daily email update ‘Breakfast in Red’

Latest News

Make a donation to Socialist Worker

Help fund the resistance