CUPE stands in solidarity with Palestinian health unions

On behalf of our 200,000 members in the health sector, CUPE is heeding the call of Palestinian health care unions for urgent global solidarity.  Our union reiterates our call for an immediate, permanent humanitarian ceasefire, an end to the blockade of Gaza, the restoration of humanitarian aid, and access to the necessities of life.

The death toll in Gaza from Israel’s bombardment now exceeds 27,800, including more than 10,000 children and 300 health professionals. The near-total collapse of the health care system and the deliberate denial of humanitarian aid by Israel is further threatening the survival of the majority of the population. 

Health care unions in Gaza, affiliated to Public Services International (PSI), have described hospitals transformed into war zones, with relentless bombardment leaving them unable to provide urgently needed services. In October 2023, UN experts decried the bombing of hospitals and schools as crimes against humanity, yet at the start of January 2024, the UN had recorded hundreds of attacks affecting 94 health care facilities (including 26 hospitals damaged out of 36), as well as 79 ambulances.

Ilyas Al-Jelda, Vice-President of the General Trade Union of Health Workers in Gaza reported to the World Health Organization in December that “more than 1,900,000 (Palestinians in Gaza) are displaced with no food, clean water, and clothing to protect them from the cold. Lack of medicine and inhumane living conditions have led to the spread of diseases. And there is no milk for babies.” 

It is inconceivable that in this context, and after four months of violence, there is no ceasefire. Instead, more than half the population of Gaza, displaced to the southern city of Rafah, today face the imminent and explicit threat of intensified bombardment by Israel.

The impact of the violence, and the destruction of public services and all infrastructure necessary for providing humanitarian aid, safety, and security, is staggering and deeply unjust.  According to Doctors Without Borders, the humanitarian crisis has reached catastrophic levels and the announcement by donor countries, such as Canada, to suspend funding for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) “will result in more deaths and suffering.” 

Following the recent International Court of Justice ruling, CUPE called on the Canadian government to abide by their obligation and duty as signatories to the UN Genocide Convention to prevent and punish the crime of genocide wherever it occurs. We also called on our government to reverse their decision to suspend funding to UNRWA, in a joint letter with five other Canadian unions,.

The commitment and sacrifice of health care workers in Gaza and all first responders, aid workers, and community members has captured our attention along with people around world.  Palestinian health care workers have asked unions to advocate for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire, an end to the siege on Gaza, and for the Palestinian people’s right to self determination, and CUPE will continue to do so.