10/03/2014 - Solidarity Union address from the President, David Kerr

davidkerrpicThis is the text of an address given by the President of Solidarity, David Kerr to the Annual Meeting of the Union held on 8 March, 2014.

"It's good news to hear the reports of progress for our young union because the need for a union to fight for the rights of Britishworkers has rarely been greater. The Cameron-led coalition has launched a massive assault on the rights and conditions of millions of workers and job-seekers in this country. At the behest of their pals in big-business, this government has severely curtailed the rights of workers who have been victimised or ill-treated at work or those who have been unfairly dismissed.

This is the austerity agenda: reward the banksters and the shady businessmen whose untrammeled greed and dodgy ethics got us into the present dire situation and punish the victims; ordinary folk like you and me who maybe haven't had a pay rise in years and have been forced to claim tax credits, housing benefits or other benefits in order to supplement their minimum wages, keep a roof over their heads and feed their families.

It's truly sickening to see papers like The Sun and the Daily Express - all owned by fabulously rich multi-millionaires – highlighting stories of a handful of individuals who have managed to take unfair advantage of the benefit system and implying that all benefit claimants are lazy scroungers who are taking their hard-working neighbours – us – for a ride.

John Cooper Clarke had it about right when he wrote...

This paper's boring mindless mean
Full of pornography the kind that's clean
Where William Hickey meets Michael Caine
Again and again and again and again
I've seen millionaires on the DHSS
But I've never seen a nipple in the Daily Express

In fact, most benefit claimants today are the hard workers. They work long hours at minimum wage and then have to claim benefits to make up the difference. They get bullied and harassed at work and are afraid to speak up for themselves in case they are sacked. This is the true face of austerity Britain in 2014.

The government claims to speak up for hard-working Britons. One think tank recently even suggested that the Conservative Party rebrand itself as the “workers' party”. Yes, really and it's not even the First of April yet.

The Tories put on the clothes of patriotism. They drape themselves in Union Jacks. They send our sons and daughters who can't get work at home off to fight in conflicts all over the globe that are none of our business. Yet they allow huge corporations to get way with paying little or no tax here despite making most of their money here.

Many of these companies are the same outfits that want to make secure, well-paid employment a thing of the past. They want a docile, casual labour force that they can hire or fire at will. They want to make us all into temps living hand-to-mouth on zero-hours contracts; often with more than one job just to make ends meet.

Some of our brothers and sisters in TUC affiliated unions look to the European Union for our salvation, pointing out the benefits of the working time directive and the more recent EU Agency Work Regulations. In fact the protections these offer don't kick in until the worker has been in post for twelve months. In effect this enables more casualisation – not less.

Don't be fooled by the EU. It's not just the free movement of labour that's the problem, though it is a problem. The EU has imposed even greater austerity on hundreds of millions of workers in Greece, Portugal and Ireland as it seeks to impose its neo-liberal agenda throughout the continent. They're coming for us too. The people demonstrating on the streets of Kiev in the past few weeks should be careful what they wish for. They might just get it.

British workers need a union that will fight back for the rights of workers to fair treatment and a decent wage. We need a union that won't be seduced by the blandishments of the EU or that is a trussed up and neutered cash cow for the Labour Party. We need a union that will stand up for the rights of British workers.

You can play your part in making Solidarity that union. As the Wobblies in America used to say a century ago, “Educate. Agitate. Organise” . Tell your friends. Tell your relations. Tell them about us and the work we do. Show them our website. Sign them up to our Twitter and Facebook feeds. Get them involved. Together we are strong is not just a slogan. It's the God's honest truth. Solidarity forever!"