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29/04/2007 - Solidarity article 16,000 circulation

As an emerging union it is vital that we spread the word on who we are and what we stand for, to this end we would like to thank all those who assist us in our goals.

The following article was published in the April 2007 issue of the Carrick Biz, an advertising freesheet that circulates in the Carrickfegus area of Co Antrim.

The current circulation is 16,000 copies. These are delivered monthly to homes and businesses in Greenisland, Carrickfergus, Islandmagee and Whitehead.

The article read…
MAYDAY is regarded throughout the world as the big day of celebration of ordinary workers. Sadly, though some unions have forgotten that their role is to represent their members' interests. Too many seem to be more interested in some pet cause and in perpetuating their own cozy lifestyles than in the basic concerns of their members in this modern era of globalization with its mass migration and 'outsourcing' - a concern raised in Iris DeMent's song Wasteland of the Free, 'If you don't like it, Mister, we'll ship your job off to some Third World country across the sea'.

Late in February, I attended the first Annual General Meeting of the new independent Trade Union, Solidarity in London. Much of the business was spent in tidying up the new Unions constitution. A rousing welcome was given to the assembled delegates from the General Secretary, Patrick Harrington. Mr Harrington gave a brief outline of the new independent unions role in the workplace.

'The union was formed in December 2005 because the existing trade union bosses tried to conduct political witch hunts amongst the membership. Political heretics were expelled from their unions - or even sacked from their jobs - with the connivance of the ruling party, often on trumped up charges. Some of the leaders of the existing unions have sought to strangle Solidarity at birth. Labour MPs even sponsored a dishonest early day parliamentary motion that condemned the independent union as a 'scab union' and a front for the British National Party.

In fact, Solidarity is open to members of any political party or none. Solidarity believes that the function of a trade union is to represent workers over pay and conditions of work against exploitation. Historically, collective action was needed to bring about decent pay, holidays and to promote workers' health and safety. This is still the case today.

'Most of today's trade union leaders have forgotten this in their pursuit of a political agenda. I was a member of the RMT under Bob Crow and expelled for my past National Front membership (over 17 years ago). Not only British National Party members but anyone expressing certain opinions has been targeted. Your need for protection at work doesn't end because you have been expelled from one union.

'Eight out of around 800 members attended Portobello RMT branch. Some good stuff was discussed but often it was 'Who will go to Bournemouth? Who will get what position?' Many 'representatives' are not representative of the members and their concerns concentration on persecuting dissidents. That's one reason for the new union.

'Construction has massive problems through migrant labor but UCATT does nothing about it; the political agenda comes first. The same is true with off shoring of jobs to Eastern Europe and India. Our critics come from groups that are losing ground to parties raising things that they don’t want to hear. Their reaction should be to recognize the problem. Instead it's "Let's try and smash up the Solidarity AGM. Let's shut them up and close them down."

'Solidarity's political fund is pre-approved by the Certification Officer. Members will have to opt in to this fund as is required by law only in Northern Ireland. In Great Britain, the union bosses rely on members’ inertia, as they have to specifically opt out of contributing to their political funds. Many existing trade unionists are discontented. They are waiting for the organized alternative. Solidarity has support from several political groups, which will give it the resources to build the new union organization under a sounder administrative base.

'Critics have accused Solidarity of being a scab union. The same criticism was leveled at the actors' union, Equity when it backed Simone Clarke, a ballet dancer and member of the British National Party. Equity backed her against the attempts by The Guardian newspaper and some far-left groups to have her sacked from her position. Equity backed her as her political opinions didn't matter to doing her job. To the far-left UAF group, Equity and Solidarity are both 'scab unions'. In reality, people who work together on the ground in workplaces can co-operate with one-another.

'The union's bread and butter work is in members' grievance procedures, disciplinary hearings and tribunals. In one case, a bus driver was sacked for being ill. Under some 'partnership' agreements, union bigwigs have more in common with management than with their own members.

'Solidarity will recruit in every industrial sector. You may be persecuted for your membership of certain political parties but not for membership of a trade union. The law has punitive measures in place to protect the rights of union members. Solidarity will do all in its power to defend its members rights as a fighting trade union for British workers.'