Welcome to the 2019 Annual Conference of Solidarity the Union. As we meet here this afternoon, we are just over a month away from the United Kingdom leaving the European Union.
In the past few weeks I have been reading Adults in the Room; an account by the former Greek Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, of his battles with the neoliberal establishment at the heart of the EU. Varoufakis is a critic with firsthand experience of the way the EU’s political, financial and media elite works; mostly behind closed doors.
Double-dealing, lies, smears and bribery are their stock-in-trade. If Britain does leave the EU on 29th March it is likely that they will try to make us sorry. Fortunately, unlike Greece, we managed to avoid participating in the dubious Euro single currency.
Varoufakis shows in meticulous detail how the EU and the IMF pauperised ordinary Greek workers and pensioners and looted state assets in order to pay overexposed big French and German banks. The Greek people suffered while the bankers were paid in full with money taken from ordinary folk from all over the EU. This bank bailout was disguised as aid to the Greek people. It was nothing of the kind. The ordinary workers and pensioners of Greece got nothing and still have nothing.
God willing, though, our country will be free from the direct influence of the EU after the 29th March but they can still try to punish us.
Even more alarming, it’s likely that some folk in the leadership of the Tory Party will try to make Britain a low wage, ‘business-friendly’ Singapore in the North Atlantic abolishing or reducing workers’ pay and conditions and rolling back what little employment protection legislation we have.
In this situation, we need to be vigilant. We need to defend workers’ rights. Already, I read supposedly liberal anti-Brexiteers tweeting that those workers who voted to restore self-determination to the British people by leaving the neoliberal EU should be the first to be sacked if business is disrupted by a no-deal Brexit. We will resist to the uttermost any attempt to penalise workers for exercising their democratic rights.
My message to you is this, go out from this conference. Tell your friends that they don’t have to be on their own when it comes to dealing with their employers. Our union is here for them. Tell them, ‘Join us’. Solidarity is our watchword. Our representatives will stand with them as they lodge grievances, as they resist arbitrary disciplinary procedures and unfair dismissals. Solidarity is our watchword. Solidarity is our name. Solidarity is our reason for existence. That’s why we say, Solidarity Forever!
This speech from David Kerr (pictured), the President of Solidarity union, was given on 17 February, 2019 at the Annual Conference of the union.