16/03/2015 - Solidarity AGM Presidential Address 2015

This is the Presidential Address from David Kerr given to the Solidarity Annual Meeting on 14 March, 2015.

showofhands"This year we commemorate the tenth anniversary of the foundation of Solidarity the Union. It's been a short life but it's been an eventful one. Some of our founders had been excluded or expelled from TUC affiliates; not for anything they had done but on the ground of their perceived political opinions or past or present affiliations. They thought it was time for a Union to look after the interests of workers in these islands rather than getting vexed over events overseas."

"The problem was that some of them weren't too serious about it and the Union wandered a bit in the wilderness before getting properly launched in this city in 2007. Even then we had some problems when a faction tried to launch a palace coup and expel our general secretary on baseless charges. It took a good year and a bit to sort that mess out. The sectarian ultra-left had a field day. They mocked us as a 'fake union' that would soon fade away. They were wrong. We are real. We are here and we are serious."

"I'd like to commend those of our members and officials who do the day-to-day bread-and-butter work of representation for Solidarity members at disciplinary hearings and tribunals. The fact is that in these days of employment insecurity any one of us could suddenly find ourselves in bother at work. You don't need to be a 'trouble-maker'. That's when our name begins to mean something... Solidarity! You don't stand alone and isolated. You have the strength of the Union behind you and beside you. Together we are Strong is not just a slogan."

"In our motions and our discussions today, we have noticed that workers' rights in this country have come under a great deal of pressure; especially since the Cameron-Clegg coalition took power in 2010. The Tories and their Lib-Dem lackeys have let the banksters who almost bankrupted the country go off scot-free; unless you think taking away Fred Goodwin's knighthood was punishment enough. Recent news shows that this stuff didn't end in 2008. Recent revelations show that HSBC is still at it and Cameron rewarded Lord Green - the man responsible for large scale tax evasion - with a cabinet post."

"The government talks the talk about rewarding workers rather than shirkers but does nothing about it. As we heard today, most benefits are paid out to workers and their families who are paid so poorly that they have to depend on housing benefit and working tax credits. This is wrong. It's wrong when, instead of paying a living wage to their workers, companies campaign for open borders to drive down wages with an endlessly replenishing pool of cheap migrant labour."

"Meanwhile, those who think there should be something better in life than having to slog all the hours God sends for a pittance, or those who claim benefits, are vilified in the media and parliament as workshy scroungers. All a benefit claimant has to do is make one slip and they'll find that sanctions are taken against them. They're left with nothing. Is it any wonder that the number of food banks are growing; the only banks the government doesn't like? People with disabilities are especially vulnerable. On Thursday last, a court ruled that the government's Work Capability Assessment puts people with autism and/or mental health problems and learning disabilities at an unfair disadvantage."

"In its pursuit of austerity for you and me and luxury for the fat cats (the alleged wealth creators) at all costs, this government and the Big Media are promoting a campaign of divide and rule villification and hatred against poorer people; people like you and me. Benefit fraud amounts to 0.7% of the total benefits budget; some £1.2bn according to DWP statistics for the last financial year. Tax cheating was estimated by HMRC as some £34bn. Benefit cheats make Ian Duncan Smith's blood boil. He has been less forthcoming on his views on the asset-stripping, job-exporting, tax-cheating, Big-Business fat cat cronies of the Prime Minister."

"I commend to you the Workers' Charter. In a few weeks you're going to have all sorts of parliamentary candidates and their canvassers arriving on your doorstep. Tell them you won't dream of giving them your vote unless they support the Workers' Charter. Tell your friends, your neighbours, your family to say the same. Remember, these people are supposed to work for you. Let's speak up for the rights of the British worker to a fair day's pay for a fair day's work and for the restoration of hard-won workers' rights in this country. Solidarity forever!"