Solidarity – The Union for British Workers

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Solidarity
Solidarty profile pic.jpg
Full name Solidarity Union
Founded 2005
Country United Kingdom
Office location Spennymoor, United Kingdom
Website Soldarity Website

Solidarity – The Union for British Workers is a United Kingdom trade union formed in late 2005. It is named after the Polish trade union Solidarność, and its logo (which it has trademarked) also appears to be inspired by that of the Polish union.

Stated aims[edit]

According to documents lodged with the Certification Office, which regulates matters concerning trade unions, Solidarity aims to "improve the relations between employers and employees throughout all industries served by the union"; "to protect, assist and promote the working and living conditions of the citizens of the British Isles"; '"resist and oppose all forms of institutional union corruption"; "promote freedom within and without the Trades Union movement, protecting and promoting freedom of belief, thought and speech, irrespective of political and religious affiliation or creed".

The documents make no mention of race, but Solidarity's General Secretary has repeatedly stated that membership is open to people of all ethnic, religious and political backgrounds.[1] A statement on the Solidarity website backs this view: "Our aim in Solidarity is to unite all workers, from all racial, religious and political backgrounds".[2] The Union has distributed material aimed at recruiting from ethnic minority communities [3]

"One big union"[edit]

Solidarity recruits from all industrial sectors and professions. Solidarity has already stated that it has no plans to apply for affiliation to the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and will not be bound, therefore, by agreements not to poach members from other unions.

The Solidarity website states: "Solidarity recruits from all industrial sectors and professions. We have members in the health service, education, railways, construction to give just a few examples. We believe in ‘One Big Union’."

"The idea is not new. In 1834 Robert Owen formed the Grand National Consolidated Trades Union in an attempt to unite all the workers into one Union. Initiatives for One Big Union have occurred across the world. Most notable was the attempt of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or the Wobblies) to organise One Big Union in the United States, Canada, and Australia and the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT) in Spain. We have no particular ideological affinity with either group, nor are we affiliated, but like them we see the sense of organising across trades and professions."[2]

First Annual Conference[edit]

The first Annual Conference of Solidarity was held at the Alexandra Suite of the Royal National Hotel in Bloomsbury on 24 February 2007.[citation needed]

The Annual Conference passed a number of resolutions. These included:

  • A resolution approving model rules paving the way for the establishment of a political fund
  • A resolution amending the Constitution to pave the way for recruitment amongst police and prison officers
  • Resolutions establishing the relationship between the Executive and Industrial Sector heads
  • A resolution allowing Solidarity members to belong to other unions (this was amended to state that officials of Solidarity could not have such dual membership).[4]

Second Annual Conference[edit]

The union's second Annual Conference was held in Birmingham on February 23, 2008. It was chaired by Union President Adam Walker.

General Secretary Patrick Harrington delivered an upbeat assessment of the Union's progress in the past year and potential for the future. He detailed attacks from the Labour Party and the political left and claimed that establishment-sponsored attacks on Solidarity were likely to be a feature of the organisation's development.

The conference discussed motions on the role of Muslims in the Union; the 'off-shoring' of jobs in the light of the Electrolux decision to close their Spennymoor factory; the general decline in trade union membership and the opportunities this presents for recruitment; and the CIS self-employment scheme in the building industry. The Conference confirmed that membership of Solidarity is open to everyone whatever their political, or religious affiliations or their cultural and ethnic background and therefore a proposal to exclude those of the Islamic faith was defeated. The Executive Committee undertook to draw up a set of positive Union Principles and Ethics for the next Annual Conference. [5]

Third Annual Conference[edit]

Solidarity's third annual conference took place in Spennymoor, County Durham on February 21, 2009.

The General Secretary, Patrick Harrington, reported continued growth in membership to 436 members. [6] The union claimed a number of successes in representing members in dispute with their employers. [6] He stated that Solidarity has built up a considerable caseload which will in due course stand it in good stead when the union applies to the Certification Office for a Certificate of Independence. [6] Patrick Harrington admitted being 'caught on the hop' by the wave of wildcat strikes but said Solidarity had quickly began to network and respond.[citation needed] He declared that disaffected trade unionists had been let down by the TUC affiliates who are embarrassed by the strikers' demand for British jobs for British Workers.[citation needed] He declared these sentiments to be more in tune with Solidarity's position than with Unite – which he described as "compromised by its links with and financial support for NuLab and Gordon Brown".

There was also a long discussion and debate regarding the wave of 'Wildcat' strikes and the attitude and position of Solidarity towards them.

[6]

Political Links[edit]

Leadership political profile[edit]

The first Union President was Adam Walker, a British National Party (BNP) member[7] and is the BNPs parliamentary candidate for the Bishop Auckland Constituency at the general election.

Independently scrutinised elections to the Solidarity Executive were held in November 2007. Those elected for five year terms were Garry Aronsson, Simone Clarke and Mark Walker (at that time BNP members), David Durant and David Kerr (National Liberal Party members).[8]

General Secretary Patrick Harrington is a Director of the Third Way (UK) think tank, and not currently a member of any political Party. He is, however, a veteran of far-right politics in the UK, who formerly served on the leadership of the National Front. He voted to disband the organisation in 1989. He maintains contact with his former NF colleague and current BNP chairman Nick Griffin (see entry on Pat Harrington for more details). The Third Way think tank appears to have significant policy differences with the BNP.

In elections held in 2012 David Kerr replaced Adam Walker as President. Patrick Harrington was re-elected as General Secretary. Mark Walker, Garry Aronsson and Simone Clarke left the Executive. Graham Williamson, Suresh Renasingham, Michelle Harrington, Glen Nicklasson and Clive Jefferson were elected to the Executive. Suresh Renasingham later resigned his position.[9]

Union response to Political Fund claims[edit]

Solidarity has contradicted the BNP Press Statement. It says it does not have a 'Management Team'. In a letter to Personnel Today, General Secretary Harrington said:-

"First, let me deal with the allegation that the ‘management team’ of our Union is linked to the BNP. Our Union doesn't have a ‘management team’. It has a National Executive. Currently this comprises three positions, General Secretary, President and Vice-President. Only our President (Clive Potter) is a member of the BNP. Lee Barnes who you mention in the article is a member but not currently an official. Our Union rejects political vetting and McCarthyism. We are open to people of all faiths, political beliefs, ethnic and cultural backgrounds and sexual orientation.[10]

Funding for the BNP?[edit]

In a report in the newspaper Wales on Sunday, John Walker, then National Treasurer for the BNP, said that the union is likely to contribute funds to the party.

"There probably will be a political levy at some stage to the BNP just as other unions raise money for Labour. It is quite possible and feasible that when Solidarity becomes fully functional some element of funds raised will be donated to the BNP, but that will have to be decided through consultation with the membership."[11]

Solidarity's General Secretary Harrington, responded in a letter to the newspaper that this was Walker's "personal opinion", that the recipients of union grants would be decided directly by members, and that members could opt out of the political fund if one were to be established.[9][12]

As of 31 December 2012 Solidarity had no political fund.[9]

Alleged front status[edit]

Allegations that Solidarity is a BNP front organisation were first made by Searchlight magazine on the Stop the BNP website on 24 January 2006[13] and repeated by Barrie Clement in The Independent, 1 February 2006.[14]

The BNP denies that Solidarity is a 'front'. Instead it argues that Solidarity enjoys BNP support because it does not politically vet members and opposes globalisation. It has publicised the organisation on its website.

Union response[edit]

Pat Harrington has also denied that Solidarity is a BNP front in a statement on the website of his party, Third Way (UK), adding that "Anyone who supports workers rights is welcome and that includes both members of the BNP and Communists."[15] This latter claim seems to contrast with the BNP's statement that Solidarity is "a group of ... victims of Marxist persecution in the workplace" and that "[t]he Marxists in charge of the unions have only themselves to blame for the creation of this new union."[16] Harrington argues that the BNP position represents their interpretation and that "The Solidarity Union does not bar members on account of race, religion, sexuality or political opinion."[15] The Harrington viewpoint appears to be the official line as the first bulletin of Solidarity stated: "the established Union or Unions will seek to present us as a ‘BNP front’. This is as a result of our principled stand against political vetting or discrimination. We believe the function of a Union is to represent the interests of workers. The easiest way to disprove this allegation, however, is to recruit from as diverse a base as possible. Our Union is open to all. We already have a diverse membership."[17]

Solidarity has defended representing BNP members:-

"...we are firmly opposed to unfair discrimination in employment. Not just for those from a different racial or religious background, or the disabled and aged, or those with a different sexuality. Of course we support workers who challenge this but our Union goes further. We don't believe anyone should be treated more harshly as a result of his or her political opinion. We regard this as part of what we term 'the new McCarthyism'. We are prepared to speak out on this controversial issue. We have supported members of the controversial British National Party threatened on account of their politics. We would do the same for Communists or Socialists. We still believe that democracy and basic rights are worth fighting for. This gets us a lot of flak but it is a matter of principle. We are a fighting Union that isn't afraid to go against the consensus if we think it is right."[18]

Membership numbers[edit]

As of 31 December 2012 (the last figure filed with the Certification Office) Solidarity had a total membership of 337.[9]

External links[edit]

References[edit]