One cannot speak of the effectiveness of trade unions without the ingredient of solidarity. Trade unions exist as a result of solidarity and over the centuries have nurtured seeds of solidarity internally and externally and promoted solidarity at national, regional and international levels in order to change unfair polices and influence positive change for the working class. Through acts of solidarity trade unions have formed a force great enough to build supportive government and to dismantle government that was oppressive all in the defence and for the workers plight.
Wikipedia defines solidarity as “Unity; unities of interest, standards and sympathies.” Another source defines it as an action to take sides with a group of persons who are being oppressed by a greater power. That greater power sometimes take the form of an employer, Government or system designed to exploit the weak for their private interest.
At one time, it would appear that employees had no choices, no rights and weapon to fight against the mighty employer, until the trade union movement.
The cause of the trade union is premised on the struggle for justice, for fair working conditions and for building a society that lifts people to their full potential. Trade unions main strategy for their very existence and effectiveness is their ability to be innovative and to come together to pursue common goals and interest.
How then can trade unions build solidarity for greater results?
I believe that this can be achieved when trade unions are SOLID:
- Seek new innovative ways to serve and inspire the membership
- One common vision and sense of purpose must drive the Union or Association
- Leave no member/affiliate behind, “my cause is your cause” as a primary mantra
- Invest and remain well-resourced to finance all aspects of the Unions Plan
- Develop policies, programmes, strategies and campaigns to meet new challenges.
The Caribbean Congress of Labour CCL and the Caribbean Public Services Association (CPSA) have provided platforms for building trade union solidarity. There have been countless acts of solidarity within the CPSA that have produced concrete results of positive change for its affiliates. An act of solidarity with the CSA of Montserrat in 2012 influenced the British Government and Local Executive to reconsider aspects of the Public Administration Bill that would adversely affect public officers. Therefore beyond collective acts of protest and demonstrations, trade unions can leverage their regional and international linkages to form a chain of strength that can change policies, improve lives and positively alter the course of history. Solidarity forever!