Solidarity Day 2023, an annual event organised by Tamil Solidarity took place on 30th September in London.
The event consisted of two sessions, and everyone actively engaged in these discussions. The first session was about Sri Lankan struggles and how to get a solution with trade unions. This session was held in Tamil. The session was chaired by Nadesan, who is the Joined National Coordinator of Tamil Solidarity.
The first speaker was Senan, the International Coordinator of Tamil Solidarity campaign, he spoke about how Tamil Solidarity was formed and how this small campaign is involved in various struggles in Sri Lanka and against the Buddhist chauvinist Sinhalese government of Sri Lanka.
Senan said people came together in a mass movement in 2022 to get rid of the Rajapaksa family. We must learn key lessons from that and we have to build our strength.
The next speaker was Saarangan, the coordinator of the Young Revolutionaries in Solidarity (YRS), who addressed the plans for students in universities and young people. He spoke about how we can unite oppressed people and how to win the basic rights of people, including the role of youth and the role of trade unions.
Next, the Refugee Rights Campaign activist Dhanu explained how the campaign was established, and how this is an important campaign. He said, we will continue to fight for the right to work and the right to asylum.
The second session titled ‘Tamil’s rights and trade union action´ was chaired by Rithika who is the YRS and had a good lineup of trade unionists involved in action.
The first speaker from Unison National Executive member April Ashley. spoke in a personal capacity. She was talking about the cost-of-living crisis and how to get the solution. Also, she mentioned strike actions that were taking place in Britain and this winter going to be hard for working-class people who their going to be suffering heat and food because they can’t afford both in Britain. She ended the speech by saying that the trade union is not enough to get the solution also we need a political voice. She said they needed to build their own workers’ party.
The second speaker is Hugo Pierre, Unison Union. Hugo was said to have continuously supported workers’ struggles in Sri Lanka through the United Socialist Party in Sri Lanka. He talked about the Aragalaya movement and mentioned people’s power. When you saw the mass protests and when you saw them throwing out their government, he said he would wish to see those events come here.
When Hugo was on Unison’s ‘international committee’, he put forward a motion for the union to support last year’s protests.
Hugo said that all of the struggles to be linked, to be coordinated and particularly on the budget day earlier this year for there to be a one-day general strike these struggles can be moving forward.
The next Speaker is Len Hockey, Unite and Hospital worker. Len said all the crises at the moment are a product of a crazy blind capitalist system and the breakup and privatisation of public services.
We saw political defeats as well as industrial at that time for working people. Len worked in the health service for 35 years. And he doesn’t hear trade union leaders enough talk about how we won the health service and welfare state. It came out of successive struggles of past generations.
Len said working-class and middle-class people are suffering from withdrawal from treatment. And they were striking for anti-trade union law also. The MP who refuses to stand on an NHS worker’s picket line does not stand for our health service.
The last speaker was Lawanya Chandra from Tamil Solidarity. She has spoken about struggles that take place in Sri Lanka and here in Britain and how to link those struggles with trade unions.
After seeing Aragalaya and the people’s power, the Sri Lankan establishment is shaken. It is using the old technique to divide people and create communal violence.
Lawanya mentioned, that Tamil Solidarity supports trade unions in Sri Lanka to organise an international solidarity. At the movement, the urgent task of the trade union is to be independent of the government and should coordinate and mobilise all the workers and supporters. We are proposing now to hold a conference of trade union activists in Sri Lanka.
Lawanya said that history always repeats. When we unite, we can eliminate any power and establish what we want. But we need to build our strength. We need an organisation with the correct perspective and leadership. we must support and work to build the mass struggle. It is this strength that can dismantle oppressive regimes and win our rights.
Tamil Solidarity is a unique campaign in its policies and approach in the Tamil community and will continue to do such political work.