The Fire Brigades Union is proud to have coordinated the following statement, which was passed as a resolution at our Executive Council last week:
In recent weeks, we have seen an alarming rise in violence and intimidation organised by the far right against refugees and refugee accommodation.
The government is complicit in these attacks. The Rwanda policy does not make sense as a means of stopping small boat crossings – and it is failing on its own terms – but it fits with a long-running campaign of rhetoric and demonisation.
Anti-migrant politics are an attempt to divide working class people against each other. In the past decade, the UK has suffered a crisis of living standards – with wages falling and public services left to rot. The people to blame for this are politicians, billionaires and big corporations, not migrant workers or refugees forced to live in temporary accommodation. The anti-refugee campaign offers no solutions to the real problems faced by the deprived communities they are often targeting. The answer is solidarity, not scapegoating.
As trade unionists, we know whose side we are on when we see far right mobs attacking refugees and politicians playing the mood music. We send our solidarity to Care4Calais and all groups fighting for refugee rights, and we support the call for safe and legal routes into the UK. We call on workers and trade union members to show their solidarity and to mobilise against the far right.
Matt Wrack – FBU General Secretary
Gary Smith – GMB General Secretary
Andrea Egan – UNISON President
Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney – NEU Joint General Secretaries
Mick Lynch – RMT General Secretary
Jo Grady – UCU General Secretary
Michelle Stanistreet – NUJ General Secretary
Mick Whelan – ASLEF General Secretary
Sarah Woolley – BFAWU General Secretary
Paul W Fleming – Equity General Secretary
Julia Georgiou – NHBC Staff Association General Secretary
Naomi Pohl – Musicians’ Union General Secretary
Steve Gillan – POA General Secretary
Rob Monks – URTU General Secretary
Workers urged to mobilise against far-right groups as senior Tory politicians are accused of demonising refugees
Some of Britain’s biggest unions have accused the government of being “complicit” in attacks on hotels housing asylum seekers, and are urging members to “mobilise” against far-right groups seemingly emboldened by the rhetoric of senior Tory politicians.
The first big intervention by trade unions on the increasingly politicised issue follows comments on Friday by the Conservative party’s deputy chairman, Lee Anderson, who said he had sympathy with people protesting outside hotels.
His remarks came days after the home secretary, Suella Braverman, said hotels providing refuge to asylum seekers were causing “understandable tensions”, and protesters targeting them were not “racist or bigoted”.
A wave of protests, many organised by far-right anti-immigrant groups, has targeted hotels in recent weeks, with a number culminating in violent clashes with police.
One far-right group involved is Patriotic Alternative (PA), founded in 2019 by Mark Collett, an admirer of Adolf Hitler, who once suggested Mein Kampf as one of three books people should read. PA, Britain’s fastest-growing far-right group, delivered hundreds of leaflets attacking migrants to homes in Merseyside days before a riot outside a hotel in Knowsley housing asylum seekers.
Now the leaders of 13 main unions including Britain’s largest, Unison, which has more than 1.3 million members, the GMB, which has 600,000, along with the National Education Union, which has at least 450,000, have issued a joint statement saying: “We know whose side we are on when we see far-right mobs attacking refugees, and politicians playing the mood music.”
It added: “In recent weeks, we have seen an alarming rise in violence and intimidation organised by the far right against refugees and refugee accommodation. The government is complicit in these attacks.”
It said the government’s controversial policy of deporting asylum seekers from the UK to Rwanda “fits with a long-running campaign of rhetoric and demonisation”.
The unions, which also include the University and College Union, which has more than 120,000 members ,the Fire Brigades Union, Aslef, the RMT, Equity and the Musicians’ Union, also sent their solidarity to Care4Calais, the refugee charity caught up in the Knowsley attack. “We call on workers and trade union members to show their solidarity and to mobilise against the far right,” added the joint statement.
A number of the protests outside hotels have been met with counter demonstrations, many organised by anti-fascist groups.