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Union call to stop wrecking fabric of daily life

“Working people in the UK can help stop the Conservative-led coalition from taking a wrecking ball to the fabric of daily life.” That is the New Year’s message to some 3.5 million workers across both the public and private sectors from their unions, the GMB, Unison and Unite, who say that the government’s dangerous prescription of economic deflation and historically high cuts will not revive the economy but will instead bring it to its knees.

The landmark joint message sees the three unions – the biggest in the UK – pledge that in 2011 they will inspire and support resistance to the cuts across the UK.  They also vow to make the Spring elections the first referendum on the government’s austerity programme.

Such is the level of concern about the real intent behind the cuts – recasting the state so that the private sector can sweep in, allied to the fear that harsh cuts will cause endemic inequality across society and plunge a new generation into unemployment – that the unions have vowed to work tirelessly together throughout 2011 to pursue a sound economic alternative.

The unions are furious that the government is using the cover of coalition and a whipped-up fear over the deficit to terrify people into acceptance of what is little more than the rolling back of social provision. Pointing to the mounting dissent among economic experts over the government’s approach, they say there is no programme for growth but only polices which will lead to a devastating contraction in the UK economy at a time when the global economy is still exhibiting deeply worrying signs of recession.

The unions say it is high time that the truth was told about the government’s reckless policies.  January will see the three embark on a programme of promoting an economic alternative to their members urging them to get active in both opposing cuts and making their voices heard at the May election, the first chance for large parts of country to vote on the government’s cuts programme.

Central to the unions’ message will be the push for an economic policy based on:

  • Growth – and a clear programme for job creation
  • Investment to get the unemployed back to work
  • Maintaining universal, quality public services  – and safeguarding them from costly private providers
  • A fair taxation policy, including closing tax avoidance loopholes and a transaction tax which will generate billions for the economy
  • Abandonment of welfare upheaval which will plunge families and communities into poverty
  • Regulation of the economy to restore trust and confidence

Paul Kenny, General Secretary of GMB said:

The deficit is not Labour’s deficit, it’s the bankers’ deficit.  The Labour Government had to borrow to save the UK economy from collapse due to the irresponsible actions of the bankers, a policy supported by the Conservatives in opposition.

The banks’ actions in pouring billions of pounds into risky and complex investments came unstuck and left tax payers and elected governments with a mess to clear up.  This cost the UK £850 billion, a recession where we lost 6% of national output, two and half million unemployed, pay freezes, inflation rising and where taxation revenues fell suddenly.

Unions had warned of the dangers of under-regulated financial sector and the banks now need regulating so it doesn’t happen again.  This is also the view of Mervyn King, the Governor of the Bank of England.”

Dave Prentis, General Secretary of UNISON said:

It’s clear that the Government is ideologically driven to massacre public services and bring the misery of unemployment and poverty to millions. This is a recipe for social turmoil on a scale not seen since the 80’s. A whole generation of young people betrayed, facing a bleak future.

Local Government is particularly hard hit by the cuts. 70,000 jobs have gone in the last months of 2010 and hundreds of thousands more will follow in 2011.  This spells disaster for local communities and for people who need those services. The Big Society spin won’t pick up the pieces of broken Britain’s lost jobs and dashed hopes.

We need a Government that will keep Britain working by investing in our economy, our services and our future.”

Len McCluskey, General Secretary-designate of Unite said:

It is possible to pull the UK economy out of recession without the misery of mass unemployment. This government is ripping a huge hole in the economy by contracting spending and throwing one and a half million people on the dole.  But where is the Plan B?  Where will the new jobs come from?  Certainly not from a private sector which is reeling from the global downturn.

We know all too well how this government can swing the axe; what we need to see more of is can they actually step up to the job of creating employment. Strategic investments can reap rewards far beyond the original outlay – for instance, a £6bn investment in affordable social housing would build 100,000 new homes and create 750,000 new jobs in construction and the manufacturing supply chain.  This makes more economic sense than paying people to sit on the dole.

Economic activism means not sitting on your hands. It is the duty of our government to actively support job creation.  Roll your sleeves up, support investment, unlock the capital funds held in the banks and start creating the jobs needed to replace the million or so you have destroyed.”

The three unions will be taking the message about the truth about the deficit and the Conservative-led government’s approach to its members in the coming weeks, focusing on:

A fair economy

  • Fair taxes must be part of any solution. Systematically, companies and rich individuals have been avoiding more and more tax which means government squeezes greater amounts from working people.
  • End to indirect taxes like VAT which hit the low paid proportionally harder.
  • Regulation of the banking system to bring transparency; Government to use its controlling stake in UK banks to stop job cuts, excess pay and bonuses.
  • A transaction tax on City dealings, including trade in stocks, shares, currencies and derivatives.
  • A just welfare state which does not force people further into poverty and social exclusion.

Saving the NHS

  • The massive top-down £80 billion re-organisation of the NHS in England to break it into small local commissioning units tasked with employing private companies to find other private health providers to submit the cheapest bid for public health services.
  • The down-grading of NICE will also see drug price rise and access to them severely curtailed.
  • GP consortia will see the return of the postcode lottery.
  • The scrapping of waiting lists will cause undoubted misery for countless people in need of treatment.
  • These policies are all designed to ensure the private sector and overseas private health companies exert control over access to health services – however the service is still being funded by the UK taxpayer.

Good education for all

  • Free Schools and Academies in England will force schools to compete in a local market.  In some areas, e.g. Wandsworth, they are prepared to spend tens of millions of pounds to promote this vision even when there are surplus places in some schools and existing schools in need of repair.
  • The English student tuition fee hike to a maximum of £9,000 a year is not being introduced to deal with the current deficit, as it will bite after 2014 by which point the Chancellor claims the deficit will have been aid down, but to create a financial market place for colleges, courses and students.
  • The end result will be students from wealthy families going to elite universities and, if not deterred by the debts, other students seeking out cheaper courses at cheaper colleges in cheaper locations. Social mobility will be thrown into reverse.

Economic activism

  • Investment to put UK manufacturing at the forefront of economic development.
  • Support to expand low carbon sustainable industries.
  • Reversal of the decision to block a  £80m loan to Sheffield Forgemasters.
  • The urgent establishment of a Strategic Investment Fund, alongside the promised Green Investment Bank.
  • Energy pricing policies which recognise the needs of industry.
  • Public procurement processes to ensure maximum benefit for UK manufacturing.

2 Comments

  1. George Woodhouse says:

    The labour government created this extraordinary financial disaster – please leave a government, that seems to know how to sort it out, get on with it!

  2. les says:

    The parrots have been given their orders and have spoken = all together now:

    “the Conservative led government”

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