UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Reject the new orthodoxy that cuts in public services cannot be avoided‏

Today union members from all parts of the country will converge on Westminster to lobby Government MP’s about the swingeing public spending cuts anticipated in Wednesday’s Comprehensive Spending Review announcement. The lobby will be preceded by a broad based TUC rally which will be addressed by UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis. http://www.tuc.org.uk/economy/tuc-18533-f0.cfm?theme=alltogether

A key challenge for unions is to counteract the emerging orthodoxy in the media and political elite that the £83bn cuts are inevitable and the only matter up for political debate is the pace at which the cuts are made. The lemming like acceptance of this neo liberal discourse is superbly questioned by Stephen Boyd on the STUC blog ‘there is a better way’:

And in yesterday’s Guardian PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka gave an equally sharp rejection of a fatalist acceptance of cuts, arguing:
‘The government is attempting to make us choose who should suffer the most as it tries to generate a sense of inevitability about its draconian cuts. We must not allow ourselves to be divided: the public from the private sector; those in work from those out of work; British nationals from migrants. Unity can be built if we grasp that there does not need to be a single cut in anyone's public services, jobs or benefits.’http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/oct/17/finances-cuts-public-services-welfare

However, such a clear and uncompromising approach is not taken by all in the labour movement. Blairite former Labour MP Kitty Ussher, writing in the FT, recently called on Ed Miliband to toughen up on cuts: ‘without a stronger plan to cut the deficit, the risk is that Mr Miliband’s commendable ideas on where future growth can come from will not be heard. The public knows the cuts have to come. The task now is to find creative ways to outflank the coalition in making them, thereby winning credibility that can be used to explain how people’s lives would feel different if it was Labour doing the job instead’.

It is essential that we reject this counsel of despair. Ammunition is provided for us in the UNISON alternative budget with its concise and economically plausible arguments. The union’s position is clear: ‘this is no time for cuts – we need to invest in jobs and services that will help our economy recover from recession and build a fairer society. We can afford the services we need – if we cut out real waste and make the banks, big corporations and the super rich pay a fairer share in tax’.