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

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Austerity isn't working - Clare Williams

‏#undc12 In one of the first debates of Conference, Clare Williams, Northern regional delegate, powerfully outlined the impact of Con Dem austerity on the regions, particularly in the North of England:

"We are living in an age of austerity - but austerity for who? The Government's economic and political policies are having a devasting impact on ordinary people, and on some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in our society.

The gap between rich and poor is widening, and as UNISON's Impact of Austerity study 2012 shows, our members are facing increased job and financial insecurity, and are increasingly worried about their future.

It is clear that the Government's austerity measures are not working - but Osborne and Cameron, supported by their Lib Dem mates have no plan B. Anyone reading the Guardian today will see the headline Breadline Britain.

The economic crisis is being used to justify some of the most savage cuts to Welfare and Disability benefits. It is being used as an excuse for the wholesale privatisation of public services.

Whilst we recognnise these policies are affecting everyone there is a disproportionate impact in the North. The North East is a region still living with Thatcher's legacy which oversaw the decimination of its manufacturing and mining industries.

I want to highlight a few key facts to show just what austerity means for the North East:

1/4 of all jobs are in the public sector, and approximately 2000 are being lost every month

Unemployment is one of the highest of the English regions at 12%, compared to 6.2% in the South East

There are 9 jobseekers for every vacancy, compared to 3 in the South East, and 2 in Cameron's constituency

North East has one of the highest rates of young people's unemployment, and large numbers of young people who are not able to access further education or training because they cant afford it

1:5 children are living in poverty - with 10 Local Authorities having a child poverty rate of above the UK average of over 21%

We are seeing an increase in the use of loan sharks, Pay Day loans, and the use of food banks

The Government's housing policies are also having an implact in the North East where there are increasing numbers of householdds in negative equity, or facing rent arrears, and of course a lack of affordable housing.

Then, of course, if this wasnt bad enough we have the proposal to introduce regional pay. Clearly this is nothing more than an attempt to break up national pay bargaining, and drive wages down.

Our young members are leading the campaign against regional pay, and working with the Northern TUC as part of the Pay Fair campaign are successfully highlighting the damage this policy would do to the Region. Im no economist, but it seems obvious to me, if public sector workers have no money or jobs, how can they spend it in the regional economy, and help to stimulate private sector growth?

The policy is economically bankrupt

Nearly every MP in the Northern Region, and every Labour MP, has spoken out against it - that is apart from the 1 Tory MP who i had the pleasure to debate with today who was trying to tell us that wages would go up! We are seeing private and public coming together to campaign jointly against its introduction.

What we need is a credible alternative economic plan - one that is about promoting investment in public services, not selling them off to the likes of Circle healthcare, and Capita.

We need a high profile campaign against the continuing pay freeze - which again if you open the Guardian today you will see our General Secretary Dave Prentis leading.

We need investment in apprenticeships to get young people into work - with proper training and job opportunities - not working for free and being dumped to sleep under a bridge in London.

We need to campaign for everyone to have a living wage - to lift people out of poverty.

It's clear the Government's austerity measures are not working in the North East. We are seeing a postcode lottery in living standards.

That is why we are organising a rally against the Austerity Measures, and the rise in poverty.

That is why we are chartering a train from the Northern Region to bring large numbers of our members to London on October 20 - to send our message to this Government that their policies are economically dangerous, and politically biased.

We will continue to build alliances across the Region in our workplaces and communities.

Please support this motion so we can go back to the Region and tell our members that UNISON - unlike this Government - stands up for the majority, not the wealthy minority."