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

Sunday, 23 June 2013

A better and fairer way than austerity

#undc13 Scotland NEC member Gordon McKay tore into the ConDems' failed austerity policies as UNISON Conference set out a detailed and evidence alternative. "We need an end to job cuts and the dogma driven pay cap in the public sector. Giving people work and paying a fair wage will promote spending and growth" he told delegates. The full text of his speech is below along with Jane Carolan's response to the defeated amendment.

"We should raise the income of the lowest paid because not only is it the right thing to do, but it is the sensible thing to do when we need to encourage spending." vowed that UNISON would argue and campaign for an alternative to austerity - for a better way, that will put this country first by promoting jobs, public services and growth.

I am sure you realise just how grateful we should be to international bankers, and I know this Conference would want to add to the thanks of George Osborne for the work done by Stephen Hester of the Royal Bank of Scotland who announced he was leaving his week.

This man put RBS single-handedly back into profit through sheer hard work, and all he had to help him was £45bn of taxpayers’ money and by sacking 41,000 hard working members of staff who never gambled a penny of people’s money on high risk loans and sub-prime mortgages. And all he gets as a pay-off is £1.2m lump sum and £4m worth of shares. So I know this Conference and our General Secretary will send him a message of thanks on behalf of us all.

The Tories want public service workers to pay for the greed of international financiers. We have paid for it in our wages, by 2016 those providing life-line public services will have suffered a 20% real terms pay cut. We have paid for it with our jobs, over a million public sector jobs cut by 2017. And we have paid for it in our services. Social services handed over to those who put profit, not before high standards, but even before standards of humanity, and our NHS privatised and run by profiteers like Virgin as they suck money out of the public purse.

That’s how the Tories’ austerity package deals with working people. This composite is entitled An Alternative to Austerity but to be fair to the Tories they already have an alternative to austerity and they carry it out extremely well on behalf of their big business friends.

It’s only two months since Barclay’s Bank held their AGM and we heard one of their shareholders say that if you need more than one million pounds a year to live on it’s because you are a greedy bastard. The next item of business was the remuneration report which announced that Barclay’s Bank currently has 425 greedy bastards on their payroll. 425 individuals earning over £1m a year at the same time as the Chairman announced plans for 40,000 job losses.

And in April, on the day the Tories implemented their top rate tax cut that gave 13,000 millionaires an average £112,000 a year extra, we had the Head of Barclays Bank Investment Branch. Rich Ricci, you couldnae make that name up. A banker called Rich Ricci gets an £18m bonus by cashing in his free shares. And then to ensure that their snouts are big enough, the Tories tell their business friends that tax is only for the little people., In six years Google have received £11.5bn of revenue and paid less than 0.1% in tax.

This union will campaign and organise to ensure this is a one-term Tory Government and we will work wherever we can with the Labour Party to get this shower of shysters out of office, but at the same time we give a clear message to Ed Balls, if you think sticking to Tory spending plans and cutting public services but just a little bit slower, and not quite so deep is the way forward, do not expect this union to stand by and watch while our members and families are put on the dole queue and sent to the food bank or payday loan shark. We expect better from our Labour Party, we demand better from our Labour Party.

We have had double dip recession, the country has lost its credit rating, and we are seeing a return to the soup kitchen and the pawn broker, but the Tories are quite content because this is about ensuring their friends are in prime position. UNISON will not stand back and allow it to happen. We will argue and campaign for a better way, we will put this country first by promoting jobs, public services and growth. We need to end the need to job cuts and dogma driven pay cap in the public sector.

Putting people to work and pay them a fair wage will promote spending and growth.

We should raise the incomes of the lowest paid because not only is it the right thing to do, it is the only sensible thing to do when we need to encourage spending. We should end the Tory bedroom tax and reverse the cuts in child benefit and working tax credits. We need to start a council house building programme and building public services to be proud of.

I ask you to oppose the amendment because my priority is not to hand over even more money at the moment to these leeches. I am afraid this is a number plucked out of the air without a rationale, there should be no more public funded bail outs.

Conference there is an alternative to austerity, it is a programme of fairness , decency and justice. It is what this union has been built on."

Opposing an off-the-wall amendment calling for nationalisation of 150 companies and the banks, Jane Carolan warned:

"Conference we have been here before , and discussed in depth the merits of these arguements.
Public ownership of the 150 companies that dominate the British economy?

How do you nationalise a multi national when we can’t even get them to pay the tax that they owe?
Just look at what we had to spend to bail out the banks in 2008.THEN Multiply that by 150. That would be more that total public spending for ten years . And as a public sector worker and a public sector trade unionist i can think of far better ways to spend public money. Job creation and the NHS for a start.

But the get out for the movers is that “compensation should be paid on the basis of proven need”. Conference that is not just a slogan but incomprehensible meaningless gibbersish. How do you prove a need? Answers on a post card please.

And given that the largest share ownership comes from the local government pensions schemes and represents £160 billion in investment, that’s what would be lost do you want to explain to your members how their pension scheme is bust?

Conference the programme that the NEC and others have put in front of you represents the only alternative economic strategy to ensure that our economy moves out of recession and into positive job creation based on sustainable regional development.

It Seeks to tackle the scourge of youth unemployment. It makes those companies that make profits here pay taxes. It Seeks an end to public sector pay cuts and ending low pay by raising average earnings. It seeks an end to outsourcing and privatisation.

It is not the NEC’s political programme. It has the backing of every UNISON region. It is endorsed by every trade union in the country and the TUC. Moreover it is a programme endorsed by those economists that believe that Osbourne’s policies are best described as a calamity. Economists like Nobel prize winners David Blanchflower, Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz.

UNISON has led this movement through the TUC and has built up a coalition around it that challenges that political orthodoxy that sees austerity as the only way forward. As we move forward to the next general election that coalition will be vital if we are in any way to see a government elected that will really tackle the deep rooted problems of this country in a way that will benefit working people rather that the top 1 per cent.

That will place our values at the heart of the economic programme.

By voting for this amendment we would opt out of that coalition and place ourselves in the same wilderness as the party that has seen these slogans as the same answer to every economic problem since nineteen canteen.

For the sake of our members I would suggest that we cannot afford to do that. Please reject." (And they did)