GMB On Cuts at the TUC Annual Congress

13 Sep 2010

Cuts on an unprecedented scale will lead to direct and indirect job losses in the public and the private sector that we now estimate will approach 1 million taking the official number to 3.5 million unemployed.

This is the text of the speech delivered by Brian Strutton at the TUC in Manchester on Monday 13 September 2010,  “GMB supporting composite 10 on defending Public Services”. See text in Notes to Editors

“This motion says it is about defending public services - actually its about defending everyone throughout our communities. Private, public, young, old, it doesn’t matter – everyone is at risk from the reckless slash and burn policy of politically motivated cuts. Cuts that are not obligatory because there are alternatives.

Only last week, the worlds two largest economies, the USA and Japan, announced new stimulus packages worth tens of billions of pounds.It is this government that is in denial by defining those issues one-dimensionally – it says deficit reduction is the be all and end all; it says it must be tackled by cutting public sector services;  It says that must be done immediately.

It is this government that has adopted the extreme position, saying there is no alternative.  This is based on a political dogma that believes people on benefits are scroungers; that believes people out of work - its their own fault; that believes people who provide public services are overpaid layabouts.

Ideology, not necessity, that’s the motivation; that’s why the cuts agenda is so deep and so swift; that’s why the tories are doing it.The lib dem motivation in government is altogether more cynical. How can the government ignore the fact that it was public spending that saved the economy from a full depression when the finance sector collapsed in a fit of greed? And the economy is still fragile and still relies on public spending – a third of that spending that actually goes on the private sector; and public sector workers who spend their income on the private sector; and there is no evidence of the private sector being able to make up for any cuts.

There is no reason to expect corporate behaviour to change - they’ll take profit rather than invest in jobs. Just look at how the banks are still carrying on; obscene bonus packages paid for by fleecing customers, charging 19.5% for loans that they get for ½%. I hope Mervyn King will explain when he’s here on Wednesday what he’s going to do about that. Because the result is that this govt is prepared to choose – cuts on an unprecedented scale which will lead to direct and indirect job losses in the public and the private sector that we now estimate will approach 1 million taking the official number to 3.5 million unemployed.

Real people, real lives. That’s why the campaign to defend public services is a campaign to defend everyone in our communities. Like the elderly in Gloucester whose meals on wheels prices are going up by 40% - because of the cuts. Like the people of Luton who won’t get 10,000 essential new homes - because of the cuts. Like the people of Hartlepool who won’t get the new hospital they need - because of the cuts. Like the families in Croydon whose children won’t get hot school meals any more - because of the cuts. Real services, real people.

This government is trying to con the British public into thinking that there is no alternative to deficit reduction through fast and painful cuts. But as those cuts and their effects on the whole economy start to bite the mood will change. We need to feed that mood change from local level and be ready to support it at national level. That’s why in GMB we begin our preparations for national industrial action next month. Because if this government won’t listen to any alternatives – Then, together with our communities, we will have no alternative but to take action.”

Notes to Editors

C10 Defending public services

Motions 38 and amendment, 39 and amendment, 40, 41, 42, and 43 and amendment

Congress believes that the 2008 crisis is being used as the pretext for a global onslaught on public provision and welfare entitlements. Congress condemns the emergency Budget, which will result in the loss of over one million jobs and drag the economy into depression, noting that this coincides with austerity programmes being imposed by the IMF and EU and other institutions driving cuts and liberalisation.

Congress rejects the Government’s belief that attacks on public services and the most vulnerable in society are a legitimate means by which economic recovery can be secured. Congress rejects the argument that cuts in jobs, public services, pay and pensions are necessary to pay for the national deficit. Congress also rejects the notion that the deficit has to be halved in four years. Congress deplores the coalition Government’s demolition of the public services it took years of Labour investment to rebuild. Their ‘regressive’ Budget shows a blinkered approach to the economic crisis and pushes deficit reduction to a wholly unjustifiable extreme. £44bn of additional cuts per year represents a savage and opportunistic attack on public services, which:

threatens another three-quarters of a million people with the dole

endangers a private sector heavily reliant on public expenditure on goods and services

depresses consumer demand across the economy

brings us to the brink of a double-dip recession.

Congress notes with concern that women, many part-time and low-paid, will bear the brunt of benefit cuts. Women also comprise 65 per cent of the public-sector workforce the coalition is targeting.

Congress notes the forecast of the Government’s Office for Budget Responsibility that an additional 100,000 will be added to the unemployment figures as a result of this budget and that the CIPD has forecast that the loss of jobs in the public sector could be as high as 750,000. The two-year pay freeze makes scapegoats of workers who were not responsible for the financial crisis.

The deficit has arisen because the banking sector collapsed sparking a recession. Bailing out the banks cost £1.3tn and the recession hit tax revenues and increased unemployment; it is not because public spending has been out of control.

Congress opposes the attempts by the Government to make ordinary workers and the unemployed bear the brunt of reducing the deficit. The poorest and most vulnerable in society would be disproportionately affected and the economic situation would worsen.

Congress notes the establishment of the Hutton review and opposes any attempt to deal with the national deficit through cuts to public sector pensions.

Congress believes the Government is using the deficit as a thinly-veiled guise to engage in an ideological dismantling of the state and an attack on workers and the most vulnerable in our society, which goes far further than even the dark days of Thatcher. The coalition has no mandate for hard-right economic policies. Without Liberal Democrat connivance the Tories would rightly be voted down in the Commons. The public did not vote for a Tory Government nor policies aimed at destruction of their public services and the dismantling of state education and the NHS. The labour movement has a right to oppose them.

Congress recognises that public investment and expenditure has been vital in propping up employment and demand, as well as providing essential help and support to those struggling with redundancies, reduced incomes, repossessions, and rising joblessness. The cuts now proposed will devastate public services with a consequent decline in living standards for all, particularly women and those in poverty.

Congress notes the vital contribution public expenditure makes to the wider economy through public procurement, which accounts for at least one-third of spending on goods and services across the rest of the economy. Spending cuts will therefore also have a direct impact on private sector employment. Congress recognises that public spending drives growth, which benefits recovery in both the public and private sector.

In addition, Congress condemns the reform agenda being pursued (e.g. the Education Act), which will transform the nature of public services away from universal provision for all, towards segregated and differential provision. The austerity agenda will further weaken public services by opening up new areas of public service to outsourcing and privatisation.

Congress further notes the introduction of regressive tax measures as opposed to revenue-raising, progressive taxation measures and is concerned that this economic strategy will result in a double dip recession. Similar measures of austerity in Canada in the 1990s also led to a widening of inequalities.

Congress believes there is an alternative: collection of the taxes avoided, evaded and uncollected from wealthy individuals and companies, which account for £123bn, and more, not less, investment in public services.

Congress sends solidarity to our comrades in Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy and elsewhere who are fighting the cuts and agrees there is an urgent need to establish a similarly wide-ranging united front of resistance against the attacks being carried out in the UK.

Congress calls on:

the Government to consult the General Council regarding the comprehensive spending review

the General Council to lead a co-ordinated campaign across the labour movement with other working class organisations and local communities for progressive means of ensuring the recovery and improving the public finances.

Congress resolves that all TUC affiliates will urgently work together to build a broad solidarity alliance of unions and communities under threat and organise a national demonstration, lobby of Parliament and national days of protest against the government austerity measures. Congress calls upon the General Council to:

reject cuts and privatisation and call for innovative public services funded through a progressive taxation agenda, including a ‘Robin Hood Tax’ on the banks and financial institutions to ensure that they clean up the mess they created, make an appropriate contribution to meeting the cost of their recklessness and act with more responsibility in the future

demand fair pay, pensions and equality of treatment and defend the terms and conditions in national agreements that provide equality-proofed pay systems

defend public services from measures that will increase inequality

consider convening a Convention of affiliates and representatives of users of publicly-funded services and the welfare state to establish a broad alliance against the cuts and maximise the impact of such opposition campaigns

publicise the recklessness and illegitimacy of the coalition’s austerity programme

mobilise maximum opposition to these proposals, including support for ETUC action on 29 September and for continued campaigning at local, regional and national level and fully involve trades union councils in mobilising for these events

build a robust campaign in defence of public services, seeking to publicise and build this fight across the labour movement and local communities as a whole

support and co-ordinate campaigning and joint union industrial action, nationally and locally, in opposition to attacks on jobs, pensions, pay or public services

oppose the unacceptable inequalities within our society, taking every possible step to fight for social justice including defence of the jobs, pay and pensions of public service workers

further develop the arguments against these policies through research and the production of pamphlets and other materials

present a clear alternative to the cuts, including public ownership, higher rates of tax for the rich and closing corporate tax loopholes

co-ordinate a national union recruitment campaign in the national media to highlight what trade unions have to offer.

Congress further calls on the General Council to pursue these policies with the STUC, WTUC and ICTU, and internationally.

Mover: UNISON

Seconder: Unite

Supporters: GMB

Public and Commercial Services Union

National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers

Fire Brigades’ Union

NASUWT

Prospect

Communication Workers’ Union

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