Unions say Tory plans mark a dark day for equality in Britain

David CameronUnions have condemned David Cameron after he yesterday hinted the majority of his planned £12n welfare cuts would come in tax credits and housing benefit.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Today the government has smashed the myth that it is the party for blue-collar workers. Tax credits play a vital role in making sure the UK’s working families are better off in work. Cutting this crucial benefit will consign millions of hard-working families and their children to living on the poverty line.

“Even if they secured decent pay rises well above the minimum wage, as well as income tax cuts, millions of working households would still rely on tax credits to survive. The best way to make work pay for families is to deliver better wages while protecting tax credit entitlements.

“The Prime Minister had nothing to say about how he will improve pay and conditions for people at work. All we heard today is that he is planning to drive family incomes down by slashing the tax credits which give working people vital help to bring up children. The test of his reforms will be whether working families find themselves better or worse off – from what we heard today it sounds as if those in low-paid work will soon be feeling even worse off than they do now.”

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “Today the prime minister just confirmed that this is the government that kicks low waged workers, despite his rhetoric, when he ought to be offering them a helping hand.

“With £1,400 set to be wiped off the incomes of the poorest paid thanks to Osborne’s cuts mania that Cameron didn’t choose to focus on, people will be worried sick about how they will cope with this latest government attack.

“The government asserts that people struggling on low wages can be helped, but offers no action to increase wages, creating more uncertainty for millions of people who simply need to know what their income will be week to week.

“The prime minister says that he wants people to be supported by better paid work – which is an ambition we all have but the reality is that austerity economics have built a low pay, insecure jobs market  where nearly 700,000 are on zero hours contracts and many thousands more on short-hours contracts.

“The consequence is that desperate working people will scrabble for more hours at work or try to juggle two or three jobs.  Heaven help anybody on low pay who is trying to raise a family for this is most definitely a government not on your side.

“If Cameron was serious about creating a fairer society he would do one thing now – he would raise the minimum wage by £1.50 per hour.  We know that this would lift people off the breadline, it would make sure big business pays its way, it would shave billions off the benefit bill and it would stimulate local economies and create 30,000 jobs.

“Instead, by continuing with cuts the prime minister has chosen to show he is tough by attacking working people and their families.  This is a very dark day for equality in Britain.”

NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: “This is the same rhetoric that we have heard from the Prime Minister for the last five years, which is designed to distract from the reality of low-paid, hardworking families and from the fact that most of those receiving benefits and tax credits for their children are actually in work.

“Under the Prime Minister’s watch, 3.7 million children in the UK are now living in poverty, a figure set to rise by 600,000 over the next two years, as a result of the government’s continuation of its economic and social policies.

“Across the country, parents and carers are facing increasing costs in supporting their children’s education as a result of the freedoms and flexibilities introduced by the government. The ideological pursuit of further privatisation and marketisation of our education system will only add to the financial woes faced by parents and carers.

“Rather than foster greater social mobility, this government will only exacerbate the inequality and injustice we are already witnessing in our society, with children and young people bearing the brunt.”

NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby said: “Cuts to welfare add to the difficulties faced by disadvantaged children. Measures like free school meals and the Pupil Premium, which are designed to help, can be denied to some low-wage families even though they are below the poverty line. We would not wish to see more families slip into this category as a result of these reforms.

“NAHT is concerned about the lives of children in families who are judged ‘not quite poor enough’ by the system. There are parents who work, who are earning less than £16,000 a year who aren’t eligible for free school meals or the Pupil Premium for their children. We need a graduated and nuanced approach to measuring poverty and we need to protect the youngest in our society from the disproportionate impact of austerity.”

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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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