Attacking pay and employment rights while allowing banks off lightly will damage growth, say unions

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Unions have lined up to condemn the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement made earlier today in Parliament.

George Osborne angered unions by capping public sector pay at 1% for two years, and revising the number of public sector jobs to be lost by 2017 from 400,000 to 710,000.

The statement was, however, welcomed by the CBI who called it “Plan A plus in all but name.”

Unions say the pay cap would not only bring misery to millions of families but it would put the brakes on economic growth.

Prospect general secretary Paul Noon said: “Once again, public servants are being forced to bear the brunt of this recession, even though they are not to blame. Our members are dismayed that on the day before they hit the streets over pensions, the chancellor is aiming yet another punch at them.

“He should pick on someone his own size and get serious about tackling the outrageous levels of high pay in our economy. It’s not militants who are itching for a fight, it’s the government. Our members are reasonable, reasoned and moderate specialists and professionals, whose expertise is often in short supply, and whose skills command a higher premium in the private sector.

“We’ve been inundated with membership applications, as members clamour to join tomorrow’s day of action on pensions. This government should get the message and start treating its public sector workers with respect and recognition.”

“George Osborne is doing all he can to scupper any hope of a deal on pensions. By unilaterally announcing a change in the retirement age to 67 and by capping pay increases to 1%, he is making it even harder to reach a deal.”

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “Our recovery is as non existent as the Chancellor’s apparent understanding of economics. Growth has stalled, and experts are predicting the double dip will hit. What will it take for the government to realise Plan A is failing?

“We desperately need to get Britain spending. A bad situation will only be made worse by imposing a £3.6billion tax on public sector pensions, by holding down public sector pay, and by throwing hundreds of thousands of public service workers onto the dole. It’s time to drop the public sector pensions tax, and take steps to put money back into peoples pockets. This will boost growth and get Britain hiring – as it is, the private sector is in no position to dig the country out of trouble.

“Not only is austerity hitting growth – the way it is being applied means unfairness is growing. The government’s cuts and austerity agenda is hitting women, the young, and making those who are less able to pay plug the deficit. Meanwhile it is still billions in bonuses for bankers. This is only storing up trouble for the future.”

Unite General Secretary, Len McCluskey said: ‘George Osborne is like a pilot, who has put his plane into a tailspin, and is now wrestling desperately with the controls as the aircraft rapidly loses height.

“At long last, the message seems to have half got through to the Chancellor of Exchequer that his deficit reduction programme has brought us to the front door of a double-dip recession in early 2012.

GMB general secretary Paul Kenny said: “A new “Osborne recession” is the price of the failed gamble on 400,000 public sector job cuts, and blaming the EU won’t wash.

“Many of the measures announced today are tinkering that do not address the lack of demand in the economy. The continuing squeeze on public sector pay will deepen the deflationary pressures. Proposals to cut public sector pay in already depressed regions will cut demand even further.

“The higher unemployment being forecast show it’s not possible to deflate your way to growth and a balanced budget

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “Despite record levels of youth unemployment, all the government has done to today is repackage a scheme that it axed. Young people urgently need better access to education and jobs. If the government is prepared to reconsider its mistakes it should look again at the abolition of student support for college students and the trebling of university fees.”

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “None of the Chancellor’s post-election assumptions have turned out to be true. Growth has stalled, the Eurozone has crashed, the structural deficit is bigger than previously thought and unemployment continues to rise as the private sector fails to take up the public sector slack.

“The Chancellor’s stubborn determination to stick to his plan A despite the evidence that it is not working and won’t work in the future means that we are locked into permanent austerity.

“Of course there were some welcome moves in the statement as the Chancellor tries to reinvent infrastructure spending, youth employment and regional assistance programmes. But the catch is that they are being paid for by freezing tax credits, holding back public sector pay and increasing public sector job losses to 710,000 by 2017. Those with the broadest backs who caused the crash have escaped once again.

“Cutting employment rights will not create a single extra job, but they will make employees feel more insecure and even less likely to spend.

“His refusal to back a Robin Hood tax and make nurses pay instead speaks volumes about his values. Public servants are no longer being asked to make a temporary sacrifice, but accept a permanent deep cut in their living standards that will add up to over 16 per cent by 2015 when you include pay and pension contributions.

“It is no wonder that the government has alienated its entire workforce who are coming together in unprecedented unity tomorrow to take a stand against such unfair treatment.”

NUT general secretary Christine Blower said: “Attacking pay and employment rights whilst allowing the banks off so lightly will damage growth and do nothing to tackle youth unemployment. The Chancellor’s bank levy will raise only a fraction of what the Robin Hood Tax could raise.

“The announcement of an average 1% increase in public sector pay for the two years after the pay freeze is an added insult to public sector workers. Cutting pay and standards of living further, at a time when the Government is asking them to pay 50% more for their pensions, will have a devastating impact.

“Nowhere does the Hutton Report say that pensions are unaffordable. The Chancellor is only too well aware of this. This is a Government that is determined to press ahead with reform regardless of need. The Chancellor’s appeal to call off strikes could never have come at a more inappropriate time.

“Attacking workers’ rights under TUPE and cuts to health and safety protection make work even more precarious. This is completely inappropriate in a civilised society.

“Today’s announcement on schools funding does nothing for the vast majority of schools and sixth form colleges facing significant cuts to their budgets.

“To take half of a much needed £1.2 billion for capital funding for just 100 free schools is totally inappropriate. Free schools do not solve shortages of places, but simply take funding from existing schools. This news on capital funding doesn’t make up for the shortfall resulting from cuts the Government has previously announced.

“We need additional public sector investment, not only to fund additional school places but also to protect the funding levels per pupil and student that the Government is cutting. First class education requires proper investment. Government cutting funding per pupil is a betrayal of the futures of our children and young people.”

NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: “Misery and inequality are set to deepen. In the face of record youth unemployment the Chancellor’s choice is to benefit the few not the many.

“In naked pursuit of the Coalition’s elitist vision of education, 100 free schools and a handful of pupils get £600 million while children in 22,000 other schools fight over a few hundred pounds.

“Record levels of youth unemployment are the result of the Chancellor’s mis-management of the economy. Shifting the blame onto schools is unacceptable and wrong.

“Restarting Britain’s economy must not be at the expense of ordinary families and children or detrimental to the few remaining employment rights of hard working people.

“The Chancellor’s decision to cap public sector pay at 1%, after a two year imposed pay freeze, will continue the unjust financial penalisation of dedicated public sector workers.”

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “It’s time for the government to do a complete U-turn. One of the most shocking things revealed in the autumn statement is the OBR’s prediction that 710,000 public sector jobs could go as a result of the cuts, by far the highest estimate yet. This will have a devastating impact on the economy and communities across the UK.

“The chancellor has also announced further attacks on workers, with a derisory public sector pay increase of 1%, well below inflation and a massive real terms pay cut.

“By bringing the rise of the state pension age to 67 forward to 2026 the chancellor has also sent another pension shock to public sector workers already reeling from the fact they will have to pay much more for far less in retirement. As the government plans to link public sector pensions to the state pension age – this means that everyone under 50 will have to work a further year for their pension. It gives public sector workers even more determination to strike ahead of the mass action tomorrow.

“The government has launched further attacks on workers, announcing changes to TUPE regulations and eroding health and safety legislation. which is bad for everybody. This is on top of making it more difficult to bring an employment tribunal against bad bosses.

“It’s the people who are paid the least who are having to pay the price. The chancellor says it is fair for taxpayers but seems to forget that these low-paid workers pay their taxes and spend money in the economy too. If people are losing their jobs in tens of thousands and pay is frozen there is little money to spend and the economy doesn’t grow.

“The austerity plans aren’t working. The government worships at the altar of the markets and is only interested in short-term gain.

“Once again the public sector is being made to pay for the crisis caused by the banking sector. The economy is heading back into recession. If the government was serious about turning the economy round it would invest in collecting the £120 billion in avoided, evaded and uncollected tax.

“Opinion polls show that people across the UK are crying out for an alternative to this government’s spending cuts and have no confidence in their plans. The government is borrowing money for failure. People who have the least will pay the price.”

 

FDA general secretary Jonathan Baume  said: “The outlook for the UK economy is grim after the debt bubble of the past decade and the blind folly of the Eurozone. The Chancellor’s challenge is to implement a realistic growth strategy whilst sharing fairly the burden of austerity for the next few years. Yet public sector workers are being asked to pay a very high price for a crisis they played no part in creating.

“Bringing forward by ten years to 2026 the date on which the State Pension Age will increase to 67 can only exacerbate the difficulties of reaching an agreement on public sector pension reform because of the government’s insistence on linking the pension age of public sector workers to the state pension age, and reinforce the determination of FDA members to take strike action tomorrow.

“This is a major change to the expectations for retirement of millions of both public and private sector workers, and has significantly reduced the value of the proposals announced by Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander only three weeks ago. Successful negotiations are based on trust and yet a key aspect of the Government’s pensions’ proposal has been devalued at a stroke at the same time as unions are being urged to call off tomorrow’s strike.

“The imposition of a 1% cap on public sector pay for two years following the pay freeze will not only exacerbate the real fall in living standards for public sector workers, but will once again unfairly penalise the civil service compared to the rest of the public sector as a result of the lack of automatic pay progression.

“The Chancellor has asked the pay review bodies to look at comparability of pay levels in local labour markets, but once again is saying nothing about how far pay has fallen behind the market for essential jobs that FDA members undertake across the UK.

“The OBR forecast of a further 310,000 job losses in the public sector over the next six years, on top of the 400,000 already predicted, will lead to further fear and despondency at all levels of Britain’s public services.”


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