Unions respond to news that 2.68m people are unemployed

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Unemployment in the UK has risen by 118,000 in the three months to November to 2.685 million.

The Office for National Statistics said the unemployment rate also rose to 8.4% from 8.3%, the highest since January 1996.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “These figures are even worse than the bleak economic forecasts predicted, with new records achieved for youth and female unemployment. The fear is now that mass joblessness becomes a permanent scar on the UK – with unemployment rising by 1,300 a day towards the end of last year.

“The news for those in work isn’t great either, with pay growth falling and more people having to move to into part-time and insecure self-employment. We are in the midst of a full blown jobs crisis that is causing misery for millions and ruining any chance of an economic recovery. Ministers must start putting forward bold solutions to address this crisis, starting with a job guarantee for any young person out of work for six months.”

GMB general secretary Paul Kenny said: “This rise in unemployment was made in Downing Street. The truth is that jobs are haemorrhaging in the public and private sectors and no one in the Government seems to know what to do to stop this.

“There are parts of the country in such despair that more than a quarter of households with people of working age have no one in work. The number one political priority has to be securing a reduction in unemployment”.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “There is an entire generation of young people who were told throughout their time at school to aim higher and aspire to university. They did that, but now they are seeing the door slammed in their faces as financial support is slashed, fees rocket and funding for universities drastically cut.

“Unless the government is prepared to look again at the good education can do both for society and the economy, we will have yet more people heading to the dole queue rather than fulfilling their potential at university. The government and HEFCE really need to make a clear statement that they back our universities with the forthcoming grant letter.”

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “What is of real concern for the future is that many forecasters are expecting the jobless figures to soar during 2012, peaking in 2013. This is clearly unacceptable.

“Once again, young people, aged 18-to-24, are bearing the brunt of George Osborne’s cruel and blinkered economic and fiscal policies that have drained demand from the economy. The next generation is being sacrificed on the altar of economic Thatcherite orthodoxy.

“The fact that the government is borrowing money for people to do nothing explodes the deficit reduction strategy that has sucked confidence out of every corner of the economy and caused this surge in joblessness in the first place.

“This is money that could have gone towards creating jobs, boosting demand and plans for infrastructure projects. The government’s stewardship of the economy has been revealed as deeply flawed.”

Unite has repeatedly called for the introduction of a Plan B aimed at boosting manufacturing; putting ‘demand’ back into the economy i.e. cutting the 20 per cent VAT rate; and maintaining the current level of public services.

Len McCluskey said: “The coalition’s vaunted  claim that the private sector will provide the extra jobs to replace those being lost in their hundreds of thousands in the public sector has been proven simply not to be true.

“The coalition’s dead end economic policies may please the self-interested City elite, but for real people in real communities they are a tragedy – a national disgrace.”

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “The government is certainly setting records, but a 17-year high in unemployment and a record number of young people without work is nothing to be proud of. It must accept that its economic strategy isn’t working and act now to help people who are struggling to find a job and stop another generation of young people being thrown onto the scrapheap.

“History is repeating itself. Now, as in the 1980s, the Tories are pushing through cuts and ignoring the impact of their actions on communities across the country. Low paid women are also bearing the brunt, as they make up the majority of the public sector – where 700,000 jobs are being cut by 2017. The private sector is buckling under the pressure being put on it to pick up the pieces of the public sector cuts. The government must get a grip on the economy or watch with despair as figures continue to rise.”

NUS president Liam Burns said: “Unless the government acts now they will have to face the consequences of creating a lost generation of young people.

“Being out of work at a young age has huge impacts throughout the rest of someone’s life but the government have done little to halt rising youth unemployment.

“There is still an opportunity in the upcoming HEFCE grant letter to increase the number of university places. Government should also create more properly funded apprenticeships and support young people in education and training and they must act urgently.”


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