UNISON general secretary leads attack on government for “stealing from the poor to give to the rich”

Tim Lezard

TUC12 futureUNISON’s general secretary last night attacked the government for taking from poor and struggling families to give to the rich.

Speaking at the TUC pre-budget rally in Westminster, Dave Prentis launched a stinging attack on the government’s austerity agenda and its definition of income distribution.

He said: “Austerity is ok if you are rich. It’s ok if you are one of the 13,000 millionaires in this country because austerity means you get richer. That’s because If you are rich, you’re in line for an extra £100,000 tax – taken from the pockets of the poor.   £100,000 – that’s nearly 10 times the annual national minimum wage.

“Forget the shopping trolley – this government is Robin Hood in reverse – it takes from the poor and gives to the rich.  And if you are poor; austerity means choosing between food and fuel; heat or eat.  It means begging at a food bank; being at the mercy of payday loan sharks; being forced to move out of your home.

“Cameron and his cronies still talk of fairness, about re-balancing the economy. We know that means only one thing – giving his mates in big business carte blanche to move in and make a killing out of our NHS and our public services.

“We want the government to start thinking about the majority not the privileged few, to use the Budget next week to ease the pressure on working people with a package of measures designed to help them and their families stay out of debt.”

Other union leaders, activists and campaigners at the rally joined a wealth of critics of Coalition economic policies and their effects on young people and families.

NUT general secretary Christine Blower said: “It’s shocking 400 children’s centres have closed and that a third of children do not own a book.

“Hungry children cannot learn effectively. Children living in grinding poverty cannot learn effectively, nor children uprooted by poverty from their homes and schools.

“This government has shown it does not care a jot about children.

“We in the unions are often accused of using poverty as an excuse for failure in schools.

“Poverty is not an excuse, but it is a reason why children do not do well in school.”

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka used his speech to announce that tens of thousands of members across the civil service would be taking a second day of strike action on 5 April.

The union is already preparing a 24-hour walkout over pay to coincide with next week’s Budget.

Unions say the average worker has lost £4,000 since 2009, as wages fall and prices rise.

The welfare cap will have a serious impact on low-income families, while those with two children set to lose a further £1,000 by 2015. Tax credit cuts have already lost some over £2,000.  In addition the bedroom tax is set to hit 670,000 households, with disabled people and lone parents hit particularly hard.

USDAW’s Equality officer Ruth Cross said: “Low-paid women in the services sector are making a major contribution to the UK economy.

“Ordinary women are keeping the UK economy going at the moment and you’d expect government to get behind women, but instead they are putting the boot in.”

CWU president Beryl Shepherd told the rally that the government was doing nothing to persuade banks to release some of the £750bn currently held by them to ease unemployment.

“How can they explain to the unemployed, especially the young unemployed, that a low-paid part-time job is good for the economy?

“They can’t, because it’s not.”

UNISON is calling for:

·              An end to the freeze and squeeze on public service workers’ pay that has seen the value of wages fall by 15% for the vast majority.

·              Instead of tax cuts for millionaires – reverse the cuts in child benefits to reflect inflation.

·              Stop the cuts to jobs and services – lift the threat of redundancy and stimulate confidence in consumer spending.

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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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