General secretaries turn on the Tories, saying it is they who are “irresponsible” for cutting jobs and ruining economy
Trade unions have reacted angrily to George Osborne’s labelling them “irresponsible” for planning strikes on November 30th.
The Chancellor drew loud applause from the Conservative Party conference when he said: “Let me say this to the unions: to go on strike in economic times like this, when you’re being offered pensions far more generous than most other people could ever afford, will hit growth, will cost jobs. It is totally irresponsible.”
His remarks, made just after he said he was reforming public sector pensions so as to be “generous” to public servants, provoked furious reactions from trade unions.
Chris Keates, general secretary of NASUWT said: “It’s a bit rich for this multi-millionaire chancellor to lecture hard working public service workers, who are relying on receiving a modest pension, about irresponsibility.
“The chancellor and the coalition government have cornered the market in irresponsibility to the detriment of young people, ordinary families and economic growth.
“It is irresponsible to slash public spending leading to loss of thousands of jobs in schools and school support services and across the economy.
“It is irresponsible to be freezing council tax, whilst at the same time reducing local authorities’ ability to spend money which is heaping more and more pressure on schools and teachers.
“It is irresponsible to be withholding information on the affordability of public service pension schemes and deliberately misleading the public about their cost.”
Dave Prentis, general secretary of UNISON, said: “Government ministers are behaving irresponsibly, by failing to negotiate properly over public sector pensions. Unions have spent eight months trying to reach an agreement, but so far the government has failed to budge.”
“Strikes are the last resort for care workers, nursery nurses, paramedics, social workers, and many other dedicated public sector workers. They do not want to harm their local community – they go to work every day to make it a better place to live.
“But they have been pushed too far by this government. The plans to tax their pension to pay down the deficit come on top of pay freezes at a time of high inflation, and heavy job cuts. Enough is enough.
“George Osborne should turn his firepower onto the private firms who give themselves platinum plated pensions worth millions, but shirk their responsibility to their staff. Two thirds do not pay a single penny towards their workers’ pensions, and as taxpayers we will have to pick up the bill in means tested benefit bill.”
And Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, added: “The chancellor delivered a flat speech to match the flat-lining economy that he is creating.
“George Osborne refuses to see or accept the massive economic damage his policies are creating for our country.
“He is a chancellor who wants to make it easier to hire and fire at will while making it harder for workers to challenge bad bosses. George Osborne then has the nerve to repeat the discredited claim that we are all in this together.
“Almost 2.5 million people are unemployed. George Osborne has not created a single job. Now he is making things worse and trying to silence the very people who see through him and his government, workers and their unions.”
Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, said: “George Osborne’s speech did nothing to lift the gloom across Britain and the economy. The Government is refusing to accept that its policies are not working and that other measures need to be taken to revive the economy. Cutting jobs and demand are simply the wrong steps to take.
“Cuts to our education system will have repercussions for generations to come as the facilities and support systems that schools rely on are cut to ribbons. A freeze on Council Tax should come as no surprise, as it was in the Conservative election manifesto. . It is such a shame, however, that Mr Osborne did not find £805 million to maintain the Educational Maintenance Allowance, school sports partnerships, Building Schools for the Future and myriad other projects.
“The chancellor’s attack on public sector pensions demonstrates that the government is still refusing to accept the facts. Our pensions have already been reformed to cut costs and the agreements already exist to limit any further cost increases. It is the government’s policies that are hitting growth and costing jobs, not the actions our members may have to take to defend themselves against poverty in old age.
“Our campaign has always been Fair Pensions for All, as the petition we launched on June 30th stated. Decent pensions for everyone – private and public sector workers and a decent state pension – should be a priority for any responsible government.”
Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC, said: “Millions of people are looking for a strategy to get our economy growing again and respite from the huge squeeze on living standards that this government has worsened with deep spending cuts. They will be sorely disappointed by the Chancellor’s speech today.
“At a time when the UK economy is stagnating, all we heard were cheap lines for right-wing activists, a re-hash of old policy announcements and help for bad bosses to mistreat and sack staff on the cheap. The Chancellor is not listening to the growing calls for a plan B – and we are all playing the price.”
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