As unemployment hits 2.56 million, unions say Chancellor must change course
Unions have queued up to condemn Chancellor George Osborne’s economic strategy after yesterday’s job figures showed unemployment rose by 70,000 to 2.56 million.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “These figures make for grim reading. Unemployment is up, average wage growth is at its lowest since 2009, and long-term joblessness is continuing to rise.
“In the week that IMF called on the government to ease off austerity, today’s results provide further evidence of why the Chancellor must change course and prioritise jobs, growth and living standards.
“Our jobs market is a long way off a strong recovery and is being made worse by economic policies which are failing to deliver sustained employment growth and rising real wages.”
UNISON general Secretary Dave Prentis, said: “This rise in unemployment is further proof that the Chancellor has lost his grip on the economy. Every job lost is a personal tragedy and yet compared to pre-crisis levels, there are a million more people facing the misery of unemployment in the UK. The government has failed every single one of these people.
“The government has to start taking effective action to turn our economy around. It must stop the public sector jobs carnage – more than 400 jobs are lost from the sector every single day. Instead of targeting benefits, the government must focus on creating jobs. And the consequences of holding down public sector pay are being felt on the high street, local shops and businesses are suffering because workers have nothing left at the end of the month.”
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “The rise in unemployment is a stark reminder that we have a government led by a party that thinks unemployment is a ‘price worth paying’.
“As George Osborne resurrects the failed policies of Thatcher and feeds his addiction to austerity, the number of long-term unemployed grows and a generation of young people face a life on the dole.
“David Cameron’s claim that we are all Thatcherites is an insult to the communities still ravaged by the dark days of the Thatcher era and will send a chill down the spines of those struggling to find work today.
“Britain is fast becoming a place of insecure work and low wages as communities still bearing the scars of the eighties are once more being sacrificed by Osborne’s ‘hands free’ handling of the economy.
“With the IMF warning that he is ‘playing with fire’ and the ranks of unemployed growing, now is the time for Osborne to ditch the failed policies of the past and focus on growing the economy for the many not the few.”
UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “The chancellor used last month’s budget to say that education is vital to the long-term prospects of the country. He is right, but sadly government policies are the polar opposite of his rhetoric and words alone will do nothing for the almost one million unemployed young people.
“The jobs market is incredibly tough at the moment and young people are suffering the most, as they typically do in difficult times. The government has to improve access to education and jobs to avoid relegating thousands of people to the fringes of society.”
GMB general secretary Paul Kenny said: “That there are more than two and a half million out of work in the UK in the sixth year of a recession shows the sheer waste of human talent that prevails every day. Nearly a million of these are young workers seeking work.
“The Chancellor should heed IMF advice to change course to grow the economy to end this needless waste of human talent.
“Mr Osborne should be sacked if he persists in refusing to accept that it is not possible to deflate an economy to growth and a balanced budget.
“The government recently identified the skilled jobs where there are shortages of labour and twenty new engineering job categories are included in The Shortage Occupations List, a register of jobs which are exempt from strict immigration rules.
“With such massive pool of unemployed workers surely it is not beyond the wit of Westminster politicians and employers to make the necessary investment in training to up-skill our own people to meet the needs of the economy.
“Which bit of this is too complicated for the government to understand? It demands that government and employers follow this simple industrial strategy of training the unemployed to fill these jobs.”
NUT general secretary Christine Blower said: “Today’s unemployment figures are yet another sign that the government’s austerity measures are not working. Youth unemployment, up by 20,000, is both a waste of talent and the wrong start in life that can lead to a feeling of hopelessness. Schemes such as apprenticeships can provide a bridge between education and the workplace for many young people. We need many more high quality workplace-based apprenticeships, all of them paying at least the living wage and which lead to guaranteed employment on completion.
“To prevent us descending into a situation whereby it is only those with money who can continue in education, we need to keep calling for the full restoration of the Education Maintenance Allowance and the eradication of higher education tuition fees. Many of the children who will have been affected by these measures will be at higher risk of unemployment.
“Government really does need to address the issues of unemployment and the disastrous effect it has on the economy and the individual. Our young people are society’s future; their skills and education need to be developed for the sake of our economic future. The IMF has today said that the government’s austerity plans are not working and need to be reined back, these figures compound those concerns.”
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