Speaking at the annual Labour Party conference in Liverpool today (Monday) about pay and public services, UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said:
“This is the Tories’ latest attempt at reinventing themselves. From Theresa May’s strong and stable, to Liz Truss’ promise of a decade of dynamism.
“George Osborne demanded austerity and a balanced budget, now Kwasi Kwarteng wants to gamble billions of pounds to give the richest more money to play with.
“But while the rhetoric shifts, some things never change. Public services are run down, and their staff undervalued, underpaid and overwhelmed.
“In-work poverty and child poverty continue to rise. Foodbanks are becoming the norm, not the exception.
“This government is unashamedly, in fact proudly, handing out taxpayers’ money to its rich friends.
“In the latest tax cuts, the wealthiest will be £55,000 better off for every million pounds they earn.
“But someone on £20,000 a year – the salary for many health, local government and care staff – can expect to be better off by the grand sum of £157 a year, or just £3 a week.
“Ministers are like thieving gangsters. They’ve got their crew and they’re the only people they’ll protect.
“Racketeering and profiteering, but with no mandate, and no manifesto commitments to back up government decisions.
“Threats of more punitive measures against unions mean rogue employers feel emboldened.
“Fire and rehire tactics are sweeping across many sectors. Unions are the last line of defence for millions of decent, hard-working people.
“The government has declared war on all of us, denouncing unions as militant. But there is nothing militant about standing up to protect pay, families and communities.
“Ministers accuse unions of going back to the 1970s, but that’s exactly what the government is doing.
“The largest tax giveaway for the rich since 1972 and the biggest fall in living standards since the 1970s. Even the language of ‘militants’ and ‘union barons’ harks back to the Seventies.
“But it doesn’t need to be like this. This is a choice made by a government that’s out of touch with the lives of most people.
“Communities aren’t crying out for more bankers, they’re crying out for care workers, a functioning NHS, a good education and a decent life for all.
“There’s no evidence of a banker shortage. But there is evidence of 140,000 vacancies in the NHS, and 160,000 vacancies in social care.
“The government’s pay crisis is why UNISON is in dispute across so many sectors – the Environment Agency, the Food Standards Agency, universities, probation, local government, and the NHS.
“Through October and November, UNISON will be balloting almost 400,000 NHS workers. The sheer logistics of that are huge.
“The mood is different now. Workers have had enough. Nurses, paramedics, health care assistants, cleaners and porters are saying the service is on its knees.
“It can’t get any worse. And taking strike action may be the only option they have to improve it.
“I believe the people of this country are decent, can see what this government is doing and will back NHS workers.
“If public sector employees take strike action, it’s because it’s the end of the line in negotiations. It’s a hard decision, and not a political one.
“It’s about dedicated and experienced workers, taking a stand about the future of the public services they provide. Going on strike is not a game, people lose pay for every day they’re out on strike.
“It’s never been more important than it is now for unions to stand together. To bring together industrial strategies from workplace to workplace, co-ordinating across all unions.
“The only way we can get the best for working people in this country, is by electing a Labour government. So, let’s get on and do it.
“The next general election is just around the corner. It could be sooner than we think. And millions of people are relying on us to get the Tories out of Westminster.”
Notes to editors:
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.
The article Government handing taxpayers’ money to rich friends, while public services suffer first appeared on the UNISON National site.