TRADE UNIONS CONDEMN TORY COALITION’S £6.25bn CUTS –but have no plan of action to stop them

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PCS members lobby the Court of Appeal during their legal action against pension cuts
PCS members lobby the Court of Appeal during their legal action against pension cuts

THE INITIAL £6.25 billion spending cuts announced by the Tory-Lib Dem coalition government on Monday, that will lead to thousands of sackings and closures in the public sector and industry, were roundly condemned yesterday by the trade unions.

The TUC warned of a ‘double-dip recession’, with TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber saying: ‘The UK economy is still extremely fragile and global uncertainty makes early recovery even harder.

The economy at the moment is dangerous as there is a real risk of a double dip recession, which will only damage the state of the public finances further.’

Barber went on: ‘Politicians always claim spending cuts will fall on backroom administration, but the frontline cannot function without proper support.

‘Making doctors, nurses and teachers do the necessary paperwork once done by support staff is bound to hit services.’

Barber said the cuts announced on Monday were ‘deeply worrying’.

He said that ‘the economies of our trading partners in Europe’, as well as the UK economy, were very ‘fragile’, and ‘this is not the right time to be cutting back’.

He reiterated: ‘If the UK starts drifting back into recession as a result of cuts, the deficit will only widen and the money markets will become even more panicked.

‘Reducing investment in employment programmes for young people and regional development is particularly short-sighted at a time when the economy needs all the support it can get.

‘And cuts in local government budgets will particularly affect the most vulnerable who rely on social care and other important services.’

Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison – Britain’s biggest public sector trade union – said: ‘This is the first cut of the axe, but it signals that there will be more to come from the emergency budget and the comprehensive spending review.

‘The new government is completely ignoring the human impact of these cuts.

‘Despite high levels of unemployment, the government is happy to add tens of thousands more workers to the dole queue, putting the recovery at risk.

‘Public spending cuts will hit small businesses, devastate families, and the most vulnerable in our society will suffer.

‘There is no logic in cutting public sector jobs and money for development, only to pile on pressure to the private sector to create jobs.’

The government plans to savage the civil service and the PCS civil servants’ union warned this will inevitably damage the services their members provide to the public.

Whilst recommending any cuts to spending on private ‘consultants’, the PCS warned: ‘With some departments being told to axe hundreds of millions of pounds from their budgets for this year, the union does not believe this can be done without hitting vital public services.

‘Other than a £600 million cut for non-departmental public bodies and some commitments to renegotiate contracts and cut spending on travel and advertising, it is not clear what areas of government will bear the brunt of these cuts.’

The union also fears Monday’s announcement by the new Tory Chancellor Osborne ‘is just a taste of much worse things to come’, with Osborne due to unveil an Emergency Budget in June.

The PCS pointed out: ‘If the government were serious about tackling the deficit it would act immediately to close the widening tax gap, which sees more than £120 billion lost to the UK economy every year.’

PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka commented: ‘We have serious concerns about the staff in many government agencies who will have read in the media at the weekend that their jobs could be at risk, but have been given little information since.

‘We do not accept that huge spending cuts are necessary or desirable, and we do not believe it is credible for the government to say it can protect public sector jobs and services while taking the axe to departments in this way.’

He added: ‘A recruitment freeze now, when tens of thousands of civil service posts have been cut in the last few years, will further add to workloads and put at risk the services our members provide to the public.’

The PCS said it would ‘extend its campaigning to protect public services’ by considering standing or supporting ‘trade union candidates’ in national elections.

The union ‘will now draw up detailed proposals about how supporting or standing trade union candidates in elections would work in practice and engage in a wide-ranging consultation with its 300,000 members across the UK.

‘Following this, a report will be presented to the union’s annual conference in 2011 and, if agreed, will be put to members in a ballot.’

Unite – the biggest trade union in Britain with over two million members and the union representing the striking BA cabin crew – said the Tory-Lib Dem government ‘has taken ‘an economic wrong turn’.

Gail Cartmail, Unite assistant general secretary for the public sector, said that ‘this is the harbinger of some very painful cuts that will be coming in the Budget on June 22 and in the Comprehensive Spending Review in the autumn.’

Unite said: ‘there were two economic models that the government could have followed – pump priming and maintaining demand by government expenditure, or axing public services to placate the City.’

Gail Cartmail said: ‘The government is paying its expected homage to the City and the so-called “markets’’, instead of putting the full emphasis on maintaining jobs and economic recovery.

‘Investment to stimulate the economy has to come from somewhere.

‘If the private sector is not investing sufficiently in communities, the only other avenue is the government.

‘In many communities, the public sector is the major employer.

‘The £6 billion worth of cuts will translate into job losses very quickly, which, in turn, will add to the government’s financial problems by increasing unemployment and welfare payments.’

Unite said recent TUC research showed that 29 per cent of public spending ‘goes directly to the private sector; therefore, a 10 per cent cut would mean a loss of £16.9 billion to the private sector.

‘The Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) says that for every £1 of public money invested in public services through direct employment and purchasing of supplies and services, a further 64p is generated in the local economy.’

Cartmail added: ‘In taking the axe to the public sector, the new government is starting to abandon the Keynesian economic model – which is ironic given that Maynard Keynes was a life-long Liberal.’

The RMT rail union warned of a savage attack on transport budgets.

‘Crossrail, High Speed rail, electrification and the Tube upgrades, are all at risk of being scrapped, scaled back or kicked into the long grass’, with the union forecasting that the national transport budget could be hacked back by up to 27 per cent.

Bob Crow, RMT general secretary, said: ‘It is clear that major infrastructure projects, essential to modernising transport services in the UK, are under threat as the government looks on transport as a soft touch for savage cuts.

‘The continued threat to Crossrail, confirmed by the government yesterday, is the thin end of a very thick wedge.

‘Any attack on rail would expose the hypocrisy of the new government on their green agenda as it would send more people onto the roads and into the skies.

‘The UK has been left in the slow lane on High Speed and electrification as the rest of Europe motors ahead and thousands of the workers that we need to maintain and upgrade rail infrastructure remain under threat.

‘Today is just the opening shots in a cuts and austerity war that could ram a gaping hole in the UK’s public services and jack up mass unemployment to Thatcherite levels and beyond.

‘It will require the maximum unity and resistance from the trade union movement to force back this attack on jobs, services and standards of living.’

It is time for the TUC to convene a special conference to discuss the impact of these cuts and the response of the trade union movement.

The TUC must answer these cuts by calling a general strike to bring down the right-wing coalition government and replace it with a workers government that will implement socialist policies, nationalising the banks and industries under workers’ control.

This is the only way forwards, not pleas to the capitalists to make savage cuts ‘later rather than now’.