AUSTERITY MUST END NOW! says Unite’s McCluskey as nurses’ leader quits

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Nurses demonstrate in Parliament Square against the pay cap
Nurses demonstrate in Parliament Square against the pay cap

‘AUSTERITY must end now,’ Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey said yesterday, on the eve of the TUC Congress, following the announcement that the UK has had its biggest July budget surplus in 18 years.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said yesterday that public sector net borrowing, excluding state-owned banks, was in surplus by £2.0 billion in July, £1 billion more than the surplus in July 2017 and the largest July surplus for 18 years. McCluskey said: ‘Today’s news shows that there is capacity for further borrowing for the crumbling public sector – and the message is that chancellor Philip Hammond should seize the day to reverse the years of neglect.

‘This is the day that mindless Conservative austerity should be brought to a close once and for all. The Tories lied when they claimed “we’re all in it together”. ‘Under this government, the rich have got richer while dedicated public sector workers – nurses, teachers, refuse and low waged workers – were pushed onto the breadline as they were made to pay for the crooked actions of a banking elite.

‘NHS waiting times for routine operations have increased, libraries have closed, begging letters from teachers are commonplace now in schoolbags, and potholes in the roads go unrepaired. It is high time that the purse strings were loosened to start rebuilding public services and our infrastructure for the overall benefit of the UK.

‘Increased investment in the NHS, education, house building, local government and transport links is not only now urgently needed, there is also absolutely no excuse for the government not to do so.’

Meanwhile, Janet Davies has quit as Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing.

Her decision to quit came after thousands of furious nurses complained they were given wrong information about the NHS pay deal ahead of their ballot earlier this year. It followed a mass petition calling for her to go and demanding a general meeting of the union be held on the issue of nurses’ pay. Davies’ departure follows weeks of backlash from RCN members after it was discovered that nurses would not receive the full pay rise in their July pay packets.

The RCN initially claimed that nurses would receive the full 3% uplift in their July pay packets, but this only applied to nurses at the top of their pay band and instead, most received an average increase of 1.5%. Davies apologised, claiming the deal was ‘not as straightforward as we said’.

But this was not enough to save her or prevent thousands of members successfully calling an Emergency General Meeting, with an online petition far surpassing the required 1,000 signatures. The EGM is to take place in September.