BROWN PLAYS CHINA CARD – as delegates warn they will strike against pay cuts

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A section of delegates at the TUC Congress greet Brown with their placards
A section of delegates at the TUC Congress greet Brown with their placards

GORDON Brown gave his first speech as prime minister to the TUC Congress in Brighton yesterday.

He told delegates: ‘All of us must prepare for the global era’.

He continued to play the China card to tell delegates that they could price themselves out of a job, that would go to China or India.

He said ‘China is producing half the world’s textiles, but also half of the world’s computers, 60 per cent of all mobile phones and digital cameras, and 80 per cent of some of the more sophisticated electronic goods.

‘And already China and India are now turning out more engineers, more computer scientists, more university graduates than the whole of Europe and America combined.

‘And when it comes to our members’ jobs, the most important fact is this: the world has seen a 400 per cent rise in the ranks of unskilled workers, and just think about what that means for our need to acquire skills.

‘In Asia, a worker is doing a week’s unskilled work for £20 a week, rather than the average £300 a week here.’

He said that the answer was to train up British workers.

Brown went on to claim that there are even today two thirds of a million vacancies waiting to be filled – 654,000 in all.’

He said that ‘our task in the coming years is to rapidly match workers needing jobs to the jobs needing workers.’

He said: ‘The biggest barrier to full employment is not the lack of jobs, but the lack of skills, and the lack of links between employers who need workers and workers who need jobs.’

He announced partnerships with leading British businesses ‘to take on, train up and offer job opportunities to British men and women who today are inactive or unemployed.’

He then demanded a low wage economy. ‘Let me say as well that we can only create thousands more jobs and move faster to full employment if, having defeated inflation in the last 10 years, we continue to defeat inflation in the next 10 years.’

He stressed: ‘Pay discipline is essential to maintain growth, create more jobs, so that we never return to the Conservative pattern of boom and bust of the past.’

Delegates reacted angrily to Brown’s lecture on pay discipline.

Prospect trade union president, Graeme Henderson, told News Line: ‘It’s all very fine stuff, but Brown doesn’t make it clear how he is going to deliver, particularly in the light of cutbacks and pay constraint.’

Janice Godrich, PCS president, said: ‘It’s sad and disappointing to lecture low-paid public workers about pay restraint and blame them for inflation, whilst not at all mentioning the obscene level of City bonuses and boardroom pay rises.’

She continued: ‘We have our policy set out.

‘Unless there is substantial movement, we will have no option but to defend our members by taking strike action.’

UNISON delegate Emma Goodall, from Oxford, a housing benefit officer, said in a personal capacity:

‘The Tory boom and bust that Gordon Brown talks about was nothing to do with pay rises.

‘I don’t see how he can say inflation relies on keeping pay down.

‘He’s talking about a pay cut. We will have to take strike action, it’s the only way.’

Jane Aitchison, PCS DWP Group president, told News Line: ‘I’m waiting for our ballot result today, but we expect our members to overwhelmingly reject the government’s below-inflation pay offer.

‘Over a quarter of my members earn less than £15,000 a year working full-time.

‘He wants us to take a pay cut.

‘You can’t talk to people who are on such low pay about pay discipline.

‘Our members can barely afford to make ends meet now.

‘Enforcing a pay cut on them would lead to repossessions.’