Sunday, 4 March 2012

'Inexcusable that public sector workers should take more pay freezes and pay cuts' UNISON tells Scottish Labour

Sunday 4 March 2012
Speech to Scottish Labour Party Conference by UNISON delegate Gordon McKay, moving resolution condemning public sector pay freezes and pay cuts:

There are times when the people of Scotland just don't realise how much the Tories and their multimillionaire friends are suffering. Sir Fred Goodwin and he will always be Sir Fred to me - you can take his knighthood but you can't take his bonus - Sir Fred is now reduced to scraping by on his last year bonus from RBS of £2.6 million, his £2.8 million lump sum pension and his yearly pension of £342,000. 

And how can we humiliate Stephen Hester the current CEO of RBS by offering only £963,000? One of his banker colleagues summed it up when he said: "Why on earth would someone do this job if that is all the bonus that you give them?"

So with all this hardship that the Tories business friends are suffering, what have public service workers got to complain about?

24,000 public sector jobs in Scotland wiped out by the Tories and the SNP in 12 months. The jobs of those who care for our children, our elderly our vulnerable.

A two year pay freeze and more to follow for those who have given a lifetime of service to their communities. A 9% pay cut in real terms in two years.

Ed Miliband was spot on on Friday when he reminded us that public sector wages are today at the level they were ten years ago. That just makes it all the more inexcusable when both he and Ed Balls said that public sector workers should take more pay freezes and indeed pay cuts.

Public sector workers are struggling to hold society together and trying to keep their own families together. And when they needed the UK Labour Party and asked for Labour to protect them people who had worked and voted for Labour all their lives Ed Miliband and Ed Balls walked away from them.

A consensus with the Tories on austerity, on attacking public sector workers will not work.

It didn't in the 1930s and it won't today. We heard yesterday from one delegate how we lost in 2011 because we hadn't listened to the business community. We still hear it from some who should know better "we need to cut but just not as far and not as fast." Comrades, that way will sleepwalk us to separation and a review of the party entitled 'Where did it all go wrong?"

Scottish Labour needs to come out with a vision of fairness and social justice. We will not blame public sector workers for the greed of bankers. Scottish Labour must work with the trade unions on fair pay and that not mean a pay freeze.

And on pensions we were grateful for the support on Nov 30 but UNISON members will be on strike as from March 13 in the NHS defending our pensions. We expect the same support from the Labour leadership today as we had then. We are sure that the fact there is now no leadership election will not affect that support in any way.

And a word for Nicola Sturgeon. It's decision time Nicola. Are you on the side of the Tories and their business friends, on low paid NHS workers? If you are willing to sit down with us and talk meaningfully about a Scottish solution to these unfair contribution rises to pensions, then UNISON will call off its industrial action. If not - be assured that our members will know what an independent Scotland would look like.

Conference, we don't need to say "shame on the Tories" because everyone knows they hate public services, despise public service workers and treat those who rely on public services with contempt. That is why no-one votes for them.

We do say that Scotland deserves better than the SNP. They implement budget cuts proposed by the Tories, pay freezes proposed by the Tories, pension cuts proposed by the Tories and job cuts proposed by the Tories.

Their sole rejoinder: "It's nothing to do with us".

Frankly it is pitiful. You are the government of Scotland. Start taking some reponsibility, rather than crying "a big boy did it and ran away".

If you implement a cut you are responsible for the cut.

We have elections in two months time and a separation referendum coming. We need to get our policies, right.

Scottish Labour - proud to be Scottish, on the side of families and communities, on the side of fairness and decency. Not a bad slogan.


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