Speech by Mike Kirby, UNISON Scottish Secretary at STUC March and Rally For A Future That Works - Glasgow 20 October 2012
As the ink dries on the signatures of Diamond Dave and Alex I on the Edinburgh Agreement
We gather to say to politicians of all colours and persuasions:
You’ve less than 100 weeks to sort it. To sort out your way of getting us out of the mire which you’ve created
To sort out the sort of Scotland we want - because the debate on the future of Scotland will have a bearing on the life of everyone in Scotland and indeed the UK.
The politics of national identity, Scottish or British, are not our concern.
We are guided by the interests of our people, by the sort of Scotland we want to, and deserve to, live in.
This means that for us the constitutional arrangements are the end, not the starting point, of the debate.
It’s not enough for those seeking our support to propose that this or that power
should be exercised in Holyrood or remain in Westminster.
They need to tell us how they believe that power should be used, and in whose interests.
And it’s a debate about Social Justice for All.
Ordinary people are being asked to pay too high a price. Key public services are under attack and politicians need to be told that “enough is enough”.
Trade union members, their families and friends, know that the drastic spending cuts and attacks on benefits are hurting them and are hurting the most vulnerable people in society.
The damage is also being passed down whether from Westminster, Holyrood or individual public authorities - in the Scottish Government’s budget decisions,
affecting every service our members provide, and their pay, jobs and pensions.
Unless policies change the economy will not grow, incomes will not rise, and there will be almost no new jobs.
If the government keeps on with big spending cuts and austerity we face a lost decade.
Even on their own terms government policies are failing.
Government borrowing has had to increase to £11.8billion more than the previous
and the deficit continued to 2017.
Even the economists who endorsed Osborne in 2010 are abandoning him.
In 2009, we were told that the Tories would protect public services.
"We’re all in this together. Our determination as compassionate Tories
is to protect the most vulnerable."
Well, the poor are all in it together - and the rich are holidaying in the south of France.
And if the government keeps on with big spending cuts and austerity we face a lost decade and UK workers face a wage dive.
The three-year pay freeze has been unique in the public sector, and the cumulative effect of this coupled with high inflation has meant that, since 2009, pay for the public service workforce has fallen by a massive 13% across the board.
In the meantime the cost of living has soared, with the cost of basics such as food and energy putting ever-increasing pressure on household budgets
that are already stretched to the limit.
Workers will have to wait another ten years to get back to the level of income they enjoyed in 2009, during which time they'll have lost an average of £8,500 in real terms
Workers are just a quarter of the way through the UK's 12-year wage dive.
And the cuts we’ve faced so far, are just a quarter of the way through,
30,00 jobs over the last few years of austerity measures.
Public spending will not get back to 2011 levels for another 15 years. That's 2026.
At the recent Tory conference George 'Slasher' Osborne’s speech was delivered with the same half-sneering curl of the lips.
You’d think he’d realise that most successful politicians are those who manage to conceal the fact that they’re being political.
But for him and his like it is political, it’s ideological. It’s nothing to do with economics.
It’s about seeking to destroy the welfare state, the welfare systems,
which the social consensus of generations, over decades has taken to build.
The contract between the state and the citizen.
The state that provides us with free health care, personal care, free education for children, collects the rubbish, provides parks and libraries,
ensures that the goods I buy are safe, maintains the roads, helps look after disabled and elderly gives our elderly free travel.
And I have heard Nick Clegg announce decisively, no ifs or buts,
that he is in favour of taking away Alan Sugar’s free London bus pass.
So that the next time Sugar leaves his Rolls Royce to get on a bus, he’ll jolly well have to pay.
Nick Clegg said so.
And to politicians at home, when you talk of the politics of priorities,
and you seek to review the provisions and services, remember to look at the other side of the equation, the tax avoidance of the rich, the tax evasion of the multinationals.
The state that provides for us, maintains the social cohesion central to any civilised society.
The state that provides when the private sector fails, just as at the Olympics, G4S.
And in his conference speech Diamond Dave Cameron praised the Olympics, the royal family and the armed forces.
What a testimony to public spending.
And at the conference in praise of the Disabled Olympics he proudly tells us that when looking at a disabled person fewer people now notice the wheelchair.
That certainly seems to be the case with Atos staff assessing their work capability.
Atos Healthcare private sector, the company contracted by Department of Work and Pensions, to carry out medical assessments of people claiming benefits which has appointed public services NHS Lanarkshire a £22m contract, to carry out assessments.
Public money, for the state to contract work to a private company,
to outsource work back to the state. Good value for money.
We know that those delivering public services who are employed by community and voluntary sector organisations or private companies remain committed to the public service ethos.
However, we also know that commercial considerations make this more difficult.
Official data show that profit-making care homes and domiciliary care services are less likely to meet minimum regulatory standards on service quality.
Outsourcing contracts and then imposing severe spending cuts on them.
Cuts are then passed on through in the form of savage attacks on staff delivering services, with the service user at the end of the chain.
We see private equity companies are speculating on care homes for the elderly, Allianz Capital made 90% profit buying and selling the Four Seasons chain of homes, and Blackstone got a 400% return for Southern Cross.
Profit out of need and insecurity.
The cuts we are facing across the UK are not about money but about politics.
A politics that hates public services and loves to profit from privatisation.
A politics that sees a workforce engaged in caring and educating not as an achievement to be celebrated but as a problem to be tackled.
But we shout loudly: "Why should the jobs and services go if the need still exists?"
Seventy years of social progress will be lost in a decade of destruction
But there is a Better Future that Works.
(check against delivery)
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