A glance at the agenda for our union’s annual conference, starting today in Liverpool, shows the sheer breadth of the damage that this Tory-led coalition is wreaking on its citizens. Our union, our members, and the services that they deliver to the people of the UK are under the most vicious attack in what can only be described as class war.
A cabinet of millionaires, has declared war on the poor, the sick and the vulnerable. They throw cash at the rich and grab from the poor.
They launched their war by picking on people who couldnt defend themselves, dubbing them shirkers and scroungers, and appealed to the workers, the deserving poor, to attack them, too. Typical bullying tactics. Typical Tory tactics. Divide and rule.
Our economy is in crisis. We have the worst recession in 70 years. We have inequality not seen since Victoian times with loan sharks pushing payday loans to desperate families who are sinking in a sea of debt. And our Government has only one plan and that is to keep kicking people when they are down.
Families have been plunged into poverty. Only last week we heard news that yet another one million children are in absolute poverty. And we have 500,000 people having to beg at foodbanks to feed their families.
Recorded unemployment stands at 2.5 million; but those miserable figures hide an even greater tragedy. Nearly one million young people out of work with no hope for the future and huge numbers of long-term unemployed.
Our members delivering public services, facing wholesale redundancies, budget cuts and a pay freeze that has cut the value of their pay by up to 16%..
200,000 people are now on zero hours contracts. That’s a return to the bad old days when people were at the mercy of hire and fire bosses. In Liverpool, it conjures up memories of dockers begging at the dockgates each day for a days work to feed their families. People robbed of dignity. Thats the face of Tory Britain.
Tory Britain handing out benefit cuts, the bedroom tax, the hardship fund cuts, the closures of Sure Start Centres, the council budget cuts, the NHS cuts, the tax credit cuts. Two-thirds of the people hit by cuts to tax credits and benefits are in work.
But we have cash handouts to millionaires costing this country more than £2bn - not a one-off payment, but every year. Carrots to the rich, a stick to the poor.
And our beloved NHS, 65 this year, that this Government is striking a mortal blow at the heart of by first cutting funds, then talking it down, then handing it over to their mates in big business.
That is why motion after motion seeks to challenge this Government and its policies. Our fight with the Tories isnt just about pay or jobs, nor is it just about opposing privatisation and outsourcing, it’s about the kind of society we leave to our children. It’s about protecting and defending the rights that our grandparents fought for: our NHS: our welfare state.
We will challenge the broken ideology that says markets know best. And we will build support over the coming months amongst communities and unions to reject Tory Britain and sweep this wretched coalition from power.
Dave Prentis is the General Secretary of Unison. This piece forms part of our coverage of Unison conference, which is taking place in Liverpool this week