Coalition has ‘declared war on our people’
Today UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis told the TUC Congress that now
was the ‘time for action’ to end the government’s damaging austerity
He addressed Congress to make the case for– ‘A future that works’ – urging the TUC to renew its fight aginst the government’s unwelcome and failing austerity agenda, and promising coordinated action if they refuse.
He said that the 20 October Demonstration must be a ‘launch pad’ for an organised, united campaign against austerity.
Saying the coalition had ‘declared war on our people’ through the pay freeze, pushing workers closer and closer to economic oblivion while the rich remain untouched, he added that industrial action would be the inevitable response that if the government refuses to bring an end to austerity.
The full speech can be found below:
“At the start I want to pay tribute, like Brendan, to the fantastic athletes who made the Olympics so successful and the volunteers, but Congress I also want to pay tribute to the 80,000 women, men and children in the Olympic stadium who showed George Osborne exactly what they thought of him.
“The day George Osborne was rumbled and the crowd who spoke for all of us weren’t booing pantomime villains, but real life villains who are destroying Britain.
“Tory Britain; an economy in crisis; the longest recession for 50 years; 625 public service jobs gone every single day of this coalition – and more to come; the worst child poverty record of any government for a generation.
“A Britain where last week Save The Children, an international charity, launched an appeal to help UK families plunged into poverty by cuts and recession. Stories of kids going without hot meals, winter clothes, missing out on school trips. Working families struggling with rocketing prices, plummeting pay.
“An Oxfam report warning of inequality in Britain not seen since Victorian times – heart rending stories that shame this government and anyone who supports it.
“And in Britain – walk down any high street, open any newspaper, turn on the TV, legalised loan sharks offering pay-day loans, interest rates reaching 4000%. An industry that is now worth £2bn a year, and six in ten using money to pay their household bills or to buy essentials, trapping families in a downward spiral of debt and despair.
“Our people. Our kids.
“The cost of food going up again by another 10%, the cost of gas and electric rising even more. We know, Congress, that it takes just a £50 increase in monthly outgoings, and that would plunge one third of families into financial ruin.
“Britain is changing beyond recognition.
“Employment rights are under attack, sacking workers to be made easier than ever before. Britain where ‘sit alone’ judges –not tribunals – decide unfair dismissal claims; where ‘zero hours’ contracts are all the norm.
“A world where bankers with no shame are now speculating on food prices as millions face starvation.
“Britain where everything is up for sale: our NHS, our care services, our education services – essential services being privatised.
“£27bn of contracts are to be signed in the coming year alone – despite the scandals, despite the failures. A4E; Southern Cross; G4S; ATOL and its discredited benefits tests; and failed council contracts.
“And the Tories, the Tories, with no road to recovery, know their policies aren’t working, and are using austerity, the recession to destroy our public services, to destroy our welfare state. Without austerity, they couldn’t privatise our NHS, privatise policing, close libraries, attack the hard-won rights of working people.
“A coalition which has declared war on our people – our people facing a third year of pay freeze. Living standards slashed, while the rich and the powerful remain untouched.
“And congress this is the point: it is our job to lead the fight back. To protect our heritage. To defend that fairer society that those who went before us fought for. To fight for a future that works. To ensure that 20 October is the biggest anti-cuts demonstration in our history. A day that will give hope to our people, hope for a better, fairer society.
“And the 20 October has to be more – much more than just a march. It must be a launch pad for our campaign against austerity. After that day we must march on, united, coordinated.
“The Tory posh boys think our members are afraid – afraid of losing their jobs, afraid of asking for better pay. But it’s our job as leaders, as trade unionists, to raise them up, and to show our members what they are really worth.
“And as a TUC we must be out there campaigning, organising, building a movement, building alliances of all unions.
“We are never stronger than when we coordinate industrial action, when we speak with one voice. Yes, we will seek decent pay, fair pay. Yes, we will negotiate – that is what our membership expect us to do.
“But make no mistake, if employers refuse to negotiate; if the attacks continue – we will deliver the coordinated action which is called for in this composite.
“Now is the time for action.