“Millions of working people and their families are paying a heavy price under the government’s harsh austerity policies,” general secretary Dave Prentis told the No to Austerity, Yes to Workers’ Rights rally and march in Manchester yesterday.
UNISON members from across the UK made up a large, visible and very noisy part of the 85,000 demonstrators protesting at austerity and the attacks on workers in the government’s Trade Union Bill.
The union’s banners. balloon and ‘Proud to be in a union’/‘Proud to be in UNISON’ placards were to the fore as Mr Prentis spoke to the protest, marking the first day of the Conservative Party conference in the city.
“Public services have been cut, closed down and privatised,” he noted. “Savage spending cuts have seen thousands of jobs axed, with many more to go over the next few years.
“The cuts are so severe that many local councils will soon only be able to provide those services the law says they have to.
“The NHS is under siege, with health workers being told their pay will be capped for another four years. Yet they have already lived through five years of harsh pay austerity.
“Tax credit cuts will hit almost 3 million working low to middle income families and more than 5 million children, but still the Prime Minister refuses to accept that his government has got it wrong.
“But much worse is yet to come, with billions more due to be cut from public finances in the spending review later this year.
“It’s time to destroy the myth that austerity is necessary and that there is no other way. It’s time to create a new path that offers hope and opportunity for those left behind.
“It’s time for an alternative to the cuts, the privatising agenda, and to the pay freeze destroying lives.”
Mr Prentis told the marchers: “We represent the many, not the few. March on, stay strong and we will win – together.”