“Working people have been through the wringer over the past 18 months”, began UNISON vice president Andrea Egan, as she addressed delegates at the annual TUC congress.
“Our public services – and union members – have kept the country afloat. So now is the time to invest in them properly – and to reject the failed policies of the past. Austerity has never worked before and it certainly won’t work now.”
Speaking to the government’s plans to squeeze post-COVID 19 spending and freeze public sector pay, Ms Egan (pictured) said: “The spending constraints will not help the economy bounce back”.
Instead, she said, such an approach will cut off a recovery before it has even taken hold, and will lead to yet more misery for hard-pressed public service workers.
Recent UNISON research has shown that councils in England, Wales and Scotland have been landed with huge budget deficits of almost £3bn for the next financial year. Ms Egan stated that local government workers, despite all their sacrifice in the peaks of the pandemic, are now facing a pay cut, with an offer of 1.75% far below inflation at 3.8%.
“Emergency extra funding is desperately needed in local government … whether we’re talking about bin collections, teaching assistant numbers, social care, library hours or parks and green spaces. The impact is also being felt in the pockets of public service workers.”
Those who kept the country going “have been rewarded with a pay cut”.
The vision put forward by Ms Egan was one of long-term investment and proper pay, with an immediate end to all pay freezes for public sector workers – and a recognition of the deep inequality faced by different demographics of the workforce.
“We need to ensure that the future is one based on fairness. We have to address the inequalities exposed by the pandemic. The disproportionate impact it has had on Black workers, on disabled people, on women.”
“And finally, we need to make sure that the post-pandemic economy is much more sustainable than the current one we have. That we prioritise a greener future. One with public services at its heart.”
TUC 2021 runs until tomorrow and you can watch live, online, here