‘There is an alternative to austerity’

UNISON general secretary uses Labour conference to call for an end to the cuts, privatisation and pay freezes that are ‘destroying lives’

Speaking on the austerity and public services motion at the Labour party conference in Brighton today (Monday), UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said:

“Millions of working people didn’t cause the recession. But they are now paying a heavy price, and will go on paying a heavy price throughout this parliament.

“So far the Tories have been able to convince many people that austerity is the only way, that there is no alternative.

“Our public services have been cut, closed down and privatised. Savage spending cuts have seen thousands of jobs axed, with those left behind fearful they will be next, and even more fearful for the survival of the essential services they provide.

“Cuts so severe that many local councils worry that soon they will only be able to provide those services required by law.

“This vicious government must be held to account as it slashes and burns all we hold dear.

“Our NHS is under siege, and there’s a pay cap for another four years, on top of the five we’ve already had. And billions more will be cut from public finances in the spending review later this year.

“Tax credit cuts will penalise the poor and low-paid. A teaching assistant earning £16,300 with one child will see her net pay fall by £1,800 a year, and millions of other working families will see their incomes hit hard.

“For too long, working people have made do with half-baked promises from our own politicians. Yes, promising fewer cuts than the Tories, less privatisation than the Tories.

“Labour must become a real opposition to take on the Tories, not sit in its shadows. It must expose the cruel and vindictive plans being pushed through parliament and offer a clear alternative, not a paler shade of the Tories’ so called ‘middle ground’.

“Now, with the election of a new Labour leader, there’s hope for the future, a belief that there is another way, of growth and investment in infrastructure, of a balanced economy that works in the interests of the many.

“People will now hear of a kinder, more compassionate world, one where public services matter and its people matter before profit. We’ve been given a vision of a better world that works for everyone, not just the self-serving few.

“Of course Labour has to develop a credible economic alternative, without that only more opposition lies ahead. We need to convince the public that there is another way, and that unchallenged, austerity risks irreparable damage to public services.

“We don’t want fewer cuts than the Tories, we want no more cuts to our public services. We don’t want less privatisation than the Tories, we want no more privatisation of our NHS, our local government, our police and probation services.

“We cannot afford the £20bn that Trident’s replacement will cost. Not when adult social care is on the point of collapse, when wards are closing in every city, and when thousands of police support jobs are to go, depleting our police forces so that the only winners are burglars and muggers.

“New guidance says that quality care cannot be delivered to the elderly and the vulnerable in their own homes in 15 minute visits, but now 15 minute visits are the norm. And the ever-increasing pressure on budgets will force councils to push dedicated homecare workers for even more in even less time.

“Try telling that to the homecare worker who has to wake, feed and shower a frail 90 year old with dementia. That same homecare worker who has no time to get to the next visit, and who won’t be paid for any time spent travelling.

“Try telling that to the dedicated staff at Addenbrooke’s – who saw their hospital placed in special measures last week. Through no fault of their own, but simply because the government’s tight-fisted approach to the NHS funding means there’s no money to employ the extra staff so desperately needed.

“This is our time to smash the consensus that austerity is here to stay. It’s our time to create a new path that offers hope and opportunity for those already left behind. It’s time to set out an alternative to the cuts agenda, the privatising agenda, and to the pay freeze destroying lives.”

UNISON media contacts:

Liz Chinchen M: 07778 158175 E: l.chinchen@unison.co.uk

Fatima Ayad M: 07508 080383 E: f.ayad@unison.co.uk