Cuts are destroying jobs
The Northern Ireland Assembly Executive programme of austerity is crippling the local economy. Only a tiny fraction of the £4billion worth of cuts to public services have been made but already the consequences on the economy are being felt across the North.
Northern Ireland now has the highest rate of empty shop units in the UK. 1 in 6 shops lie vacant. Town centres across the North are becoming ghost towns. Empty shop units in main streets have painted fronts of people shopping, supposedly to improve the image of the town centre – a bit like the famous scene from the movie Blazing Saddles!
111 companies went bust in the first three months of this year and the forecast is more jobs will be lost. The Assembly politicians argued that cutting the public sector would create the space for the private sector to grow, but the opposite is happening. As cuts are being made in public services, vacant positions remain unfilled, meaning less jobs and together with public sector pay freezes, workers have less money to spend.
With the Assembly set to continue their policy of public sector job cuts and wage freezes, house prices continue to plummet. Incredibly, average house prices have collapsed by 60% from their peak in 2007.
Across the world, there is a growing wave of opposition against austerity. The policy of carrying out cuts to public spending at a time when economies are shrinking is making the crisis even worse. Even sections of the capitalist class are now openly attacking austerity, not just out of fear of the economic repercussions but importantly out of fear of the anger of the mass of workers and young people and social unrest. They fear that revolutionary struggle can break out in countries as a result of massive cuts to jobs and services while those who caused the economic crisis – the super-rich bankers, billionaire speculators and big business – continue to make huge profits. It is obvious: austerity is not working – it is making the crisis deeper. Yet the politicians in Stormont – ignoring reality – are committed to carrying out their austerity agenda, supported by a millionaire-owned media who refuse to challenge what is a massive attack on working class communities. In a recent economic strategic document, the Assembly Executive have even thanked the Tory/Lib-Dem government for their continued support in carrying out the cuts!
New mass party needed
There is a major vacuum in society – all the parties in the Assembly support austerity, whilst there is widespread opposition to cuts amongst ordinary people. The trade union movement, which represents hundreds of thousands of workers across the sectarian divide, needs to take concrete steps now towards building a new party to represent workers, the unemployed and young people against the austerity of the Assembly parties. Local communities together with workers affected by the cuts also need to to organise to defend services and jobs – but also link up together to ensure there is a united movement against austerity. Such a movement would represent an opportunity to build a powerful political alternative to the disastrous policies of the main parties and put forward socialist policies to create jobs and decent services for all.