At least 30,000 local public sector jobs are at risk. The knock-on effects on the private sector will be devastating – it is possible 20,000 further jobs could be lost in the private sector. Public sector workers face a wage cut of roughly 7% as a result of the pay freeze, inflation and the increase in pension contributions. The unemployed and the disabled are being targeted by the Government. £18billion has been cut from benefits – thousands will be cut off benefits altogether and expected to take up non-existent jobs.
Meanwhile, the rich and the bankers who are responsible for the recession and inflicting enormous hardship on workers in the form of job losses and wage cuts, are getting away scot free! Indeed the super-rich are the winners in the Spending Review. Rising cuts in corporation tax will mean billions in taxes will be given away to Cameron, Osbourne and Clegg’s rich friends.
Unions must call 24-hour public sector strike
There is no choice but to fight the cuts – we cannot afford not to. Despite the arrogance and dismissive attitudes of the politicians, the cuts can be stopped. The action by French workers and youth against the attempts by the Sarkozy government to push through attacks on pensions are an example of the potential power that ordinary people wield. 3.5million people have taken to the streets in a mass movement of civil disobedience and general strike action which has cut off oil supplies to Paris. Two more general strikes have been called. There is huge support for the strike action because the working class and youth are being made pay for the financial crisis caused by the super-rich. The trade union leaders here should take a leaf out of the book of the French working class and adopt a militant strategy to resist the cuts.
As a first step, co-ordinated 24-hour public sector strike must be announced by the trade unions across Northern Ireland and Britain. Committees must be elected in all workplaces, across the trade unions, in order to co-ordinate united action against the cuts.
Fight ALL cuts
The Tories and Lib Dems constantly repeat that cuts are needed in order to reduce the deficit ad nauseum. They also say if the debt is not reduced, “the markets” will not be happy and interest rates on the debt will rise. But who is the debt owed to? Who are “the markets”? The debt, which was not created by us, but by the banks and financial institutions, is owed to… banks and big business! The majority of the debt is owed to banks, Hedge Funds and insurance companies. There should be no cuts whatsoever to pay these parasites. We should not pay for this crisis with one job, service or penny in wages. The trade union leaders should stop arguing that the deficit needs to be cut – it is a capitulation to the Tories twisted logic that cuts are needed.
Many trade union leaders are echoing the position of the Labour Party who agree with cuts, but at a slower pace and over a longer timescale than the Tories. This in reality is an acceptance that working class and middle class people should pay for the bosses’ crisis. It would be criminal to accept the deficit must be reduced and begin to negotiate over where cuts should be made. That is a recipe for disaster and would pitch worker against worker. All cuts must be opposed.
ALL Assembly parties support cuts
There needs to be a clear message, not just to the British government, but in particular to the politicians in the Assembly that they will be opposed if they choose to implement the cuts. All the parties in the Assembly Executive have been carrying out cuts to public services for the past three years, leading to a crisis in the health service, schools budgets being cut, recruitment bans, the closure of accident & emergency units at Whiteabbey and Mid-Ulster hospitals, the closure of womens’ refuges etc. In January, ALL the parties voted to cut £367million from public services this year alone. Now they have all accepted the Tories cuts.
Sinn Fein has attempted to pose as being anti-cuts, but the policy paper they have published (‘There is a better way’) is in favour of cuts. This paper proposes implementing the Review of Public Administration (RPA) and the Education and Skills Authority (ESA) which contain cuts of £480million, mostly by reducing staff in local government, health and education services. It also calls for the privatisation of public services – “asset realisation” and “greater use of procurement” – in other words outsource work to the private sector, which will result in fewer and lower-paid jobs. Sinn Fein has admitted that they see no alternative to cuts, or “efficiency savings” as they call them. None of the parties in the Assembly can be trusted not to carry out the cuts on behalf of the Tories and Lib Dems.
For a new party of the working class
Workers need their own political voice which unites the working class against the cuts. Without a new party, workers have no political voice. The parties in the Assembly will attempt to stir up sectarian division over where cuts are made. This must be opposed. The trade unions should break from their “partnership” with the Assembly parties and support the formation of a new mass party of the working class.