Union slates Budget spending plans

8 Jun 09
The biggest civil service trade union has warned of the ‘economic illiteracy’ of spending cuts in response to the recession

22 May 2009

By David Williams

The biggest civil service trade union has warned of the ‘economic illiteracy’ of spending cuts in response to the recession.

The Public and Commercial Services union’s annual conference in Brighton passed an emergency motion protesting that measures announced in April’s Budget would have a ‘catastrophic impact on jobs, conditions and services’.

The May 20 motion singled out planned efficiency ‘savings’ of £15bn; the restriction of public sector spending to 0.7% growth from 2011/12; and the proposed privatisations of the Land Registry, the Royal Mint, the Ordnance Survey and the Met Office.

This approach was contrasted with the ‘massive sums propping up the banking and finance sectors’. A policy that ‘cuts jobs, drives down conditions and destroys services… can only deepen and extend the crisis’, said the motion.

Delegates called for the full nationalisation of the banking and finance sector and all public utilities including transport, and a major public works programme including council-house building.

Another successful motion condemned the Treasury’s guidance to limit average civil service pay rises to 1.5% as ‘an insult to hard-working and often low-paid PCS members’. It pointed out higher public sector pay rises were being enjoyed outside the civil service and called for a pay rise of 6% for members.

General secretary Mark Serwotka underlined the pressures on public sector workers. He said the Department for Work and Pensions had seen an 18% increase in productivity but 40% of employees still had no pay rise last year.

‘Don’t let anyone talk to us about civil and public services being a “recession-free zone”,’ he added.

Serwotka called for a clampdown on tax avoidance and criticised the government’s response to the banking crisis for putting ‘the interests of the super-rich minority’ first.

He also raged against the ‘hypocrisy’ of MPs who cheered Prime Minister Gordon Brown for pledging to cut 100,000 civil service jobs while awarding themselves a 2.3% pay rise and exploiting the House of Commons’ expenses system.

Moves to limit spending and pay civil servants less were the ‘economics of the madhouse’, said Serwotka.

Delegates also condemned the use of faith-based organisations to produce public services, because religious organisations are granted exemptions from equality laws.

The PCS executive was instructed to oppose the allocation of public funds to any organisation that is not committed to fully inclusive employment and service provision.

Delegates also opposed ‘enormous cuts’ in the Ministry of Justice aimed at saving £1bn. Measures such as closing police stations and court offices were dismissed as they would ‘hardly prevent rising crime at a time of increasing poverty and unemployment’.

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