TUC chief warns of growing social inequality

8 Sep 14

Savage public spending cuts and welfare restrictions risk the creation of a ‘Downton Abbey-style’ society in which the living standards of the majority are sacrificed to preserve the privileges of the few, Trades Union Congress general secretary Frances O’Grady has warned.

In her keynote address to this year’s congress in Liverpool today, O’Grady said next year’s general election would present the country with a ‘fundamental’ choice.
 
‘Are we going to settle for a nastier and poorer Britain?’ she asked.
 
‘A Downton Abbey-style society, in which the living standards of the vast majority are sacrificed to protect the high living of the well to do?
 
‘Where the blame is heaped on the most vulnerable – migrants and claimants – while the powerful the people of this country with good, skilled, secure jobs?
 
‘A civilised society, that provides a decent welfare safety net, and the nurseries and adult social care that families need. And a true democracy in which we all enjoy fundamental rights and freedoms, and we have a real say in how our lives are run.’
 
O’Grady also warned that privatisation was ‘corrupting’ core public service principles and wasting billions of taxpayers’ money, while the NHS was ‘buckling’ under the strain of spending restraint.
 
She attacked Conservative Party proposals on industrial action, saying they would ban strikes by the back door.
 
‘This flies in the face of fundamental values of fairness and freedom. These proposals represent a threat, not just to working people and their unions, but to everyone who cares about civil liberties and democracy.’
 
Meanwhile, Chris Baugh, assistant general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union, told the congress that, by next year, civil servants will have suffered a 20% real-terms cut in their incomes.
 
‘Employment in the public sector has grown, but this has mostly been minimum wage, zero-hours contracts and self employment, which has led to low wage growth,’ he said.
 
‘We need co-ordinated industrial action across sectors and we need new tactics and targeted action to bring the government to the negotiating table.’
 
The PCS said its national executive would hold a special meeting after the conference to decide on whether to join the latest co-ordinated public sector strikes planned for October.
  • Vivienne Russell

    Vivienne Russell is managing editor of Public Finance magazine and publicfinance.co.uk

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