TRADES UNION COUNCIL MEETING,
30TH MARCH, 2012.
At the recent, well attended, meeting of Berwick and Borders Trade Union Council a wide agenda of past and future Trade Union work in the area was discussed.
On Budget Day Trades Council members leafleted Berwick and East Lothian railway stations with leaflets opposed to the McNulty Report which calls for significant cuts to the Rail industry. McNulty has called for staff cuts, cuts in services and branch lines and the trimming of essential budgets. What should be considered is the money taken out of the rail industry by private companies and their shareholders. Privatisation is a failure. Most of the passengers we spoke to favour re-nationalisation of our railways.
The Trades Council noted with disappointment that the Public Sector strike proposed for the 27th March had been cancelled but noted that there may be further action in April. Last November’s Strike against cuts in services and working conditions was the biggest seen for decades in the UK and showed the level of opposition to the ConDem policies of cuts in services and essential jobs such as nurses, teachers and other public sector jobs. The council noted that public sector workers in Germany have just been awarded a 6.3% pay rise over two years, so there are alternatives to UK Government policies. Almost two thirds of public sector workers are women so around 500,000 women will loose their jobs in the coming cuts, many of them in the North East and the Scottish Borders. Already women’s unemployment stands at 1.13 million, the highest for 25 years, with total unemployment in the North East at 153,000, 1 in 8 of the population. In Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk the figure is 2,100 without work. Across the Borders youth unemployment has tripled over the last three years. Nothing new here then, it’s what you get with a Tory Government, with the Liberals, who used to be a force to be reckoned with in the NE and the Borders, their more than willing accomplices.
Delegates then discussed the alternative to the ConDem cuts, the People’s Charter, which offers a detailed, and costed, alternative to cuts in services, jobs and salaries. The Government seem to have no trouble supporting foreign wars, the renewal of the Trident Missile System and tax cuts for the rich. What is clear, here in the North East and Scottish Borders, as elsewhere, is the link between inequality and economic turmoil. The two most damaging crises of the last century, the 1930`s and the crash of 2008, were both preceded by sharp rises in inequality. UK wage earners now have around 100 billion less in their pockets today than if the cake were shared as it was in the 1970`s, that’s around £2,000 per wage earner, per year. As a result of the ConDem Government’s Welfare Reform Act, welfare charities in the Borders are actually discussing the possibility of setting up soup kitchens for the poor and vulnerable! Meanwhile the Government cuts the top rate of tax. The rich, who caused the economic crisis, are rewarded, the poor and vulnerable, punished and made scapegoats. To spread the word about the alternatives to these unjust, irresponsible policies the Trades Council will be distributing People’s Charter leaflets in Berwick to show that there is an alternative to these policies.
Among other items discussed was a programme of speakers for future meetings and a day school in October on the very topics discussed above – welfare reform and its impact on Berwick and the Borders. A delegate was also proposed and agreed to attend the Trade Union Councils Conference in Coventry in May. Delegates also reported back from a meeting about the Localism Bill; it was seen as another Government Bill likely to lead to more cuts in services and more privatisation. Delegates also noted that since obtaining Academy status we have a report that the school’s performance is rated only as “satisfactory” and that some staff are having their wages and conditions eroded.
Details of all Berwick and Borders Trades Council meetings and activities can be found on our website. All Trade Unionists, community activists, Labour Party members, Peace Campaigners, Tory Haters, anti capitalists..., are welcome at our meetings.
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