As conference condemned the growing inequality in this country and backed a national and international political campaign to rebalance the economy to deliver a fair distribution of wealth, Aberdeenshire’s Kate Ramsden issued a challenge to all delegates, calling on them to get the message out to our members that austerity is not just bad for our members and the services we provide, but is also bad for the economy.
Kate said: “People – including many of our members – don’t believe that this Tory government has presided over the biggest mass transfer of wealth from the rest of us to the super rich, but it’s true.
“The UK has become the EU’s most unequal country with wage inequality in this country now above that of the US average. By late 2014 Chief Execs of FTSE 100 companies were paid on average 342 times more than their minimum wage employees.
“The richest 1000 in our society have doubled their income, whilst the poorest are dependent on foodbanks to survive. The rest of us, stuck in the middle, see our standards of living and our work life balance taking a nosedive.”
Kate warned that austerity is bad for the economy because, first of all, unlike the super rich, we pay our taxes. However with massive job losses and wages that don’t keep pace with inflation, tax receipts have gone down leading to a vicious circle of cuts leading to fewer jobs, lower pay and less tax coming in, leading to even more cuts.
“This is a stupid way to run any economy,” slammed Kate.
“Then, we buy in our local shops and businesses. The super-rich don’t. They rarely even buy in our country! They might patronise us with their promises of trickle down wealth but you won’t get them patronising our corner shops!”
Kate urged delegates to build our members’ confidence and help them to see that there is money to pay them a decent wage for a decent day’s work and for high quality public services.
“We have numbers on our side and if every one of us gets out there and talks to another two members we can change the rhetoric.
“We can make a difference and we can give our members confidence that they can too.”
Earlier, Edinburgh’s Duncan Smith had supported an NEC amendment highlighting the crucial role of high quality properly funded public services in creating a more equal society and the vital role that trade unions play.
Duncan told conference: “When trade unions fight to defend their pay and conditions they are also protecting people who depend on these services.”
Duncan spoke of his branch’s fight two years ago against the threat of massive privatisation, when they united the people of Edinburgh in “Our City’s not for Sale” campaign, which forced the council to back off.
“Today the Glasgow Homelessness Care Workers are striking for a just grade for the job. But they are also fighting to maintain a quality service for vulnerable homeless people whilst their council wants to cut it by £800,000.”