Moving testimony as UNISON pledges fight against poverty

Kate Ramsden
Kate Ramsden

#uNDC16 The first motion at National Delegate Conference prompted moving testimony from delegates highlighting the growing issue of poverty among members.

One delegate’s emotional account of her experience of poverty prompted huge applause as the president told her: “You have 3,000 friends here.” And those friends gave her a standing ovation.

Conference went on to pledge to keep poverty at the centre of UNISON’s agenda and to continue its anti-poverty work across the union and across the four governments.

“We live in deeply divided society where poverty is growing apace. We have members accessing food banks just to survive,” said the delegate from Northern Ireland moving the motion. “The situation will only get worse if the austerity policies continue”.

The motion highlighted the issue of systemic poverty and that current evidence shows UK and devolved governments’ policies to tackle poverty have failed.

According to a recent Joseph Rowntree Foundation report over 13 million people in the UK continue to live in low-income households, 3.7 million children live in poverty and half of people living in poverty live in working families – a growing number of which are UNISON members.

Supporting the motion, Aberdeenshire’s Kate Ramsden told conference that since 2010, like many in the hall, she had been pointing out to anyone who’ll listen – and some who won’t – the growing gap between the rich and the rest of us.

Kate slammed the “increasing numbers of children growing up in poverty, most of whose parents work.”

“This government goes on about making work pay. Well make it pay, I want to shout to them: don’t cut benefits – pay decent wages. It’s not rocket science, stupid!”

“Instead we see the demonisation of the poor, the disabled and the vulnerable into the deserving and undeserving, setting neighbour against neighbour in the oldest trick in the book – divide and rule”.

The government are perpetrating a great con with the connivance of the media, said Kate, and they have presided over a mass transfer of wealth from the rest of us into the hands of a super rich elite’.

Kate added, “Surely now people must be waking up to this. Surely with food banks the biggest growth industry in this so called caring and civilised society of ours, people will start to realise what’s going on.

“Surely as more and more of our children grow up in poverty, people will feel shame and will say enough is enough. Surely as the Tories fail to bring down the deficit despite all this austerity, people will realise that Plan A isn’t working”.

Kate applauded the union saying, “Since 2010 we’ve chronicled and shared the devastating impact that the policies of this Tory Government has had on our members and on the people we provide services to and some people are finally waking up to it.

“But in UNISON we have always been wide awake. We know that it’s down to us to stand up for equality and social justice and to challenge this Government’s divisive political choices which protect the wealthiest at the expense of everyone else”.

“Whilst the wealthiest laugh all the way to the bank on annual incomes that could end poverty and the deficit in one fell swoop with plenty to spare, our trade union remains in the vanguard of the fight for decency, fairness and equality and we need to keep at it”.

Marie Quigley
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