Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner warened that “austerity is a weapon that is being used to shrink the state and dismantle the nation’s social fabric” when he moved motion one, a strong economy for all, at this year’s TUC Congress in Brighton today (September 12).
Calling for a new economic model based on investment and decent jobs Steve Turner said,“For too long governments have failed to deal with our deep structural problems.
“A serious and long term failure to invest, both at state and corporate level, coupled with a relentless drive to deregulate and privatise has led to a stagnating economy and wages, an obscene growth in inequality and worrying levels of personal debt,” he added. “It’s a model that has allowed powerful economic forces to sweep all else aside, no matter the human cost.”
Focusing on the wage pain that has left one in eight workers skipping meals to make ends meet, he added, “In the real world, wages on average continue to be worth over £2,000 less than before the 2008 financial crash.
“Such is the spread of low pay that the majority of people living in poverty are also working. Within the next five years unsecured debt per household is set to hit record levels of over £15,000.
“Congress, when we hear about the obscenities of the nurses and other workers having to use foodbanks to get by, we know that something has to desperately change.”
He pointed to research showing that one in eight workers are skipping meals to make ends meet, and that almost half of all workers are worried about meeting basic household costs.
He outlined a narrative that can serve as a counterpoint to austerity — one in which economic growth, freed from the chains of austerity, creates decent jobs for all, ensures the fair distribution of work and wealth created by the many but “currently hoarded by the few”, and growth that rebuilds Britain’s manufacturing base.
This engine of growth supported by the government also drives investment in people, skills, public services, housing, and research and development.
He added that sustainable growth “makes the most from the opportunities provided by technological advances and shares the benefits.”
It also “reduces working time, eases us into earlier retirement, builds a greener, sustainable economy and deals with the looming loss of millions of todays jobs to automaton and artificial intelligence.”
Concluding, Steve Turner called on the trade union movement to harness the energy of Labour’s election campaign to secure a Labour government that builds an economy for the many not the few.
“The general election showed that there has never been more support for a positive political alternative that put people first,” he said.
“It is our job to maintain and harness the energy from Labour’s election campaign, just as it is our job to build a strong and powerful trade union movement. To replace fear and despair with hope and opportunity. To defeat austerity industrially and politically and win a Labour government that will transform the economy for the many not the few.”