“The Chancellor’s statement makes it clear that the Government wants workers to pay for the pandemic. Their incomes are under attack from tax rises and inflation while the super-rich will continue to prosper” – Sharon GrahamSharon Graham – General Secretary, Unite the Union.
By Sam Browse,
By Sam Browse, Streatham CLP & Arise Volunteer
This week, Rishi Sunak delivered his Autumn budget statement to the House of Commons. After more than a decade of stagnating pay, the proliferation of zero-hours contracts, and flatlining economic growth – coupled with a Covid-crisis that has seen unemployment rise, and the economy contract by a quarter – his proposals were roundly condemned by trade union leaders.
Sharon Graham, newly elected General Secretary of Unite the Union, unleashed a devastating, point-by-point salvo against the measures outlined in the speech. She said ‘the Chancellor’s statement makes it clear that the Government wants workers to pay for the pandemic. Their incomes are under attack from tax rises and inflation while the super-rich will continue to prosper. That is not acceptable.’
Dave Ward, General Secretary of the Communication Workers Union, joined the criticisms, saying ‘beyond the noise of today’s Budget we now know that average incomes are expected to be 28% below the pre-2008 trend. This was a Bluster Budget that fails to deliver for working people and there is no spin that can change the impact on people’s pockets.’
In an interview on LBC, Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, also debunked the myths being peddled by the Government on pay. He said ‘the reality of this Government is that it has a low pay strategy’.
Addressing the Government’s claims that wages had risen, he argued ‘it depends what you’re comparing with. Compared with workers on furlough, and compared with the fact lots of low paid workers have left the economy, you’re not comparing like with like. We shouldn’t fall for what the Government tell us. Where the Government have the most impact is the public sector and they’ve squeezed public sector workers for 11 years’.
Kevin Courtney, of the National Education Union, was strident in his criticism on public sector pay: ‘Pay has been eroded in real terms by successive Conservative governments, increasing the tide of recently qualified teachers leaving in their first five years. The pay freeze this year was nothing short of an insult’.
He continued: ‘today’s announcements fall far short of what is needed to tackle the scourge of child poverty. 4.3 million children were growing up trapped in poverty even before the pandemic. Failure to reverse the £20 a week cut to Universal Credit risks plunging yet more children into poverty. Reducing the taper rate will not benefit families without work and will not make up the cut for many working families which do benefit.
Mick Whelan, General Secretary of ASLEF, highlighted the “new” spending announcements were ‘a confidence trick. Because it’s not new money… it’s just a rehash of money that has already been promised, and already allocated, dressed up to make the Chancellor look good.
‘But on the eve of COP26 cuts to air passenger duty send out all the wrong signals.’
The Chancellor can bizarrely boast about spending on public services returning to 2010 levels, but workers aren’t fooled – we need a real offer on jobs, an end to casualisation and zero-hours, and a budget that lowers the cost of living. All he provided was bluster and tax breaks for the banks.
- You can read more analysis of the budget on Outlook – the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs respond to the budget, what a progressive budget would look like for women, Rebecca Long-Bailey pre-budget piece, why the national minimum wage offer doesn’t cut it, and the huge gap in funding for our NHS.