Monday, 17 October 2011

Cameron's big 'them and us' society

The Following is taken from the socialist issue 689

There is huge support for the young people on the Jarrow March for Jobs who call for massive investment in a programme to create socially useful jobs. A recent YouGov poll found that 72% wanted to see government action to address youth unemployment.

Millions of public sector trade union members are filling in their ballots to vote for a strike against attacks on their pensions and to defend public services on 30 November. But all the Con-Dems have on offer is cuts, cuts and more cuts and misery.

While the bankers receive record bonuses for their role in the economic crisis and the number of billionaires increases, nurses and other public sector workers who provide vital services are being asked to work for free.

Tory leader David Cameron presented the 'Big Society' as empowering local communities, giving them choice and control over their services. The reality is the opposite. The Con-Dem government is attacking our public services, demanding more privatisation and cutbacks, for the benefit of big business.

For example, at Whipps Cross University Hospital Trust in Waltham Forest, north east London, all 3,400 staff are being urged to work for free.

Chief executive Cathy Geddes wrote to all staff asking them to "volunteer to sacrifice annual leave and/or perform additional unpaid sessional duties". The hospital, which is due to be merged with two other hospital trusts, is attempting to cut its £4.5 million deficit so that it can become a Foundation Trust, mandatory for all hospitals by 2015.

Many hospitals are stretched with a lot of staff already working overtime for free. As one Whipps Cross midwife said: "Many of us have already accumulated weeks of lieu days for all the unpaid overtime we do and there are no signs we'll ever get it."

It is an insult to these workers to suggest they should give up their pay while health trust chief executives enjoy an average salary of £158,800.

Hospitals already owe almost £270 million from emergency 'working capital loans' introduced in 2007 under the then New Labour government, which pioneered 'competition' (ie cuts and privatisation) in the NHS. Yet the Con-Dems are now cutting the health budget in real terms. Big businesses are lining up to take over NHS services, not to improve health care but to improve their profits.

Local authorities are also slashing services while appealing to volunteers to step in and pick up the slack. Libraries in London, Hampshire, Lancashire, Northamptonshire and Yorkshire are being threatened with closure or reduced opening hours unless local people are willing to work for free.

On the Isle of Wight, the Wight bus service has been cut completely and a new service has been set up with volunteer drivers.

Many people see through the Big Society smoke screen and are fighting against it. In many towns and cities, local anti-cuts groups have been protesting against cuts and closures.

A strong message needs to be sent to the government and local authorities that we will not stand by and watch these vicious attacks.

A mass movement against this government could stop it in its tracks. In workplaces and communities we need to build support for the 30 November strikes and to fight for properly, publicly funded services including decent jobs, pay and conditions for all.

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