Tag Archives: Government

Austerity is a nonsense, and a dangerous one at that

28 May

Mark Blyth, Professor of International Political Economy at Brown University, explains why austerity is not the answer to our economic woes.

Don’t let the Prime Minister repatriate workers’ rights

28 Jan

Speaking later today at a conference in Madrid, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady will appeal for the help of unions across Europe in persuading their governments to resist David Cameron’s attempt to ‘repatriate’ workers’ rights.

The new head of the TUC will say that if the Prime Minister gets his way over Europe, British workers, who already face the harshest anti-trade union laws in Europe, will lose out. The General Secretary’s words come after Nick Clegg expressed reservations about Cameron’s plans for the EU,  warning his coalition partner that a promise to hold a referendum on EU membership risked damaging the already weak economy. Clegg, in further signs of coalition unrest, dismissed prospects of securing a significant renegotiation around the EU and suggested Cameron should concentrate on the economy – which risks slumping into a triple-dip recession.

Speaking at the ETUC event, Frances O’Grady will say: “Last week, the British Prime Minister made a speech which you may have heard about. To some people outside the UK, the logic of his argument may not have been entirely clear.

“Like the last Conservative Prime Minister, John Major, David Cameron has a problem – not so much with Europe as with his own party. He has now promised – if re-elected in 2015 – to hold a referendum on British membership of the EU, which he says he wants to win.
“What David Cameron is doing – if putting internal party management above the national and European interest wasn’t bad enough – is even more sinister.

“As well bringing the prospect of an unprecedented triple-dip recession even closer, the UK government is making the most vulnerable pay for a crisis they didn’t cause, and is set on a wholesale scrapping of workers’ rights.

“The government has already made it easier for employers to sack people they don’t like and more difficult for workers to get justice before the courts. Now it is trying to abolish wage protection for farm workers, and stop people injured at work getting their rightful compensation.

“But there’s one set of workers’ rights David Cameron can’t touch. Those are the rights provided for by social Europe – paid holidays, health and safety, equal treatment for part-time workers and women, protection when a business is sold off, and a voice at work.

“The Prime Minister wants to ‘repatriate’ those rights, and not because he thinks he can improve them! David Cameron wants to make it easier for bad employers to undercut good ones, drive down wages, and make people who already work some of the longest hours in Europe work even longer. To do that, he needs agreement from the rest of Europe. And when the UK government calls on your government to give him the chance to undermine British workers’ rights, we want your governments to say no. Not just out of solidarity with us, but in the interests of your own rights, your own wages, and your own jobs.

“British working people are looking to their colleagues around Europe to work with us. Trade unions are all about solidarity, about working together in the common interest. We must make common cause to defeat David Cameron’s attack on working people and Social Europe.


“As trade unionists, we have a crucial role to play in winning the argument for an alternative. Our focus must not just be on jobs but on good jobs that pay a decent wage, that help build sustainable demand, and that give opportunity to those who need it most. Only collective bargaining can deliver this.

“Together we must make the case for a worker’s and citizen’s Europe, not a banker’s and financier’s Europe. If the EU is only about fiscal austerity, open markets and privatisation, then ordinary Europeans will increasingly question its legitimacy – and rightly so.

“For a generation, Europe prospered by balancing the interests of business and those of workers. It’s time to rediscover that bargain – and the sense of solidarity that underpins it.”


Benefits, unemployment and the smokescreen of a divide and conquer government

14 Dec

by Catherine Brockhurst


I grew up in an exceptionally poor family by most UK standards. My well-educated but rudderless parents were living in a squat in Brighton when I was born, 2 years later when my brother came along we moved to a two bed council flat. They had intermittent work, but most of the time we were on benefits, the impending Giro day forever on the horizon.

Somewhere around the time I turned 14 and had not 1 but 3 siblings, both my parents got it together to get more substantial jobs and over the subsequent 20 years my mother went from strength to strength in her career and is still making upward steps even now nearing 60. My dad stuck to a solid dependable double the minimum wage Job. We, as a family got lucky. We truly did.

I know there were times when they did cash in hand work in the early years, I also know there are plenty that do now and you know what? I really couldn’t care less. People need to open their eyes and see that the people claiming benefits (and incidentally there are many variations on what you can claim and to what extent) for the most part do so because they have little other choice. And whatever the right-wing press and government tell you, it’s not a “lifestyle choice” and it’s no fun subsisting on so little and considerably less fun when you have children. Anyone saying it’s a walk in the park is lying to you.

To those who seemingly conveniently forget when they’re deriding and vilifying benefit claimers or worse benefit cheats, let me ask this; what do you suppose they do with the frugal amount they get paid? With the minuscule pile of additional quid they might get from extra cash in hand work? Do they pop it under the bed? Do they use it to stoke the fire? No, they spend it. On food mostly. And what happens to that money they’ve spent? Oh yes, that’s right, it’s subjected to tax and goes right back into the treasury. It’s anecdotal as I can’t find the reference but I once read that if all the undercover workers and benefit claimers stopped spending, our economy would be down the toilet in a heartbeat.

The other key point people have a blind spot for when criticising the poor (because let’s be clear, it’s the poor who are condemned to survive on benefits) is that the reason so much housing benefit is required as a % of their income is because landlord rents aren’t regulated, anyone can be a landlord and can charge whatever they damn well please. And the reason anyone can get cash in hand work at all is because employers are happy to avoid paying tax themselves. But no, the landlords and business owners are never criticised but the poor are. And it stinks.

I do get that there are a handful of career criminals playing the system and claiming well over the odds, of course these stories hit the front page of The Mail and all benefits claimants get included via stealth criticism reporting. But I tell you what, there are plenty of career criminals avoiding paying significant sums of cash via tax evasion and we have a government who refuses to address the loopholes that allow this to continue. I wonder why that would be?

We live in a multi-faceted society but we are becoming so polarised between the have and have-nots and it serves a purpose for this government to have us blaming poor people, single mothers, those less able and those seeking support away from their own war-torn countries (wars that our country has often played a part in instigating if not prolonging). When we blame others whilst ignoring that the “austerity measures” are what is in fact making life so much harder for most of us, we give “them” what they need. In-fighting, the perfect smokescreen to allow them to carry on unencumbered in their persistent stripping back of any social conscience or network of services. We are not “all in this together”. This government is on the outside in the Corporate Box, staring down at the cheap seats and laughing all the way to their deregulated publicly owned, but not publicly paying out banks. Do not buy in to their lies, your unemployed neighbour is not your enemy, they are not robbing you blind. They are you and me, they are human beings, just trying to get by like the rest of us.


This post was first published on Catherine Brockhurts’s blog, One Woman’s Thoughts 

You can follow Catherine on Twitter: @cateleven 

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