Unions accuse multimillionaire Chancellor of ‘waging war on working people’

Striking members of the National Education Union (NEU) on Piccadilly march to a rally in Trafalgar Square, central London, in a long-running dispute over pay. Picture date: Wednesday March 15, 2023.

The Tories are “waging war on working people,” unions warned today as Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s Budget coincided with a massive day of strikes by hundreds of thousands of workers nationwide.

Unions slammed the ex-Tory leadership candidate’s “fiscal event” for failing to tackle pay disputes across the country, with teachers, university lecturers, civil servants, junior doctors, London Tube drivers, and BBC journalists all downing tools today.

As Mr. Hunt delivered his speech, thousands of workers rallied outside.

They gathered as the Office for Budget Responsibility, which the former health secretary praised for predicting Britain would now avoid a technical recession this year, warned that people still face the biggest fall in living standards on record.

The fiscal watchdog said the drop would be lower than previously expected, but that take-home disposable income per person would still tumble 5.7 percent by March 2024.

Fire Brigades Union leader Matt Wrack accused the “multimillionaire Chancellor of declaring war on hard-pressed workers with a Budget of cuts,” which did little to address falling take-home pay across the NHS, schools, and elsewhere.

“The Chancellor has stuck up two fingers to workers with this Budget.”

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said No 11 Downing Street had delivered a “historic betrayal” by failing to save the crisis-hit NHS, as underpaid and overworked staff threaten to quit the sector in record numbers.

“While Jeremy Hunt rearranges the deckchairs for corporate Britain, workers in the real economy face a crisis,” she said.

TUC leader Paul Nowak blasted the South West Surrey MP for failing to address the “longest pay squeeze for more than 200 years.

“And the elephant in the room is the lack of funding for our public services and the pay rises needed to recruit and retain nurses, carers and teachers.”

Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said: “It’s funny how the Chancellor can lay his hands on billions when he wants while insisting the country can’t afford to pay key workers more.”

Mr. Hunt, who has repeatedly claimed inflation-matching public-sector wage boosts are “unaffordable,” found a whopping £17 billion for increased defense spending and a freeze in fuel duty today.

Many economists and think tanks calculate it would cost about £18bn to meet union demands on pay.

The Royal College of Nursing’s Patricia Marquis echoed Unison’s concerns, saying: “The Chancellor found billions to cut fuel duties but left those working in health and care with little assurance they will get the funding that is urgently required.”

Prospect general secretary Mike Clancy said the Budget had “nothing to offer workers on pay or conditions,” while retail union Usdaw head Paddy Lillis condemned Whitehall for “missing an opportunity to tackle insecure and low-paid employment.”

And Britain’s communists rejected the “more pain today but some jam tomorrow” speech.

CPB general secretary Robert Griffiths said Mr. Hunt had tabled “peanuts for the hard-working workers who staff our hospitals, schools and local community services” and pointed out that corporate tax giveaways would cost £27bn over the next three years — “income that could have been invested in green energy-saving and cost-cutting programmes that would keep people warm and help them travel more easily.”

The National Education Union, which joined UCU, PCS, RMT, NUJ, and other unions in organizing walkouts today, described “two Budgets — one from the Chancellor, and another on the streets.”

Joint general secretaries Dr. Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney praised workers for coming together “en masse” and making their voices heard.

Source: Morning Star

Join the Struggle-La Lucha Telegram channel