Unison Opposes Unjust Cuts

Dave Prentis from Unison tells the BBC’s Paul Stainton that they do not intend to accept widespread cuts imposed by central government on public services and public sector pay and conditions, and suggests they look elsewhere for savings. Broadcast at 08:33 on Wednesday 16th June 2010 in the Peterborough Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.

Dave Prentis from Unison tells the BBC’s Paul Stainton that they do not intend to accept widespread cuts imposed by central government on public services and public sector pay and conditions, and suggests they look elsewhere for savings. Broadcast at 08:33 on Wednesday 16th June 2010 in the Peterborough Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.

STAINTON: The biggest public sector workers’ union Unison is urging its members to back a four year campaign to resist Government cuts. Earlier it was revealed that Government cuts to Peterborough City Council’s budget have grown to three point eight million. Director of Finance John Harrison said no area of spending was safe from cuts. (TAPE)
HARRISON: I would say that’s going to be our recommendation to Cabinet, because as you say it’s not just this year, it’s the future. And with the money getting less and less we’ve got to decide what is important for the Council, what’s important for the community, and what we can afford to do. (LIVE)
STAINTON: Dave Prentis is the General Secretary of Unison. He’s with us this morning. Morning Dave.
PRENTIS: Good morning.
STAINTON: Are you the King Canute of Unison?
PRENTIS: No, no no. We want to talk, we want to engage with councils, we want to reach agreements, but the point that we’re making very very strongly is that the size of the cuts to be borne by public services and not the rest of society, say the rich, in our society, is so big that you cannot do it without cutting services. And this idea that we can cut out waste, efficiency, we’re already doing that. What the Government intends, if they go down this road, there will be massive cutbacks in all of our essential services, in all of our towns and cities.
STAINTON: But isn’t it the problem the public sector is so bloated and costs so much that there needs to be cutbacks where the bloating takes place?
PRENTIS: This is part of the rhetoric, isn’t it. You’ve got a public sector that’s bloated.
STAINTON: But we all realise we have to cut back, don’t we?
PRENTIS: Well we do have to cut back, and we want to talk about that. There is a deficit of a hundred and fifty billion pounds. But the only choices our communities are being given are, do you cut back on teaching assistants, or cleaners in hospitals. There’s got to be a bigger debate about how people contribute to dealing with it.
STAINTON: Can’t we cut back on ridiculous jobs that have been invented while Labour’s been in power?
PRENTIS: We may well be talking about one or two jobs. That’s a side-issue. We’re talking about essential jobs going, nursing jobs, care of our elderly, care of our children, care of vulnerable adults. These jobs are going now. And it will get worse over the next two to three years. And we need to sit down and say why are these essential services bearing the brunt of dealing with the deficit that they did not cause.
STAINTON: What will happen if the Government do direct their sword, if you like, at those services?
PRENTIS: If they’re going to do it in this way, where they’re saying they’re going to come for our pay, we’ve already got a pay freeze on some of the lowest paid workers in this country. They’re now into a pay freeze, which they said they wouldn’t do. We’re now facing redundancies around the country, which we were told about by the Liberal Democrats only seven weeks ago before the election that they didn’t believe there should be any cuts this year. And we’re now told by Clegg that we’ve got gold-plated pension schemes, when the average pension is about fifty pounds a week. So we’re being softened up. They’re putting all this out so private sector workers will think that we’re bloated, feather-bedded. The truth is we’ve got very low paid workers doing really essential jobs, and they will suffer for what the bankers did. And there are alternatives to get this money than just cutting public services.
STAINTON: What are the alternatives do you think, Dave?
PRENTIS: We’ve got to look at the taxation system as well. Before they were in power the Liberal Democrats were saying that we shouldn’t be going ahead with replacing nuclear weapons when we can’t afford care homes. What happened to that argument? It would save us something like forty billion pounds. And when we look at the wealthiest in our society, and the Times ran this story only a couple of weeks ago, the top thirty wealthiest people in this country, and they’ve got mega-wealth, increased their wealth by thirty per cent in this year alone, when communities are suffering in this way. Their are things that we can do. There are other things that we can be looking at. We shouldn’t just be told by the Government, you decide where the axe falls. We should have a real debate about how we deal with the deficit over the long-term.
STAINTON: In Spain, public sector workers of course had a five per cent pay cut imposed on them, and they all went on strike. They’ve had strikes across Greece. Are you ready for this? Are you ready to go on strike and save your services and your money?
PRENTIS: Well I’ve been called in the Sun this morning a hothead. Part of what I was saying to our conference, and it’s the biggest gathering of public service workers in this country, was that we want to talk. We want to engage. We want to negotiate. But if they come for us, to pick a fight with us, we’re ready. And I think that is a very strong message to be sending out. But at the same time we don’t want to finish up doing what’s happening in Greece. We don’t want to finish up doing what’s happening in Spain. We want to try and find a way through it. And I don’t think that’s the talk of a hothead. But what I am saying very very strongly is that if we can’t talk, if we can’t engage, if we can’t find alternative ways of dealing with the deficit which are fair, then we are ready to take action.
STAINTON: Dave, thank you for that. Dave Prentis General Secretary of Unison. I think you can take from that that he’s threatening massive strike action if cuts are imposed on services, and cuts are imposed on pay and pensions of the public sector. Do you agree with what David was saying? Or do you agree with what I was posing to you, that the public sector is bloated anyway. The cuts have got to come somewhere. we’ve all got to share the pain, haven’t we? How are we going to do this? How are we going to cut ? What should be cut? What should we cut at Peterborough City Council? What can we cut from the budget? What are you prepared to do without? We’re all going to have to do without something, aren’t we?

1 thought on “Unison Opposes Unjust Cuts”

  1. “HARRISON: ………….we’ve got to decide what is important for the Council, what’s important for the community, and what we can afford to do.”

    And that sums it up nicely doesn’t it.

    Wrong, wrong, wrong John. You should be deciding what’s important for the community first – we pay your salary not the council

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