Guest blog by Rhianydd Williams, Campaigns Officer, Wales TUC
As Saturday’s march for A Future that Works draws closer, we in Wales grow ever more united against the austerity measures imposed by the UK Government.
Fortunately in Wales in Carwyn Jones, we have a First Minister who supports the actions that the trade unions are taking and has publicly condemned the Coalition Government’s handling of the economy. We have a Government in Wales that seeks to create A Future that Works through actions not through meaningless rhetoric. It has led the way by enacting initiatives such as Jobs Growth Wales to begin the vital task of tackling sky high youth unemployment, protecting vital public services and stimulating growth in the Welsh economy.
These deeds contrast sharply with the words of David Cameron, who this week called the march “the most lucrative sponsored walk in history”, but he ignores hundreds of thousands of ordinary people at his peril. The government’s independent fiscal watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility, had to admit this week that it had grossly overestimated how much the economy would grow and underestimated the damage to the economy austerity would cause with GDP figures growing slower than expected. The UK economy has seen virtually no growth over the last two years and we’ve seen record borrowing figures in recent months which have meant the deficit – the supposed reason for putting up with years of lost jobs, cut services, frozen wages and increase VAT – has actually risen!. It’s clear that austerity is failing, and its continuation will only lead to further job losses, more services being cut and hardship for workers and their families. When it comes to the next election those who have taken to the streets on Saturday won’t forget that David Cameron dismissed their actions as a ‘sponsored walk’, they won’t the hardships they’ve suffered or the services they’ve lost. And they certainly won’t forget the smugness of a Government that refuses to listen even in the face of overwhelming evidence. Workers didn’t cause the crisis but under the UK government, they are the one’s paying for it.
It is little surprising that the Conservatives are pressing ahead regardless. The cuts won’t affect them like they affect ordinary workers. They are the government of the rich, by the rich and for the rich and they have no comprehension whatsoever of the immense damage their policies are doing.
The UK Government will see the recent unemployment figures as a cause for celebration, but one green shoot doesn’t make a recovery and we shouldn’t start celebrating until young people have the opportunities they need and deserve. Shameless tax dodging by a number of large companies, austerity measures and unthinking slash and burning of public sector services does not make for a fairer, better society or a strong recovery. Unless UK Government policies change, the economy won’t recover as it should, incomes will continue to be squeezed and the number of people competing for every available job will grow.
Instead of just letting the banks go back to business and bonuses as usual, we need policies that promote new and old industries. The TUC is working with the Welsh Government to do just that, concentrating especially on creating jobs and apprenticeship opportunities for young people. We want to see the deficit reduced, but to do that we need to build a healthy growing economy that generates tax income. Wales has a proud population with great numbers of people hoping to work our way out of austerity, not cut our way out.
It is members of ordinary families who will be marching on Saturday. Shoulder to shoulder they will show the UK Government the strength of their feelings, telling Ministers and MPs that they are out of touch with the harsh reality of the recession, the damaging effects to people’s everyday lives from the cuts in public services, the relentless squeeze of incomes and the struggle of trying to survive on lower earnings. It is these people who fight for A Future that Works, not the UK Government.