THE leader of more than a million public-sector workers lambasted the government at the weekend for its destruction of public services including the NHS.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis launched the attack on a visit to north-eastern England — one of Britain’s most deprived regions — as thousands prepare to strike over pay later this month.
Mr Prentis accused the government of waging a “constant assault” on the public sector, attacking pay, axing services, and handing millions to profiteers that have taken over health, education and probation services — and north-eastern England was among the worst-affected regions.
Speaking at the Emergency Public Services Summit in Newcastle on Saturday, he highlighted that had the city’s council funding been cut in line with the national average it would have had £22 million extra to spend in the last financial year — enough to protect many of the services at risk.
“It’s not just services, it’s people’s jobs too,” said Mr Prentis.
“Since the last election 59,000 public-sector jobs in the north-east have vanished — a combination of redundancies, privatisation and outsourcing.
“And it’s going to get worse. The Conservatives have pledged to reduce public-sector spending to 1930s levels should they still be in power after May — and let’s sincerely hope for everyone’s sake that they’re not.”
He identified how the Tories and their Lib Dem collaborators were implementing austerity disproportionately to hit working-class areas while protecting leafy Tory shires from the worst cuts.
The much-vaunted “new” jobs being created were of the “low-paid, insecure, zero-hours variety,” and public-sector workers were paying dearly “for the recklessness of the bankers,” leading up to the 2008 financial crisis.
“Nurses, dinner ladies, teaching assistants, midwives and other public-sector workers have suffered years of wage freezes and their pay being held back,” he said.
“That’s why later this month thousands of dedicated health workers across the region will be reluctantly going on strike for the third time in their dispute over pay.”