SPEAKERS from across the left condemned austerity as a political project aiming at shoring up the profits of the super rich at the recent Morning Star spring conference.
Professor Prem Sikka told an audience of Star supporters that the austerity project had succeeded in weakening trade unions, workers’ power and purchasing power. He made the link between the erosion of trade union rights and rising poverty and inequality in society.
Workers covered by collective bargaining agreements have fallen from 85 per cent in 1979 to just 23 per cent today and falling, and 13 million people in Britain are living below the poverty line.
At the same time the highest corporate profit has been recorded, and the richest 10 per cent in Britain have doubled their wealth to £519 billion.
“Just 10 per cent of this profit would pay off the so-called deficit” he told the audience.
Trade union activist Jennifer McCarey warned that the latest round of cuts would fall particularly hard on young people, women and disabled people.
She called on the audience to “reach out to our communities” in new ways and draw in people who are not necessarily involved with the labour movement but are being punished by austerity.
Unite political officer Jackson Cullinane argued that the Conservative government was succeeding in their desire to create “high unemployment and a desperate labour force” in order to “drive down wages and undermine terms and conditions and trade unions.”
Mr Cullinane noted that 1.8 million workers across Britain are currently on zero-hours contracts, guaranteeing them no security and rights in the workplace.
The contracts don’t just exist in the private sector, but right across the public sector, with one in four public-sector workers being paid less than the living wage in Scotland, he added.
Mr Cullinane called for full implementation of the living wage, as well as the restoration of collective-bargaining agreements and the end of fees for employment tribunals, which have caused an 80 per cent drop in cases brought against employers.