Friday 24 April 2015

ATUC delegates speak out against austerity and UKIP and call for affordable homes.

Report of the ATUC in action at the 2015 STUC Congress in Ayr

Our delegates to the Congress this year, Steve Gray and Fiona Napier were very active on behalf of the ATUC. They seconded two composites, one on living rent and affordable housing and one on austerity and local authority cuts. They also supported a composite on standing up to UKIP. All these composites included the ATUC's motions to Congress.

Homes for people, not profit
Steve Gray
The STUC is to call for a major house building programme,    focussing especially on affordable and council housing, not only to meet need but also to boost employment and the economy. It also called for work with Shelter, other charities, community groups, and the People’s Assembly, to build a broad based campaign to support a living rent.

This comes as a result of the Aberdeen TUC’s motion which was merged with motions from USDAW, UCATT and North Lanarkshire TUC.

Seconding the composite, ATUC delegate Steve Gray told delegates that homes should be for people not profits.

We condemn the UK Government’s housing and financial policies that have focused upon “Buy To Let” as the main source of rented housing in Scotland” said Steve.

“The result has been growing inequality and poverty across Scotland and the UK as working people struggle with ever rising housing costs, poor quality housing and insecure tenancies.”

He condemned the UK Government’s election proposal to have another fire sale of Council and Housing Association homes and warned that the lack of affordable housing marginalises people, breaks up families and ruins communities.

“Homes that are affordable, secure, fit for purpose and responsive to the needs of local communities are essential to a Fair Society and since the days of Thatcher the private sector has failed miserably to deliver these homes for us the people,” slammed Steve.

He reminded delegates that the Council House and Social House building programmes in the 20th century not only housed people, but also provided jobs that helped the Scottish and UK economy to recover from the Great Depression. New secure homes revitalised local communities, peoples’ sense of identity and offered hope to millions for a better, healthier life.  

“Now in the 21st Century a living rent based system of rent controls, security of tenure and rented housing quality standards is needed, in partnership with a public sector led house building programme to deliver homes for people, reduce welfare costs and allow rental income to be reinvested in Scotland’s infrastructure instead of being dumped in offshore tax havens

Fiona Napier
We must fight the insidious and toxic message of the far right
The STUC slammed far right racist groups including UKIP – “a party of bigots, sexists, Islamophobes, homophobes and people prejudiced against disabled people.” It pledged to oppose UKIP at every turn and to expose its anti-worker stance and its anti immigration hysteria.

Earlier STUC General Secretary, Grahame Smith had not missed and hit the wall when he condemned UKIP in no uncertain terms, stating  “The vacuity of UKIP is summed up in the personification of privileged buffoonery that is their Scottish MEP”

Supporting the composite from the Annual Black Workers Conference, Clydebank TUC, and the CWU as well as from Aberdeen Trades Union Council, ATUC delegate, Fiona Napier told congress of our proud tradition of anti-racist, anti-fascist activism in the North East of Scotland, “still very much needed as we have a National Front candidate standing at the General Election.”

“There can be no complacency when it comes to fighting the insidious and toxic message pushed by the far right,” warned Fiona, “Especially in times of extended austerity.”
She spoke of the concerns of ordinary people about cuts to social provision – housing, health, education, welfare and how these were also put alongside concerns over “incomers” overburdening already overstrained services and “scroungers” taking what they weren’t entitled to.

“A lot of people feeling vulnerable – insecure in or lacking employment, fearing for how their families will cope.

“These feelings are being stoked by right wing sensationalist elements of the media and exploited by populist politicians like UKIP,” slammed Fiona. “As a result our immigrant population, our unemployed and some of the most vulnerable in society are scapegoated, instead of laying the blame where it really lies – the extreme and unnecessary austerity measures imposed by this government.”

Fiona warned that UKIP has its greatest support within the working class. “Trade unions have a major role to play in challenging that,” she said.

Action to combat austerity and local authority cuts
Steve Gray
The STUC called on the Scottish Government to make good its assertions that it will protect public services and put its money where its collective mouth is – and release the unspent £444m to relieve hard pressed Local Authorities and unfreeze council tax.

Delegates supported a range of measures to combat austerity and local authority cuts, including calls from the ATUC to end public sector job cuts and for a programme of long-term investment in jobs, housing, infrastructure and green energy.

The STUC will also oppose the “false economy” of outsourcing and will work with the People’s Assembly, churches and civic groups to show how governments at all levels can create full employment, well paid jobs, a just transition to a low carbon economy and a crackdown on tax avoidance and fair taxation.

Seconding the composite from Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Fife TUCs, ATUC’s Steve Gray told Congress that like Edinburgh, Aberdeen is becoming a city of two halves, the very rich and the working poor.

“Across the North East of Scotland inequality is spreading out from Aberdeen like ripples on a pond,” said Steve, warning that austerity is a choice of this government in London not a necessity, but its effects are being felt even in Aberdeen and the North East of Scotland as more food banks open.

“The austerity cuts and the pay freeze are resulting in more and more council workers, our members, becoming the working poor and these people are turning more and more to food banks to help them. Local Government and the wider public sector are the glue that holds society together, providing services that everybody needs,” said Steve, “And austerity and the planned cuts means that all society suffers as services are slashed.”

He pointed out that many local firms and businesses rely directly on work from the public sector, and others rely on the spending power of workers who are our members. So, reduced budgets hurt everyone who needs to use a Council or public sector based service.        

“We need to support this strategy to end public sector job cuts and to campaign for proper investment, which will create jobs, revitalise the economy and result in  more equal society where everyone can have access to a good quality of life,” he urged.