Last week, the TUC held its annual Congress which I had the pleasure of attending. There was strong feeling amongst colleagues in the movement that we are seeing a war being waged on working people and their rights. It has been the summer of love for Britain's worst bosses with the introduction of tribunal charges, the shares for rights scheme and the increased use and abuse of zero hours contracts.
Savage cuts are hitting our region's working people and the vulnerable hard. Having set about dismantling the NHS Andrew Lansley now wants to dismantle free speech; his Lobbying Bill is all about silencing opposition to Coalition Well. They want to silence trade unions, Greenpeace and even the Royal British Legion. Instead of building a big society, David Cameron wants to gag it.
Delegates attending Congress from the North East had much to be vocal about. We have had massive cuts to council funding, we've got the highest unemployment and lowest wages, over 50,000 public sector jobs have been destroyed - replaced by low paid part time work, with a third of workers paid well below a living wage. If that wasn't enough, we have the highest rate of child poverty in England, with a staggering 1 in 3 children in Newcastle born into poverty.
Austerity is failing ordinary people. It is destroying growth; devastating living standards; undermining our chances of recovery.
Our lives are a million miles away from the Cabinet of millionaires that lord it over us. We don't want lectures from ministers but the tools to develop our own economy, build a decent society and defend the vulnerable when they're in need.
Instead of subsidising slum landlords, let's build the council homes Britain needs to get rid of the waiting lists. Instead of a bedroom tax for ordinary people, let's have a mansion tax for millionaires. Instead of welfare for giant corporations, let's have a living wage for all. Instead of mass privatisation, let's have public ownership of our services.
The North East People's Assembly, held on Saturday, brought together the whole of the anti-cuts movement to ensure our actions have maximum impact and escalating the campaign against austerity to a whole new level.
The TUC's new 5 point campaign plan has these core aims at its heart:
to make the case for a new economy that delivers decent jobs and sustainable, low carbon growth.
to protect our public services and welfare state, and speak up for the people who depend on them and provide them.
to ensure that all workers, not just the bosses, share in the proceeds of growth and see their wages and living standards rise.
to promote respect at work and resist government attacks on our employment and labour rights.
to build strong unions winning for working people of every background.
The goal is simple: to ensure our economy works for ordinary workers and families, not just the Old Boys' Network, bankers and corporations.
Regional Secretary Northern TUC
Briefing document (600 words) issued 16 Sep 2013