It was a huge honour to be invited by the Durham Miners Association to address the Big Meeting on Saturday, especially when that meant sharing the platform with so many great speakers and representatives of our movement. In particular, it was a pleasure to be alongside Angela Rayner and Jeremy Corbyn – two great UNISON members and friends of our union.
Events like this one show the power of our movement, the strength of our solidarity and the vital role that unions must play in shaping the future of our country.
To speak on behalf of 1.3 million members – and in front of a crowd of 200,000 – is no easy task, but I hope I did our great union and our amazing members justice, especially when the stakes are so high. You can view my speech at the top of this blog post.
Public services are under attack like never before from this Tory government, and the funding cuts across all services are unsustainable. As a direct result we’re seeing crises in the NHS, Social Care, Local Government, Police and Education.
At the same time we’re seeing the effects of privatisation which puts profit before people – so the elderly get 15 minute visits, people have to sell their homes to pay for their care, young people leave university with massive debt, the cost of housing is unaffordable for many, libraries are closing and so are sure start centres.
All public services are facing crisis. Yet we are told there is no alternative to austerity.
But that’s not true.
Austerity is just another word for class war – and we have had enough.
Public sector workers see the reality of this Government’s political decisions every day. Nurses, porters, care workers, social workers, ambulance staff, TAs and other school based staff, police staff – all are seeing the reality of cuts and the impact on some of the most vulnerable in our society.
People seeing wages falling behind the cost of living – year on year – having to use foodbanks, worried about how to pay the bills and feed their families.
You know, it’s often said you can’t trust the Tories with the NHS but’s that only part of the story – you can’t trust the Tories with local councils, you can’t trust the Tories with schools, police, jobs or the economy.
In fact you can’t trust them with anything at all. Nowhere can that be seen more clearly than in the North East:
- over 60,000 public sector jobs lost – with human costs and economic costs
- Some of the most disproportionate cuts to local government
- Essential services gone because of lack of funding,
- the highest rate of unemployment,
- young people not able to go into further training or get jobs
People have had enough of being told there is no money for public services when the small amount of a £1billion is found to prop up this Government of chaos. We know the Tories thought they could make gains in the North East in the General Election – but they didn’t and that’s because we know what their policies have meant for us here in the North East.
People have had enough of being told there is no other way. They’ve had enough of seeing the gap between the rich and the poor growing almost daily.
At long last, it feels like we’re turning a corner, and by working together and campaigning together we can make a real difference. That was the message from the Gala on Saturday, and that will be the message at the next general election – whenever it comes – that will see a Labour government under Jeremy Corbyn fighting with us for the many not the few.