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From The Socialist newspaper, 21 March 2012

Budget: far from 'all in it together'

Hannah Sell, Socialist Party deputy general secretary
Pigs at the trough: Obsorne's budget 2012 a hand out for the rich , photo by Alan Hardman

Pigs at the trough: Obsorne's budget 2012 a hand out for the rich , photo by Alan Hardman   (Click to enlarge)

Asked about the Con-Dem budget, Simon Hughes, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats pleaded for "a budget for the millions not the millionaires". There is not a snowball's chance in hell of Tory Chancellor Osborne delivering such a budget.

Only six of the 29-strong cabinet are not millionaires themselves, and it is absolutely clear that the budget will mean an escalation of this government's policy of ever-increasing austerity for the many and tax-cuts for the few.

Opinion polls show a majority of the population - 67% - want to keep the 50p rate of tax on earnings over 150,000, yet Osborne has made clear he wants to cut it. An overwhelming 92% of the population want the budget to take some measures to force the rich to pay more, but they will see exactly the opposite in Osborne's budget. The pleadings of the Liberal Democrats have been ignored; it seems the budget will not even have a fig leaf to make it appear that the rich are being asked to pay their share.

The cuts in corporation tax to 'the lowest level in the Western world', as Osborne famously declared, will continue apace. By 2015 an average of 5 billion a year in government income will have been lost as a result. And far from clamping down on tax-dodging by the super-rich and the major corporations, the budget will contain changes designed to make it far easier. The proposals have been masterminded by a senior manager of the international corporate tax accountants KPMG. He was seconded to the treasury for 20 months to develop the rules that will be pushed through in the small print of the budget. His speciality: 'advising multinationals on tax-efficient cross-border financing and restructuring' - tax avoidance by another name!

For the 99% the budget will deliver a very different diet - unending misery. Regional pay - which is an attempt to break up the national collective bargaining power of the trade unions and would dramatically increase the wealth divide between London and the South East and other regions; a measly increase of 11p an hour in the minimum wage for workers over 21, and not a penny's increase for young people; plus a dramatic acceleration of privatisation. The roads, Royal Mail and the NHS are among the public services being offered up to the private vultures.

The trade union movement needs to recognise the budget for what it is; a further declaration of war on the living standards of the majority. The organised working class needs to respond with an escalation of intransigent opposition to the government. An immediate next step should be a mass mobilisation for a national Saturday demonstration against austerity and in defence of public services, alongside further strike action.

Attempts at 'concession bargaining' - accepting some cuts in the hope of avoiding others - are doomed to failure. This brutal budget comes in the wake of the TUC leaderships' attempt to do a rotten deal on pensions in the hope of avoiding further attacks by the government. It could not be clearer that weakness only invites more aggression. Yet unfortunately, it seems that the TUC leadership is continuing this approach.

Alongside an industrial campaign against austerity, a political alternative is also needed. New Labour has repeatedly made it clear that it would not reverse the vicious cuts being implemented by this government.

Workers need a political voice that really does stand for the millions not the millionaires. The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) brings together trade unionists, socialists and anti-cuts campaigners to stand in elections on an anti-cuts platform, and is an important step towards creating such a voice.

What we think about the so-called "workers' budget"

Regional pay

George Osborne's provocative announcement of the government's intention to introduce regional pay can only be seen in light of the surrender of the right wing union leaders over the pension battle.

The attempt to regionalise public sector pay will have a devastating impact on what are already economically deprived areas such as the North West, Northern Ireland, Wales and the North East. These areas have never recovered from 30 years of deindustrialisation and the public sector represented young people's only chance of securing any kind of stable work.

With the abolition of national pay scales and the pinning of public sector increases to average wages in the private sector the government will visit a new wave of devastation on working class people. Osborne's agenda is simply to break up collective bargaining, weaken the public sector unions still further and pave the way for yet more privatisation.

Brendan Barber has correctly said that any imposition of regional pay will further depress an already desperate economic situation. As always though the TUC leaders do not point to a way for workers to fight back against this but simply wring their hands and turn their backs.

At the recent North West TUC AGM the PCS union moved a motion condemning regional pay and committed the NW TUC to coordinating a campaign against it including coordinated industrial action. A massive trade union campaign coordinated by the TUC must begin now. The government is looking to finalise its plans by July and the union movement must be out campaigning actively against this immediately.

Every union branch must pass motions committing to defending national collective bargaining and demanding that their union ballot for strike action to defend it.

Motions should also go to every trades council demanding that the TUC locally and nationally live up to its words and defend our rights.

Alex Davidson, PCS branch secretary

Defend what's left of hard-earned Sunday trading laws

The government announced its intention to allow the expansion of Sunday trading for eight weeks during the Olympics in London. Since 1994 shop-workers have faced the continual erosion of Sunday rights, beginning with the introduction of Sunday opening and resulting in a situation where now the majority are on single time.

As socialists most of us don't have any sentimental attachment to Sundays from a churchgoing point of view but we have since the early 90s been in the forefront of campaigns against having to work on the one day a week where we could rely on not being pulled in to do a shift.

Most London shop-workers are paid a monthly salary and this means that overtime is generally unpaid. You often have to stay longer if the customers linger etc. If laws change for eight Sundays we will be working three or more extra unpaid hours in the busiest possible period. And who is to say they won't relax the law indefinitely?

Most of us are excited about the Olympics coming to our hometown but we won't be getting the chance to watch much of it if we are continually either in work or in endless tourist-ridden tube and train queues to get there and back.

As a member of the Usdaw NEC Robbie Segal campaigned vigorously to preserve Sundays as a day off, but, without the backing of the union nationally, Sunday working was brought in.

It's time for Usdaw to grow some teeth, call action like the RMT has done recently and fight back by bringing the West End to a standstill.

Alex, London

50p tax rate

By the time you read this the 50p top rate of tax for earnings over 150,000 will have gone. Osborne's decided that 50p tax doesn't fit with 'Britain's open for business'.

The Institute for Directors has been lobbying to get rid of it because it 'deters people from setting up businesses they would otherwise open'. They got what they wanted out of the budget.

Hang on, though. Even Osborne doesn't believe income over 150,000 should not be taxed at all. The rate will have dropped to 45p or 40p [edit here in light of actual budget decision] ie a reduction of 5p or 10p in the pound.

Is this really what was stopping all those entrepreneurs setting up hundreds of businesses to soak up those made redundant from the 'bloated' public sector?

Is someone with a good business idea, and with the prospect of making a fortune, really going to say to themselves: 'You know what? That extra 10p in the pound, it's a killer. The more I think about it, I don't think I'll bother opening that chain of care homes /string of convenience stores /design consultancy.'

And if 5p or 10p in the pound is all it takes to put them off, what does that say about Osborne's entrepreneurs?

Paul Gerrard

Race to the bottom

The government wishes to scrap national pay bargaining and reduce public sector wage rates in poorer areas. Is this the way to help poor workers? I think it's to pay for cutting the 50p tax rate. And, in this race to the bottom will MPs have their pay cut?

Roger Cudd

Road rage

When I read about David Cameron's new plans to privatise the roads and fund them with toll gates, it struck me that the Tories really don't know anything about Welsh history or the Rebecca Riots. I'll get my dress!

Ben, Swansea

The Low Pay Commission has been widely reported as unanimously agreeing the paltry proposals on the minimum wage, including its freezing for young people; yet the Commission's membership includes John Hannett, general secretary of the shopworkers' union USDAW, and Frances O'Grady, deputy general secretary of the TUC. If they did not support the Commission's proposal they should say so immediately. If they did, trade unionists should demand that they immediately stand down to make way for those who are prepared to stand up for workers' interests.

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In The Socialist 21 March 2012:

Fighting the cuts

Tell the Con-Dem government: NO CUTS!

Prepare for future struggle - build the trade union left

Build a strategy to win on pensions

Stop the NHS sell-off - National demo now!

Stroud: Labour lets NHS down again

Socialist Party features

Capitalism isn't working: Time to fight for socialist change

Fight or privatise: A tale of two councils

Socialist Party news and analysis

Budget: far from 'all in it together'

Student walkout: Socialist Students show what could have been

No to workfare - fight for a genuine alternative

Defend the right to protest!

Youth demand future at Dundee sham summit

Them & Us

Socialist Party workplace news

MMP packaging: workers still locked out

Swindon hospital workers fight bullying

Construction workers demand better pay and conditions

Workplace news in brief

International socialist news and analysis

The 'Kony 2012' phenomena

Sri Lanka's Killing Fields: War Crimes Unpunished

Reviews and readers' comments

Smear campaign on Hillsborough?

Single and video: ill Manors by Plan B


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