23 May 2012
At a standing-room only fringe meeting, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka was joined on the panel by best-selling author Owen Jones (Chavs – demonization of working class) and distinguished academic Ann Pettifor (Prime Economics). PCS vice president John McInally chaired the meeting.
Mark Serwotka described the publication as not just a "follow up to our 2010 ‘There is an alternative: the case against cuts in public spending’, but as a document that offers people hope and provides a solution based on creating jobs and investing in public services, not privatising and cutting them.”
The pamphlet argues that the economic growth the government promised has not materialised and unemployment, inequality and the tax gap are getting worse, with:
• Unemployment now at its highest level for 18 years
• Inequality rife: workers’ wages have fallen while corporate profits have risen to 21% of GDP, up from 13% in the mid 1970s
• Economic growth only grew by 0.7% not 2.3% as the chancellor forecast in 2011
• The government is having to borrow £46bn more than planned.
Mark told the meeting that “the bank bailout which cost the UK taxpayer £1.3 trillion means the sector has lost the right to carry on as before.” He said: “The answer is not to worship at the altar of markets – people should run countries, not financiars.”
Ann Pettifor welcomed the publication of our pamphlet and called for people not to be led by the government’s wrong thinking on economics. She said: “The government can’t cut the deficit by getting us to ‘manage our own home budgets better’ it is infantile to suggest it.”
She pointed out that our pay cuts are hurting the big businesses as our ability to spend dents the economy further. “It is the bankruptcy of the banks that we should all be talking about.
“We invented the banks to lend to the real economy, yet the austerity measures demand that we lend huge sums from the real economy to prop up insolvent banks. We need to be talking to people about macro economics, not allowing the government to present this as a crisis of the public sector.”
Owen Jones also commended the publication and agreed with both Mark and Ann’s analysis. He said: 'Austerity isn’t working’ is a great publication, but it should be called; Austerity is an absolute catastrophic disaster.”
Owen told delegates that the union is right to argue that the government is leading the country down the wrong path with its slash and burn approach to public services. He pointed to the effect this approach is having on worsening economic problems in Greece, Italy and Spain.
He spoke of how the government had taken this fiscal crisis and created an ideological opportunity to finish what Thatcher started. Owen delivered the key message of the pamphlet when he urged people to see the growing resistance to austerity here and abroad as an opportunity to force the financial sector to act in the public interest, become publicly owned and controlled and raise revenues to pay back the debt. This would enable the government to invest in new council housing, new jobs in renewable energy and new businesses and ideas.