September 26, 2012 Leave a comment
This article was originally published in Clocking Off, official newsletter of Yorkshire & Humber TUC
Ask any young person what they think about politics and many will reply that that’s nothing to do with them. Instead it’s to do with MP’s living the high life, racking up massive expenses claims, whilst deciding on things in a manner that makes life more and more difficult for them.
If they are trying to find work the youth unemployment remains perilously high, and instead of a job creation programme that can provide well paid meaningful work we have work-for-your dole schemes that even the Department for Work and Pensions which is promoting such schemes say don’t help people find work.
If they’re in work then the minimum wage hasn’t been increased for under 21s this year and we’ve still got around 10% of the cuts to public services to come which will have knock on effects on the private sector too.
If they want to go into education then the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) for college students has now been scrapped and tuition fees have been raised to £9,000 a year for those starting at university this September. And that’s before mentioning the cuts there too which are even putting some universities, such as London Met at risk of closure.
Given all this, it’s no wonder that over 50% of young people don’t vote in elections. If only somebody was doing something to challenge all these policies that are devastating young people’s lives?
Well, on October 20th the TUC is organising a massive demonstration in London to show the huge opposition to such policies. Trade unions, as well as campaign groups, students and others will march through London demanding a future in their interests rather than in the interests of the super-rich chums of the Tories.
But hang on, you may say. Didn’t we have a demonstration a year and a half ago? But after that the Tories and their Lib-Dem allies carried on attacking our jobs, the NHS and everything else?
That demonstration was before the impact of these cuts really started to be felt, it’s one thing to announce cuts to people’s living standards – it’s another to be able to implement them without those people trying to stop you.
And we’ve seen people trying to stop them – we’ve seen young people protest over workfare forcing companies to pull out of that scheme, we’ve seen construction electricians defend their terms and conditions and strikes of public sector workers too. Some have been successful, unfortunately others haven’t – but this government has made an awful lot of u-turns – in fact as I write this my friend who works in the tax office has let me know that his union’s (PCS) campaign has forced the government to create a 1,000 extra jobs in HMRC.
October 20th will hopefully be a million strong, which of itself will be a tremendous encouragement for those in the trade union movement fighting to defend their jobs and services, but also encourage those angry at the closure or privatisation of their local library, A&E unit and other public services to try and fight to reverse such decisions.
October 20th can be a rallying call, but a rallying call to continue the campaign against austerity in all areas of the country in the aftermath of the march. A mass movement of this nature could sweep away the Con-Dems and their policies of misery for young people.
Austerity should be replaced with policies to benefit young people – reintroducing the EMA, reversing the tuition fee hikes as a step towards free education, a programme of building social housing to provide homes for all on the council house waiting list, a programme of investment into public services to end understaffing and other ills caused by relentless cuts – all of which would create jobs, of course paid at a living wage, to end the scourge of unemployment.
Let’s fund this through companies and the rich paying taxes to support society, rather than constantly dodging their responsibility by loopholes such as moving funds abroad. Let’s have banks that support people by giving cheap loans for mortgages and to small businesses, rather than banks that need the poor to bail them out – after all given the as a country own a few of them we should at least have the right to decide what they should be doing. Let’s have a future that works in the interests of ordinary people, not just those who are already well off.
Iain Dalton (USDAW)