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Coalition cuts will mean the end of the welfare state as we know it

Be afraid, be very afraid. David Cameron has announced that he intends to privatise everything apart from the judiciary and the security services. The details will be laid out in a white paper due to be published in early March this year.

Private corporations will be able to bid to carry out any services currently run by the state. Pfizer or Glaxo may end up running the NHS, British Aerospace may manage the armed forces and Barclays Bank control our schools (via a holding company in the Caymen Islands).

This isn’t just scare mongering. The public sector is under attack in a way that it has never faced before. Around one and a half million jobs of directly and indirectly employed staff will be lost. £20 billion a year will be cut from the NHS budget with the loss of many hospitals and A&E departments. Up to half the libraries in the UK face closure. The list just goes on and on.

Council house tenants will see rents rise until just below market rate for their areas. They will be means tested and evicted if it’s assessed that they can afford private rents. Housing benefit will be slashed, as will many other entitlements. Public sector pensions may lose a third of their value by using CPI instead of RPI as a measure of inflation. Private pensions may soon follow.

And is this money going to a worthy cause? Well – not particularly. The coalition is using some of the money saved to give tax breaks to business – a 4% reduction in the corporation tax. Why bother - as the companies that caused the recession all seem to have ways of avoiding paying it anyway?

This is a very bad time to be poor, sick, disabled, young, old, unemployed, employed in the public sector, female, a parent, a carer, a volunteer or just about anyone who doesn’t come from the same rich and privileged social class as Cameron and Clegg.

But there is hope – though it means that you have to take ownership of your future and your children’s’ futures. The government did make a U-turn on the sale of our forests, but only because 500,000 people petitioned against it. You must get involved in one or more of the hundreds of campaigns that are going on to stop this government’s plans. Write to your MP. Sign petitions. Protest outside your council offices. Be at the March for Jobs, Growth and Justice on the 26th of March. Join a campaign, form a lobby group, but make sure that you stand up and be counted.

Otherwise you’ll wake up one morning to a country that you don’t recognise. A country where you have to pay for medical treatment, where it’s illegal to take industrial action, where you can’t take your employer to court unless you are rich and where health and safety has been abolished because it’s "a burden on business". And do it now, because there is much worse to come.

Jon Purdom (HLC Chair)

22nd February 2011


 These are difficult times for airport workers. The rececession, aviation fuel prices, election of a Conservative government and volcanic ash have had a serious impact on the profits of many airport companies. But we must be careful that the workers are not expected to carry a disproportionate amount of the burden that the aviation industry is facing. We must also make sure that employers do not use the recession as an excuse to attack terms and conditions that have been negotiated over decades, when already there are signs that the recovery is well under way - as July 2010 saw the highest number of passengers Heathrow has ever handled.

I have been accused of having a "rant" because I have said that jobs and working conditions at Heathrow are under a greater threat than they have been for decades, but I stand by my opinion. I do believe that all Heathrow workers who have not yet done so should join a union. I do believe that every group of workers should try to get to a position where they can get union recognition. And I do believe that this is the only way that we can avoid a massive drop in our standards of living.

The industries that were most to blame for the recession are already starting to make huge profits again, but the front line workers will be paying for the greed of a small number of bankers for decades to come. We will pay more tax, but we will get fewer public services for our money. We will have to work until we are older and we will have to put in more hours. We will fear losing our jobs more - because there will be fewer jobs out there. There will be fewer employment laws to protect us - because this government has promised to abolish many of the protections that we currently have. And employers will use our fear to increase their profits at our expense. This isn't a rant, it's just the way things are.

The Telegraph estimated that the last budget will cost every family in Britain around £3,000. The index linking on pensions is to be attacked by using a lower inflation figure to adjust the amount we will receive year on year. Higher unemployment and fewer police are likely to lead to more crime. Our standards of living are seriously under threat. So what can we do about it?
  • Unionise
  • Organise
  • Educate
  • Lobby
  • Support each other

If we, the workers do not stand together to challenge unscrupulous employers, politicians and the Confederation of British Industry - then we had all better tighten our belts, because there will be nothing to stop the powers that be leaving us to foot the bill for mistakes in the  financial management of this country over the past 30 years. Because Heathrow has a high density of trade union membership already - we can make sure that we have a say in our future - but only if we work together.

Jon Purdom (General Editor, Chair HLC)