Unions call for cuts action

Blackpool Against the Cuts meeting

Blackpool Against the Cuts meeting

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Anti-austerity campaigners have issued a call to arms saying it is time to not just oppose cuts, but to find a viable alternative to them too.

It is time to “convert ideas into activity and action”, so said a trade union boss at a meeting of Blackpool Against The Cuts (BATC).

The meeting, titled ‘Save The Welfare Safety Net’, saw panellists and attendees discuss how residents in Blackpool can unite to oppose cuts to public spending, sanctions on welfare claimants and what alternatives can be offered to help the public purse instead.

BATC claimGovernment reforms to the benefits system are hitting vulnerable people the most.

Chris Baugh, assistant general secretary of the PCS civil service union, from Blackpool, said: “There needs to be a combination of action and protest, and campaigning with councils and parliamentary candidates. It’s not about appeals to politicians, it’s about what we can organise.”

The trade unionist called for co-ordinated industrial action by all unions, following last week’s strikes by pubic sector bodies.

He added: “This area has had a catastrophic decline in employment and seen deep cuts in public spending – what are we going to do about it?

“It never was, and it never will be, enough just to say what we oppose, it’s essential to set out our alternative.

“We need to set out a political and economic alternative.”

The PCS union has put forward its alternatives to cuts, which is to harness the natural resources of wind and tidal power to create jobs in the energy sector.

More than 25 people, including community champions and Labour councillors, attended the meeting, chaired by Ken Cridland, at the Ruskin Hotel, on Albert Road, Blackpool, on Monday night.

Organisers invited those attending to share experiences and views, but also urged those in a position to help others, including in offering work or charity, to do so.

Unison convener Steve Holmes added his voice to the debate, saying education must play a vital part in opening the debate over welfare reforms and public spending.

Mr Holmes, a Scot, said: “Education is key. It can be done, you can get people politicised, it happened in Scotland [for the referendum] and when that happens that’s when we can have a proper debate.

“We’re at crisis point where the debate needs to be had among the working class.”

While Mr Baugh stressed his union’s recent pamphlet published on the potential of creating thousands of jobs in the clean energy sector, a number of attendees at the meeting said the issue of fuel poverty was of more pressing concern in Blackpool.