RTUC gives political perspective of the Trades Unions and organises from the standpoint of the Workers’ Opposition on the Isle of Wight.
The Workers’ Opposition is both the general resistance and conscious development of the workers’ alternative and is concretised in the Organised Workers’ Opposition.
RTUC works from principles developed out of its work and has adopted the economic standpoint that, “More Should be put into the local economy than is taken out”.
The principles RTUC works from are established by fighting for the rights of all. This is because most of the policies are based on rights.
The reason behind its demand for European funding streams to the Isle of Wight in the period of Government inspired austerity and cuts is not only part of opposition to cuts, to pay for debt and deficit, but is also because the island demands what is rightfully ours. The perceived view, previously and today, is that there is an immediate need for investment funding in aid of the Isle of Wight economy and jobs.
The logic behind the strategic emphasis of ‘pointing the finger at the government’ is because we do not believe that island services should be reorganised by the local authority tinkering with the system. Political problems require political solutions. The Government is causing the problem and the island should fight against it.
The Isle of Wight County Association of local Trades Councils adopted the resolution:
“Due to Reduced funding there is no doubt that cuts in services and jobs will occur. The finger of blame must rest with central government. Grants are being lost. The T.U.C. will work with community groups and councillors to restore funding”.
The Trades Council met with Independent Councillors and decided to meet the Unite the Isle of Wight organisation on this basis. Unite the Isle of Wight is an anti-austerity organisation that has aligned itself to the People’s Assembly. This has given the organisation the perspective of developing a wider political programme. This trend is generally occurring nationwide. There is a need for a bottom-up organisation that takes care of the politics of the island and transference of empowerment and decision-making. With potential for this on the Isle of Wight, if it is approached with none sectarian and democratic attitude, objectives can be set and met.
The Trades Council has an oppositional view regarding outsourcing and moving services to Hampshire, as it believes it undermines our labour force and local Democracy.
The Trades Council is opposed to the “devolution” fraud put forward for by the Government. Devolution is no solution to any of the problems the island faces. It considers that the current devolution is in fact centralisation and wants no truck with sell-out devolution deals.
It doesn’t like education going off island, Privatisation and Academies, but supports the LEA. Other outsourcing such as island roads PFI is a problem with us. The question arises about, “What is the point of the council’ if the direction is moving services to Hampshire, moving services down to local parishes, selling services off to the private sector. Discretionary services or statutory services are in an unstable state and face the possibility of being outsourced too. We are arriving at a position where we are now discussing defending our Council, its existence and local democracy. It is the view of the Trades Council that a point comes where it states categorically that ‘enough is enough’ and the grounds should be prepared for that situation now and not wait for some other council to do it for political expediency. This is why we think THE FINGER SHOULD BE POINTED AT THE GOVERNMENT NOW and not just through national agencies and networks but out in public.
The Trades Council does not accept that cuts should be made. Cuts in services provided for local citizens have included, care services for the disabled, jobs at County hall, in schools, cultural events, libraries and even public toilets. The crisis has been caused by the rich and in particular the bankers and the people should not be made to pay for it. The recession has been caused by the capitalists and they have no solution to it. There is lack of growth and lack of investment. The national manufacturing base is now less than 10% of the total GDP and the Government refuses to address the problem. Services should be maintained not through Council Tax increases or Precept rises. Outsourcing to Hampshire or elsewhere or privatisation is not beneficial to island jobs or quality services. Jobs at County Hall should not be the sacrificial lamb where the brunt of cuts has fallen.
We are proud of our hospital, St Mary’s, and we will make every endeavour to safeguard it like the apple of our eye. We are about safeguarding the future of the NHS on the Isle of Wight. Everyone, young and old, from whatever background needs St Mary’s sometime. Along with hospitals up and down the country, the island NHS is threatened. Ryde Trades Union Council insists that the decision making should not be the men in suits, the politicians from the mainstream political parties etc, but the people and that is why we say,
“Not one part of the NHS to be cut, not one job to be lost and not one penny off the budget!”
A Health service has become one of the key modern rights in society. This is about our right to a fully funded NHS and we should demand it.
A recent research pointed to the amount that Private Finance Initiatives (PFI’s) are sucking out of the system. It has emerged that the NHS will have to pay private sector contractors an incredible £53bn for hospitals worth only £8bn. Private sector firms involved in the PFI projects will benefit from a massive 540% return on the initial agreement.
At a time when the NHS is confronting deficit, leaving medical staff facing job cuts, nurses having to re-apply for their own jobs, wards facing closure, and patients facing further delays in securing treatment it is not the right decision to de-skill and rundown departments. It is closure by stealth to outsource and move services like the blood bank to the mainland. Another aspect of the financial problem has been the soaring costs of drugs from the profiteering pharmaceutical companies.
The Right to Education has continuously been a concern of the Trades Council. It has supported the teachers and opposed them being a target of Government. It supports the work of the Teachers’ unions. Student’s fees should be ended in higher education and loans should be scrapped. The Academy programme, started by the Blairites and continued by the Conservative Government, along with the current ideas of Free Schools are part of the undermining of the State school system. The Trades council believes that education at primary and secondary level should remain within the Local Education Authority system.
The Trade Unions have long fought for the rights of pensioners to a decent livelihood in old age. The cutbacks in Final Salary Pension Schemes in many jobs are well known and the Trades Unions will continue to fight for pension rights at the place of work and for a decent State Pension. The actions of Public Sector Workers should affirm recognition that an injury to one is an injury to all. The government is hell-bent on driving up the retirement age, destroying pension schemes and cutting benefits. The right to retire at 60 is as important as the right to a decent income in old age.
The most important political and social question concerning Government funding cuts, is the issue of social care, particularly for the elderly. The Trades Council is determined to oppose the attitude of the Government in abdication of its responsibility towards this section of the population. It is intent of shifting the costs over to local authorities by allowing a special precept of 2% on top of Council Tax. Not only will this not be anywhere near adequate in terms of funding a proper service but also it is considered entirely wrong and is against the rights of senior citizens.
End Low Pay
It is now essential that we fight for the Living Wage. There are two aspects to the issue. First there is the long-term aspect of low pay on the Isle of Wight and second there is the Government Austerity that includes low pay. The gap between rich and poor is widening and whole sections like Health workers are more or less frozen and has been held down for a number of years. Some who receive performance or incremental increases do not receive even this. Council and Public Sector workers are being told that they cannot be paid more because of Austerity and budget deficits. Shop workers demand the Living Wage in USDAW. The Trades Union Council does not accept that low pay should continue to exist on the Island and that nothing can be done. Seasonal work is not acceptable as an excuse to keep pay low. There are many firms, hotels and shops operating unnecessarily with low pay. It is also not acceptable that immigrant workers have to exist on pay, which is below the National Minimum wage. We call on all unorganised workers to join a Trade Union and work on the basis of UNITY IS STRENGTH! and THE UNION DEFENDS US ALL!
Unemployment is high on the Island. The National figures of unemployed are manipulated to such an extent that they cannot be taken seriously. They do not take into account those who do not or can no longer sign on; the actual number of unemployed is much higher. The Isle of Wight has a population of around 140,000 of which just about 40,000 are in some kind of employment. The island has the lowest GDP per head in the SE region, and indeed, with the exception of Mid Glamorgan, the lowest in the entire UK. The impact of this shows itself on the island in the form of high levels of deprivation. The unemployment situation on the island is the worst in the south east of England. Many people were living on poverty benefits, recently the government has slashed benefits and left many reduced to poverty. The cuts were draconian and aimed at those perceived as not being able to defend themselves, many having both physical and mental conditions. The Trades Union Council denounces these Government moves. The Government continues with its propaganda that “More are in work” to offset recognition that unemployment is a problem. There must be an end to zero-hour contracts.
The Government slashes Welfare Benefits like Job Seekers’ Allowance in order to force workers to take low paid jobs and bring the jobless total down. The Government defeat over ‘Working Tax credits’ was most welcome. Workers are made homeless because of high rents and mortgage payments and some attacked under the “Bedroom Tax” and some are reduced to use foodbanks. These undignified attacks are part of the Government Austerity measures and are opposed by the Workers’ Opposition.
We believe that the island provides an ideal opportunity for the development of an integrated transport system and can model the development of one. The endemic problem of clogged up roads, parking and all associated problems has to be tackled. It is in our interests to have a regulated public transport system with reasonably priced bus train and ferries on the island, which are clean, safe and reliable. We do not think that this is outside the realms of possibility. We also are firmly of the opinion that this is essential in order to protect the environment, which we all deeply care about. It is from this standpoint that we support the re-regulation of ferries and buses on the island.
We do not believe that it is in the interests of the people on the island that private monopolies such as Wightlink and Red Funnel should have total control of ferries and that the council should provide a cheap ferry service for islanders.
Macquarie is an Australian Finance and banking monopoly that sold the Wightlink operation to another big monopoly, Balfour Beatty.
The Trades Council considered Macquarie/Wightlink and explains the Trades Councils’ role since the big Public Meeting at Newport Football ground and elaborated its campaign. The Trades Council suggested a position should have been adopted that the engagement with Macquarie/Wightlink were negotiations and not simply listening to the bleating and lamentation of a company in “distress”. We consider that there should still be discussions with Balfour Beatty also to engage with the public with a view to bring prices down and improve services.
The stated long-term position of the Trades Council for a Public Ferry Service is reiterated. We support the RMT position that the railways should be re-nationalised.
We view the ferry as a service and extension of our road connection.
Also a short term negotiating position is given aimed at concessions, which are not final solutions.
The short term stance has a negotiating platform based on reinstating services would mean in the first place two hour extensions at weekends (Friday, Saturday, Sunday nights). Also the most costly piece of water in the world should be reduced for islanders and should be a maximum of £25 also various emergency off island visits, for residents, should be free.
The Trades Union Council in Ryde, like most people, was against the war in Iraq and is against the continuation of the war in Afghanistan. We are against the interference of NATO in Libya and interference in the affairs of Syria. We are against the interference of the European Union and the United States in the Ukraine. We are against the Governments attempts to open up new areas of conflict such as in the DPRK (North Korea). Also we are opposed to the British and European strategy of lining up behind the US and NATO in trying to surround both Russia and China. In our opinion the UN Security Council should be democratised opened up to include more countries. Britain should withdraw from NATO and it should be disbanded because it is an aggressive force. Ryde Trades Council supports the struggle of the Palestinians for a homeland against the continuing encroachments of Zionist Israel.
We believe that all international problems should be sorted out peacefully and through dialogue. Much of the funding that could be used to fund social programmes is diverted towards financing wars. If we had a government that was truly anti-war we would not have many financial problems. Many young workers on the Isle of Wight joined the armed services and ended up in places like Afghanistan. We do not want our children who join up to have to face these dangerous situations; we do not want the trauma to be passed to bereaved families who lose loved ones. Most wars are not in workers’ interests as it is them that have to go and fight, often against other young workers in poor countries. We say that we should stop interfering in other countries’ affairs.
The armed forces should be for defence only and not to wage jingoistic adventures on behalf of imperialism. The Trident renewal programme is a waste and should be opposed. The government’s talk about defence is a fraud and its militarisation does not adequately support proper defence of the homeland. Arms sales to Saudi Arabia must end.
Regiments and territorial units have been reduced to zero on the Isle of Wight. There is no proper strategic defence of Britain only support for wars abroad. The navy was cut by the Government, which threatened the Portsmouth dockyards and this was supported by the military monopoly, BAE. The aircraft carrier programme does not support defence of territorial waters only rapid reaction forces for the EU and NATO.
Racism and Fascism
The Trades Council will continue to oppose racism and fascism in all of its forms.
RTUC calls for an island sponsored viability study on a tunnel link between Portsmouth and Ryde.
RTUC calls for the building of more houses on the Island. There is a need for affordable housing as well as a Council House building programme.
There is a new case to develop marine engineering projects such shipbuilding and Ferry building or a new maintenance shipyard in Cowes.
Trades Council Poverty Action. (IOW).
There are many areas of deprivation on the Isle of Wight compared to the rest of the country.
There is a necessity to organise the poor on the IOW.
Covering the Unemployed, Low Paid, Zero Hour Contracts, Benefit Claimants affected by cuts, People affected by bedroom tax, inclusion of poor in Council Tax, homelessness, hunger prevention and foodbanks, Youth NEETS (Not in employment, education or training), single parents, the disabled poor and underpaid migrant workers.
The Trades Council has spoken out on the issue of Child Poverty on the Isle of Wight and will continue to do so.
RTUC believes that all 999 services should be fully funded and sufficient for the Isle of Wight. Paramedics and Ambulance services should be maximised and the Firefighters should also be supported in full.