We need a government that will fight for our future
Samantha Ritchie is speaking at the launch of our election guide on work, pay and unions, in Glasgow on Thursday 12 February.
For the first time since trade unions began my generation is worse off than the generation which came before us.
This Tory government has taken workers’ terms and conditions right back to Victorian times. They’ve decimated our communities, they’ve attacked the most vulnerable and they’ve tried to tear down the welfare state and the NHS. Over the last five years attacks on working people have been horrific.
In the UK, there are currently 1.4 million people on zero-hours contracts. These contracts give zero hours in holiday pay and zero hours in sick pay. In some contracts it even states that you can’t work another job elsewhere because the employer wants you to be as flexible as possible. The trade union movement fought to get holiday pay with the Working Time Directive in 1998. Yet, less than 20 years on the fight continues with the explosion of zero -hours contracts.
The cost of living is continuing to rise but the wages of working people are stagnating which, in real terms, means that pay is being cut. However, Tory MP’s continue to deride and scapegoat British workers. Dominic Raab and Elizabeth Truss state that “once British workers enter the workplace, they are amongst the worst idlers in the world… we work among the lowest hours, we retire early and our productivity is poor.” Not only is this insulting but it is simply not true.
Data from the Office of National Statistics shows that in terms of productivity the UK’s workforce ranks among the most industrious in the EU, with other indicators showing that we also outstrip many countries in the amount of hours worked. However, the message from the Tory’s is clear: why should employers pay you more when workers are cheaper and productive elsewhere? It’s exploitation.
In the 1980’s Thatcher sold off a great deal of our social housing and since then there has been a fundamental failure to build more houses in this country. This has resulted in rogue landlords taking advantage of people who need shelter. A recent study published shows that as much as 40% of household income now goes on rent. For many landlords owning multiple houses is now seen as a business. A shelter for your family is a basic human right – not one organisation or individual should profit greatly from exploiting this right.
We need more affordable housing for people in this country. My own union, Unite, has continued to get behind the campaign Generation Rent which calls upon the Government to introduce rent controls and build more social housing. This has been installed in our Young People’s Charter and it is something the union continues to get behind.
The General Election is taking place in May this year. It’ll be our choice to choose which Government we elect. It’s about being bold and standing up to the political elite because the only way we will do it is coming together and voting for the party who will get rid of zero-hours contract, build more social housing and for a party who stops the attacks on our class.