Report from meeting 31st May held in St. Peters Church.
Report from meeting 31st May held in St. Peters Church.
Chair: Ian Waddell
· Carlo Morreli on The economics of austerity
· Lynn Henderson on The Peoples Charter
· Harry Cunningham on The Living Wage
Ian welcomed everyone and introduced the speakers. The PAF was set up one year ago by the Trades Council as a long term battle against the whole austerity agenda. The negative move by some in the working class to support Ukip is in part a backlash against the effects of austerity policies. It is Etonians not Romanians, bankers not Bulgarians that are the real enemy. We need to fight neo-liberal ideals and develop the arguments to counter these ideals.
Session 1 Carlo:
What has happened since the recession? The recession is the worst in living memory, the like of which has not been seen since the 20’s. There is no real explanation on why it took place and how the dominoes fell one by one, from the subprime market in the US, banks collapsing in the UK etc. Economists have not managed to tie this together.
Now the recession appears to have ceased and once again there is no real explanation. Most western economies are back in growth, but austerity, has not and will not end with this growth. The top earners have all increased their wealth over this time frame and the working class have seen a systematic reduction in theirs. Both are a consequence of the neo-liberal policies.
Thomas Piketty, Capital in the 21st Century: In the past 100 years the west has become more and more unequal. Wealth moving from the poor to the rich is the trend. The concentration and inequality of wealth has been increasing since the 70’s.
Quote from The Guardian article –
“Capitalism does not contain an inherent tendency to civilise itself. Left to its own devices, it can be expected to create rates of return on investment so much higher than overall rates of economic growth that the only possible result will be to transfer more and more wealth into the hands of a hereditary elite of investors, to the comparative impoverishment of everybody else.
In other words, what happened in Western Europe and North America between roughly 1917 and 1975 – when capitalism did indeed create high growth and lower inequality – was something of a historical anomaly. There is a growing realisation among economic historians that this was indeed the case.”
Marx: Exploitation of the working class means profit declines over time. It is the workers that create the wealth, so the capitalist invests in machinery and automation to replace the workers. This leads to over production, less employment, less spending and therefore creates a crisis in the system.
There is massive potential to resist the austerity agenda. The independence debate needs to be fought on class arguments not economic.
We have the ability and must organise on a mass scale.
Discussion and questions from the rise of Ukip and its use of migrants as a scapegoat to The Trickle Down Theory. The need to simplify the terminology and to create cohesive arguments was crucial in the ongoing campaign.
Session 2: Lynn:
A discussion on the economy is crucial in our understanding of the current climate. The People’s Charter argues against austerity, right wing neo-liberalism and Ukip’s agenda. It is supported by STUC, Trades Councils, union branches and The People’s Assembly. It provides a simple message that is easy to understand. As all parties are pro austerity, we need to apply pressure now on them all.
1. A fair economy for a fairer Britain.
Control of banks and city finance regulation is required, we own RBS and Lloyd’s currently. The tax system needs to be overhauled. Tax justice is required with a clampdown on avoidance and evasion.
2. More and better jobs.
With the privatisation of all public services to privateers who will always put profit first. Existing jobs need to be protected. Investment must create new jobs paying decent money, particularly in manufacturing, construction and green technology. Nationalise key industries.
3. Decent Homes for all.
Give local government the power and money to build and renovate affordable quality homes and buy empty ones, ending the housing shortage, and creating jobs.Stop the repossessions and keep people in their homes.
4. Protect our Public Services
Bring energy, transport, water and telecommunications Royal Mail back into public ownership. End private profiteering in health, education, social and other public services.
5. Fairness and Justice
Dispel the myths of Ukip about migration. Scotland actually requires an increase in the working age population to pay an aging population. End child poverty by increasing child benefits and tax credits. Enforce equal pay for women.
6. Build a secure and sustainable future for all.
End the cost of war and bring our troops home. Don’t waste billions on a new generation of nuclear weapons. Our future must be based on massive investment for a greener, safer world now.
The People’s Assembly has adopted the Charter as a base but has widened the scope.
Andrew Fisher book http://www.radicalread.co.uk/forthcoming-titles/6-forthcoming-titles
There’s a useful review at - http://www.ier.org.uk/blog/failed-experiment-and-how-build-economy-works-andrew-fisher-book-review-enrico-tortolano ]
During the discussion that followed it was noted that Social Security on its own was missing. Lynn indicated that if it was to be re-written now that it would most certainly be highlighted as a key factor, due the continued attacks and sanction regimes. It was written to be concise and easy to read.
Tam highlighted that The People’s Assembly nationally has created separate Social Security actions within the motions heard at the national Assembly. These cover all aspects of the attacks on the unemployed and disabled, Bedroom Tax, WCA, Caps, Sanctions, universal credit etc.
Session 3: Harry
There is wide support for the living wage throughout the country. The TUC’s campaign “Britain needs a Pay Rise” is not just for those in work but for all sections of the working class, whether employed or unemployed. In real terms wages and benefits have reduced over the past 4 years.
Those on the minimum wage are still in receipt of welfare top ups, tax credits, housing benefit etc. This in effect means that the tax payer is subsidising the wages for companies like Amazon. Those claiming housing benefit and that are in work are increasing all the time.
We need to challenge the myths of welfare. We need to take the arguments to union branches, workplaces and the street. Less than 1% of the welfare bill is due to benefit fraud. A large percentage is paid to those in work.
Of those on the minimum wage:
43% are part time workers
83% of all bar and waiting staff
There is public support for an increase in the minimum wage, with 60% saying it needs to be increased, 83% stating it does not meet peoples minimum needs.
There needs to be more focus on enforcement of the minimum wage.
The living wage is an average:£7.65/hr and £8.80/hr in London
In Scotland 20% of the working population are on less than the living wage, approx. 400,000.
Of this number 93% are employed in the Private sector.
The Scottish Government pays the Living wage but did not support the bill to have the living wage tied into government procurement. This needs to be challenged nationally and locally.
Islington council has 92% of its contractors paying the living wage and are working towards 100% compliance. We need to have a focus on fair pay with pressure on councils to pay the living wage.
It is obvious that if you give low paid workers or those on benefits a pay rise, this will be spent within the local community and not invested in offshore accounts.
Ian gave an account on Fife Council. Fife Council are paying the Living wage, but as a supplementary payment, not linked with pensions etc.
Further actions etc:
June 11th 13:00, Beveridge Park Hotel, showing of the Happy Lands film, Ian to forward further information.
June 21stPeople's Assembly National Demonstration, London
July 5th NHS day of action
July 10th Possible mass action by unions
August 2nd Day of action for tax justice
It was agreed that we would hold further meetings of this kind, possibly every quarter, with the next one after the referendum.
Date of next regular PA meeting to be agreed.