Speech to Trade Union Rally, Guildhall, 21st February 2023, Derry, Northern Ireland
The rally was organised by the NI Teachers Council made up of unions as follows: NASUWT, INTO, UTU and NEU (my union). One NITC affiliate, the NAHT (the Principals union) was not on strike.
The meeting was hosted by the Derry Trades Council – who organised the stage, banners, microphones etc. The SF Mayor of Derry introduced the meeting.
Around 400 attended.
Other public service unions spoke – NIPSA, Unite, Unison, UCU as well as a speaker from the NUJ on the BBC cuts at Radio Foyle. Another local campaign highlighted was the NI Housing Executive dispute.
The speech was well received.
Mark Langhammer is Regional Secretary of the National Education Union
“Colleagues….we’re in the battle of our generation. And I’m here to talk about the money!
The pay of ordinary working people across every sector has, incrementally, bit by bit, over 40 years, gone steadily down – whilst returns to the wealthiest have risen inexorably:
- through corporate profit and shareholders dividends;
- through speculation and usury;
- Through tax-breaks, and tax-loopholes;
- And through bonuses, and stratospheric ‘executive’ pay
That 40 year trend is what brings us here today. That’s what drives this dispute. The days of less and less wages and more and more profits need to end.
For the teachers that I represent, since Osborne’s pay freeze in 2010-11, you’ve lost nearly 24% in real-terms-pay – a quarter of your salary, and a quarter of your value. In this “Lost Decade” teachers (along with social workers) have lost more than any other profession or trade group.
But teachers know they can’t win this on our own – that we win this together, or not at all.
We’re all told the same – “There’s no money”; It’s “unaffordable”; Unions are “unrealistic” or “unreasonable”, it’s not in the budget.
Let’s be clear, the money to settle this dispute is there – it’s not a lack of money – it’s about the political choices of successive governments.
The TUC tell us that the cost of settling all unions’ claims, across the UK, is estimated at £29 billion. Obviously it’s not as much as that as government would have tax and National insurance returned to it…… But remember that figure, £29 billion.
- Let’s look at tax, for example. The Government admits to a tax-gap of £32 billion. That’s tax evaded, avoided and uncollected. But Tax-Research UK independently assess the ‘tax-gap’ at £120 billion. So, who do we believe? I know who I believe! Think of it. £120 BILLION! If even half that was collected, all our claims could be met, twice over! And our own local Nevin Economic Research Unit calculate the tax-gap as higher – £260 billion!
- Then look at PFI, the Private Finance Initiative. If we brought PFI schemes back into public control, that would immediately release £18 billion back into the NHS revenue stream alone. Add Education and infrastructure projects and we’re looking at north of £50 billion –at a conservative estimate. So, there’s no money? Really?
- Covid’s another example. We saw the obscene spectacle of “VIP Lane” procurement – with billions, literally billions – going to the pockets of the mates and donors of this Conservative government. And very little usable PPE was procured! Is that okay?
So, let’s not be fooled. The money’s there.
The UK is a currency creating country. It simply instructs the Bank of England to add some noughts onto the ledger. Much of the national debt is money that the government owes itself.
That’s how they paid for covid, and furlough. And that’s how they pay for the never-ending wars-of-choice – untold billions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, the Yemen and now in the Ukraine. Noneof these wars are defensive; none protect our security. None were necessary.
We don’t like talking about this, but we must. Everyone here knows that their bills have shot-up. The spike in energy costs that drives the cost-of-living crisis can’t be explained without looking at sanctions. Cannot.
Of course, the behaviour of OPEC is questionable.
The greed of privatised energy companies, too, sees a corporate bonanza in profits on the back of working peoples’ hardship.
If we look at energy inflation, last year saw energy inflation in the UK at 183% It was 4% in France! Why? Because the EDF is publicly controlled and was instructed to keep tariffs lower. The EDF, by the way – along with other European state energy companies – has a footprint in the UK energy market. And they don’t mind ripping you off, to subsidise lower prices in their own country.
That’s part of the problem, but not most of it.
Russia provided gas and oil to much of Europe and provided it cheaply. UK reliance on Russian energy is low, at 4%. However, the boomerang effect of NATO sanctions is that, without cheap energy, we pay more to heat our homes. So NATO sanctions are having a big effect on our standard of living.
I know this may be controversial to some, but am I the only one here that thinks these unnecessary wars come on the back of wage restraint for working people at home? I doubt it.
Right now, we’re pouring billions into Ukraine in lethal weaponry, much of it to Fascist militias– the Azov, the C14, the Right Sector, the Freikorps, the National militia – all bound by the odious, anti-semitic, philosophy of Stefan Bandera in Western Ukraine.
Colleagues, we need to join the dots….put brakes on our Government…and look after working people first. Working people before any other priority or issue, including warfare.
The money is there. It comes down to political choice. We need to stand together to tell the government, and force the government, to make different choices.
Let’s stick together and see this through.