Fighting for a change of direction
Salford City Unison welcomes a new strategy. Continued Government austerity programmes have created both greater financial hardship as well as reducing the welfare state delivered locally and nationally.
The report it feels underestimates the scale of the challenge we face as whatever policies we pursue locally it cannot ameliorate the effects of austerity. Austerity is causing greater poverty and alienation.
That is why we must have a robust defence of local government and the services we offer. First and foremost we must be willing to campaign openly for a change of direction. What form of campaigning should take place can involve unions, communities and politicians working together and should be subject of further discussions.
Who are we targeting?
At the beginning of the document it recognised a list of groups particularly disadvantaged( disabled, children & young people, women, BME groups, homeless & unemployed but then does not refer to these groups either in terms of information or in terms of explicit strategies. We need to be asking:.
Who is most affected by poverty/austerity?
Whose lives are we trying to change?
What are we going to do to improve the lives of those groups?
This gives a focus to the work and allows the Council and organisations to get a handle on the topic and think what role they have.
Working is not enough
Employment in and of itself is not the answer. Sanctioning people either those on benefit or those working will only make them poorer. The biggest increase( figures would be useful) at the moment is the working poor!
This is why the Living Wage Campaign should be part of any strategy to tackle poverty.
This should run alongside the £10 per hour campaign
Opposing Zero Hour Contracts and ensuring that all contracted and commissioned services aim to achieve decent pay.
Alongside this we need workers to be treated with dignity and respect. Providers should be encouraged to recognise Trade Unions.
Unison’s Social Care Campaign centres on care workers who suffer the indignity of low pay and casualisation. The Council and unions need to campaign together to achieve fair employment practices.
The adoption of UNISON’s Ethical Care Charter and the expectation that all providers will grant access to the trade unions and encourage staff to become members.
Ensuring that Salford City Council becomes a genuine “Living Wage employer”, in that all employees on all contracts paid for by the City Council are on at least the real Living Wage.
A Commission, involving the trade unions that looks at how we can link “place” factors like environmental health, housing and transport to health and social care. Having a good hospital, or even decent care services (which we currently don’t have) does not make aa healthy population. The Commission could also consider how leaving the EU may provide opportunities for greater public ownership of services. We should be investigating the potential benefits of Brexit.
The promotion of collective bargaining in everything the City Council does. Collective bargaining reduces inequality and tackles poverty. If the City Council can do nothing else, it can promote trade unions.
Council Tax collection rates are low in the city. In our view the emphasis needs to move away from further indebting those that cannot pay to ensuring those that can pay, pay promptly.
As business rates will be retained by the Local Authority it needs to invest in this section to ensure we are maximising our revenue.
Our suggestions included:
Continue to campaign against Benefit Sanctions
The Council to commit to not using bailiffs for those who cannot afford to pay.
This is an increasing area of concern. How will the Council deal with the increasing homelessness? The need for social housing- Council Housing, in particular.
We must, however, seek a change of policy towards young people and those under 35.
Should we be supporting specific projects that attempt to reduce homelessness among key groups i.e. Prisoners Project
Again there clearly needs to be a campaigning part to this strategy to this area. Campaigns such as “Axe the Housing ACT”
Obviously the link between Poverty and poor health is well documented. How does this link to the Strategy.
The Council needs to continue to invest in preventative measurers.
Salford has a growing population of young people who are being stronger effected by Austerity.
More support will be required to offer alternative curriculum that do not fit into the straightjacket of educational attainment.
More support to young people within families affected by poverty.
More support to homeless young people who may have multiple problems/barriers such as being in care, coming from different ethnic backgrounds etc.
Should the Council initiate a Youth Summit to bring organisations and young people together?
Low take up of services. Access to limited services needs to be improved?
BME Groups having higher levels of unemployment, poorer housing, and subject of hate crime etc
Important to stress that migrants are not the cause of poverty, lack of housing, employment etc!
Important that there is a thread of activities that bring communities together
Salford City Unison