The Tories’ attack on women is a big mistake
In Huddersfield, like many towns and cities across Britain, we are facing the biggest cuts in public spending for generations.
The cuts are cruel and unnecessary—not a single penny needs to be cut.
And the cuts will hit women the hardest.
The attack on public sector jobs affects women disproportionately because two thirds of the public sector workforce are women.
We are already seeing the impact of the job cuts locally—health visitors, district nurses, midwives and social workers are all under threat.
Women are also the greatest users of public services and more women rely on benefits than men.
And cuts to services will mean that women will be the ones called upon to cover these services voluntarily in the Tory notion of the “Big Society”.
Sometimes this will mean women reducing their paid working hours to take on carer responsibilities.
From January 2013 child benefit will be abolished for families where one of the earners is in the high tax bracket. This will be the forerunner for a sweeping assault on all universal benefits.
Research from the TUC shows that the biggest losers overall from the government’s plans will be single mothers. It’s no accident that women will bear the brunt of the cuts.
The government has taken on opponents who are in their eyes an easy target.
The drive to push through the cuts is plainly a political and ideological exercise in which society becomes even more polarised as the rich become richer and the poor get poorer.
The bankers create the crisis, but those least able to pay are the ones being made to suffer.
The cuts don’t even make economic sense.
Plans to cut 725,000 public sector jobs will cost the economy £6.6 billion in lost taxes and will cost the state over £8.8 billion in benefits.
If it was really about money, rather than a purely ideological war, then a number of measures could be taken to generate income—like raising and properly collecting the taxes of the rich.
In my union, Unison, there are one million women members. That’s two thirds of the union.
Women are at the forefront of the resistance. We will form a large part of the contingent to march against the cuts on 26 March.
We are proud to be part of the struggle and will show our rage.
I urge all women to join the fight and the march.
Pauline Wheat-Bowen, Huddersfield
Greed led to Japan’s nuke crisis
Socialist Worker’s article (Shut them all down, 19 March) calling for an end to nuclear energy reflects arguments Japanese people have been making for years.
The Citizen’s Nuclear Information Centre and members of the National Confederation of Trade Unions have been campaigning for a nuclear-free country for decades.
During the oppressive US occupation after the Second World War, structural economic changes were forced onto Japan.
A massive nuclear programme was introduced. The leaders knew the risk of doing this, but put profits before safety.
Nuclear-related accidents have occurred in Japan before—in 1999 at the Tokaimura plant and in 2004 in Mihama.
Despite the extreme dangers of nuclear energy, the country has continued to invest in it instead of safe alternatives. The crisis Japan now faces is the result.
Martin Percival, Sheffield
What is the right response to the crisis in Japan? In Manchester ordinary people queue up to put money in Red Cross buckets. But if you are a capitalist you have to think outside the box.
The speculators who cream off millions by bumping up food prices or meddling in oil markets are buying up Japanese Yen.
They know that after a disaster people have to rebuild their lives—cashing in their savings to do it.
Insurance companies sell assets and pay out in Yen, so there is a need for liquid cash.
This makes the Yen a desirable commodity. It is a unique opportunity for the profiteers who prowl the global markets to make a fortune from misery.
On Thursday—while the people of Japan mourned and suffered—speculating bankers caused the Yen to rise to a record high against the dollar.
Their greed threatens to destabilise the Japanese economy and cause more pain. This is how they “earn” their multi-million pound bonuses.
Sam O’Brien, Rochdale
Services aren’t free – we pay for them in tax
I am writing about the ban on concession bus passes for people over 60 between 9am and 9.30am from April.
Concession passes are not “free”—every time we press the button to acknowledge such a passenger, the local authority pays an amount to the bus company. So the half hour ban being imposed is a cut all round.
They are not any more “free” than pavements, street lighting or litter bins. Nobody pays at the moment of use, but they are all paid for by the numerous tentacles of taxation—income tax, purchase tax, VAT, council tax, etc.
The generation of people since the Second World War doubled the wealth of this country. To start to remove the bus ride is hardly a “thank you” for this effort.
The Tories said in the general election that they would not touch concessionary bus passes—this is a lie. The 9–9.30 cut is a cut.
In some parts of the country, like rural Devon, the buses themselves are being removed.
The attack on older people is an attack on all of us.
The 9–9.30 ban is only the beginning. If they get away with this, our bus services, jobs and ways of life will be next.
We have to defend older people and defend concessionary bus passes.
Colin Frost-Herbert, Brighton
We stopped the cuts, you can too
We have scored a victory in Leeds over planned city council cuts. We were told that creche facilities were closing at our local leisure centre last October.
We launched a petition, called a meeting and fought to defend the service.
The councillors were not expecting this and as our campaign grew they agreed to meet us.
The officials involved claimed that the service was “under used.” In reality it was overwhelmingly popular.
We also learned how undemocratic this democracy is, as we discovered more proposed closures of vital services under the cloak of “not wanted”. This includes swimming pools, day centres and an educational centre.
Some councillors were rude, arrogant and ignorant.
When protesters occupied the council chambers on the day they set the budget, the police to pushed us around.
The creche service is being kept for a further six months.
This is a victory for us. Had we not campaigned, it would have already been closed.
Protest works. We need more. If we do not fight we cannot win.
See you all on 26 March.
Lisa and Liz Kitching, Leeds
Fight for state pension for all
Your article on pensions (Hutton and the Tories say ‘work until you drop’, 19 March) does not mention the state pension.
It echoes the TUC—paying lip service to the state pension while focusing on occupational pensions.
This focus meant employers slashed private sector pensions with little resistance.
Now the government is doing the same to public-sector funded and unfunded ones.
We should prioritise a united struggle for a decent state pension on the lines advocated by the National Pensioners Convention.
Hugh Lowe, West London
Wisconsin put back to 1900s
In the US workers are angry. In Wisconsin they are calling for a general strike.
Thousands agree after Republican governor Scott Walker passed a bill sending the labour movement back to the 1900s.
The last bastion of unionised workers, the public sector, have had their collective contracts smashed.
Illegal measures taken by the Republicans have galvanised workers and students.
Firefighters and police were not included in the bill, but occupied the state capitol building in support.
Name withheld, by email
We voted for a general strike
A meeting of the Unison union in Edinburgh last week called on the TUC to organise a general strike.
Over 200 council workers attended, and they voted overwhelmingly for the motion. Speakers said events in the Middle East and North Africa were an inspiration.
The argument that we face a general attack and so should generalise our resistance was warmly received.
The branch has traditionally been a conservative one. But the anger against the cuts meant that the suggestion that we limit ourselves to coordinated public sector strikes was rejected.
The motion will now be heard at the Scottish Unison annual general meeting.
Luke Henderson, Edinburgh
UKIP Barnsley vote is a worry
Aidan Barlow is right (Letters, 19 March)—we need to strike now against cuts.
However, the most worrying aspect of the Barnsley by-election a few weeks ago was how well UKIP did—coming second. UKIP is more reactionary than the Tories. As the Tories’ popularity fades even further, UKIP could gain more ground.
Graeme Kemp, Shropshire
What should we say on AV?
The UK is soon to have a national referendum on changing the general electoral system.
Should revolutionary socialists see this as nothing other than reformist tinkering, or an opportunity?
The Alternative Vote system will not offer a proportional system. It could lead to more unfair results.
The legislation enabling the referendum to take place is tied to boundary changes likely to reduce fair representation.
Are the unions right to line up behind the NO2AV campaign? Is a small change better than nothing? Or is this just a distraction?
Kathryn Rimmington, by email
No place for this on TV
Producer Brian True-May has been suspended for his bigoted “defence” of the lack of ethnic diversity in the TV show Midsomer Murders.
True-May told the Radio Times, “We just don’t have ethnic minorities involved. Because it wouldn’t be the English village with them.” Can this be interpreted as anything other than racist?
Sasha Simic, east London