Letter to the Swindon Advertiser
I too was outraged when I read about the staff strike affecting the Link Centre this weekend but my outrage was not directed at those going on strike. In fact I have been experiencing a growing sense of outrage that has been steadily building, in retrospect, since before this ‘financial crisis’ began but even more so since our coalition government came to power and began dismantling and irrevocably damaging this country’s public services.
I am also outraged by the complete lack of public support for those bearing the brunt of these cuts; the public sector workers that provide valuable services to the community, often to the most needy and vulnerable. It is surely a mark of civilisation that we take care of the vulnerable and less well off, particularly when times are hard. However, it is blatantly obvious to anyone with an ounce of sense or morality that we are going to fail in this duty.
These ‘austerity measures’, these spending cuts on our public services are nothing more than a political attack based on Tory policies under the cover of party/government spin and media hype. The present ‘financial crisis’ has provided our government with the perfect opportunity to do what it would have liked to do anyway; that is cut back on local government and the public sector, but would not have got away with without such an excuse.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that we do not have a serious problem or that we do not need to take a hard look at how our money is spent. We do. There is much waste and also much wealth safely locked away where it’s not used for the betterment of society, but simply to make the rich richer at the expense of the poor.
Much as the ‘war on terror’ and the hysterical fear whipped up by the media and government has allowed the government to pass many draconian laws infringing on our basic freedoms while the majority of the population, blinded by fear and spin, sit by and allow this to happen in their name for their ‘safety’, we are, at present, in danger of allowing ourselves to be further trampled on in the name of austerity.
We ought to be outraged. We ought to be standing up to these attacks on our basic freedoms, rights and necessities to 21st century life. We ought to be outraged that our government would rather see services to the elderly, ill, vulnerable and poor cut yet still go ahead with spending vast amounts on foreign wars, obsolete Trident nuclear deterrents and subsidising profit making banks and corporations.
Those that can and should be paying, the companies with their vast wealth, the banks and millionaires with their tax dodging offshore bank accounts, those that take and give nothing back are left unmolested and encouraged by their comrades in power in their self serving greed, while those that save lives, protect the weak, educate, illuminate and care are left to bear the brunt and pick up the pieces. How many politicians, bankers or big company directors are ‘feeling the pinch’? Perhaps they’ll only take three holidays to Barbados on the private yacht this year? I doubt they’ll have to consider whether they can afford either a new school uniform for their child or whether to pay the gas bill this month.
Those at the Link Centre have taken a stand and are trying to make their voices heard. Swindon Borough Council is launching one offensive assault after another on its staff. Not only does the real threat of redundancy hang over their heads while they get on with providing services to you but they’ve recently experienced sweeping pay cuts including the removal of allowances that many have relied on. For some this amounts to at least a 10 per cent cut in their monthly pay. Now they are told there will be no pay rise for the next two years, if they even keep their jobs and don’t join the increasing number of unemployed. Ironically they may find themselves in need of the services they were but can no longer provide!
Let me reiterate, these are people that work to make your lives better, to provide services to you. They do not make profit for faceless corporations and shareholders whose sole purpose is not to improve your lives, care for the vulnerable or put your interests at heart but only to line their pockets. They are not bankers giving themselves annual bonuses more than the average person will earn in a lifetime of hard work. Neither are they politicians willing to say and do anything, even against the will of the people that put them in power, willing to sacrifice your health, wealth and freedom to safeguard their own lofty positions and future directorships, titles and pensions.
Coun Foley apologises to you, the people of Swindon, for the disruption caused by these workers who dare to argue that their pay cuts are not fair, as she seems to think they are. What she and every other politician should be apologising for is the way they spin the facts to suit their purposes, the way they kowtow to commerce rather than serve you and put your rights, freedoms and wellbeing before those of the banks and corporations. They ought to be apologising to those who feel the need to strike to get their voices heard. A grovelling apology is due to those who work hard to provide a decent service to decent people but who, according to the likes of Coun Foley, don’t deserve a decent wage or fair conditions of employment. An apology is due from all the councillors to all the staff of Swindon Borough Council as well as the people of Swindon for the stress and hardship their decisions are causing.
We are due apologies from our MPs too who are failing to represent us in Parliament and who blindly tow the party line rather than stand up for those they serve.
Those striking at the Link Centre have nothing to apologise for and ought to feel rightly proud of their noble action, which incidentally will cause them further hardship as, don’t forget, they won’t be paid for it. That’s how strongly they feel aggrieved.
I don’t need to tell you that this is not occurring in Swindon alone. This is a national issue affecting everyone in this country.
There will be worse to come. More cuts. Less services. More hardship. More restrictions. Less freedom. Less justice. More outrage.
But, let’s not misdirect that outrage. Outrage can be a force for good. Outrage deposes dictators, gains suffrage, gains rights and freedoms, fights evil, and combats injustice. We should be outraged and we should act on this outrage. There will be more strikes. Yes, they may be inconvenient, they may mean you miss a swimming lesson or take a longer journey but better that than letting them get away with trampling on our hard won rights, freedoms, services and morals.
I urge you to be outraged, to support those that are fighting and will be fighting to keep Britain a civilised nation that provides for every single one of it’s citizens. I urge you to support those who are willing to act for what they believe in. I urge you to support those willing to make a stand.
Generations before us have fought and died for the freedoms, services, rights and privileges that we currently have today. Now it is our turn to wake ourselves from slumbering apathy and willing collusion and make our voices known, to draw our line in the sand and say, “enough is enough”. When they come for you, and they will, won’t you want people to stand up for you?
K CROW Wroughton