NIPSA Unity and Independents have secured18 seats of the 25, including two Vice Chair positions, on the 25 Civil Service Group Executive Committee.
NIPSA Unity and Independent candidates, Michael Herron and Ryan Wilson elected to the two Vice Chair positions at the Civil Service Group conference today with 9573 and 9475 votes respectively.
Published 11th May
Yesterday’s public sector strike in defence of pensions evoked considerable sympathy. Why should ordinary public servants – who did little to cause the economic collapse – be obliged to pay for it? Especially when the core culprits, speculative big finance, continue with bonuses unrestrained and banks unreformed until 2019, at best.
Representing teachers, I know they feel part of a “squeezed middle”, disproportionately shouldering the tax burden, whilst the super-wealthy and global corporations avoid and evade their responsibilities. If tackling the deficit is the issue, there are better ways. Recovering even half of the annual ‘tax-gap’of £123 billion would transform the UK’s economic position, adding nearly £2 billion to the Stormont block grant, without any cuts or new taxes.
The worm is turning. The mid-term beating received by the Westminster Coalition, continued anti-austerity pressure in Greece and the victory of socialist Francois Hollande in France has boosted the pro-growth agenda across Europe. In bleak times, the state should stand tall, counter-intuitively investing in people, jobs and infrastructure. Spending creates a virtuous circle rather than the vicious circle of cuts, unemployment, belt tightening and plummeting confidence.
The Hollande agenda is more moderate than painted in a rabid UK press. His pledge to balance the French budget, taking just a year longer than Sarkozy, is redolent of Ed Balls’ approach. A promise to tax top earners at 75% was well received electorally. Hollande and Merkel will agree a financial transactions tax that will both raise revenue and dampen socially useless speculation. He will recall French troops from Afghanistan and will restore the retirement age at 60, but only for some. A modest programme, but is Hollande’s programme a straw in the wind and will the tide turns against austerity in the UK, too?
A British plan for growth would cut more slowly. It would see investment in infrastructure, a new round of QE to implement the Green New Deal – but what if even that stimulus finds United Kingdom companies incapable of responding to growth? Are we starting from too low an industrial base – an economy built for financial chicanery but not for making or building things? In short, is the UK economy too far gone.
The UK has slipped quickly from the 6th to the 10th largest global manufacturer. The 25% devaluation in sterling improved exports of domestic products like whiskey, farmed salmon and agricultural produce, but the annual trade deficit still runs close to £100 billion.
The dumb simplification of “costly” manufacturing compared to “unsubsidised” finance, core economic policy for decades, now stands truly exposed. Yet, despite acceptance that financial services are propped up by soft taxpayer guarantees, the mediaeval dogma of “markets” still trumps. This dogma makes Britain unique, and unlikely to meet the challenges of unemployment and current trade deficits.
Among the causes of the UK’s decline, more than three decades of indifference to manufacturing must be high on the list. Likewise the wanton destruction of continuity in agencies essential for economic performance.
A recent lecture by Chris Benjamin illuminated the issue. Benjamin works for the Japanese company Itochu, which celebrated its 150th anniversary four years ago. Continuity, he argued, does not imply complacency, quite the opposite. Benjamin reflected that the Japanese company Mitsui traces its origins back to the 16th century. To survive and grow over such durations demands adaptive capabilities that have weathered wars, natural disasters, changes in technologies and geopolitical development.
Similar longevity can be found elsewhere – Saint Gobain and Stora are European examples. Looking back over a century there are an array of such companies like Seiko, BMW, Tata, Toyota, DuPont, and Bosch with many other German Mittelstand and Japanese but few comparable UK companies.
The cultural attitudes undermining UK enterprises are various, but the most disastrous are flexible labour markets, untrammelled, unstrategic competition and shareholder value. Flexible labour undermines long term skill development, period. Public equity shareholders contribute little or nothing to the business. Arms length competitive bidding, an unquestioned UK default position, has been pushed to absurd lengths to the detriment of maintaining strategic capacity in many industrial sectors. This was recently illustrated by the loss of the Thameslink contract by the Derbyshire Bombardier plant, the last train manufacturer in the UK.
Learning from successful industrial cultures, evolving and sustaining high value-added, competitive products requires an institutional structure that stresses continuity of investment matching global competitors. In turn, a priority on “tradable value-added” demands protection of viable strands of domestic inputs. Our prevailing corporate ethos simply does not do this.
In short, the current UK dilemma is, “How far over the hill do you have to go, before realising that you have to catch up?”
Mark Langhammer is Director of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers
TÁNAISTE EAMON Gilmore has said Ireland may push for the EU to ban goods from Israeli settlements if Israel does not quickly change its settlements policy in Palestinian territories.
“Palestine human rights campaigners today welcomed news that the UK’s fifth biggest food retailer, The Co-operative Group, will “no longer engage with any supplier of produce known to be sourcing from the Israeli settlements.”