By Ian Hodson (BFAWU National President)
Phillip Hammond’s farcical Spring Budget continues to make the headlines – for all the wrong reasons.
The Tories have painstakingly U-turned on their plan to force the self-employed, low and middle earners to pay-in higher national insurance (NI) contributions. Despite pledging not to raise NI contributions in their 2015 manifesto, they went ahead and did it anyway.
Now we’ve seen an embarrassing climb-down. But the truth is this – the Tories tried to hoodwink the British public with this one. And they haven’t got away with it.
Ironically, the incompetence of the government has actually shifted attention away from the real issue at hand: the damage this budget is going to cause to the lives of working people across the UK.
In the Budget, the Tories chose to protect the high earners’ fat pockets. But Hammond took no action against rising, and unpredictable zero hour contracts – contracts which have left workers facing an uncertain, insecure future and more reliant than ever before on social spending.
The Tories chose to protect the wealth of the rich minority – through inheritance tax breaks - but failed to tackle the state of emergency and low pay, which has been crippling our public services and NHS.
And, if this wasn’t bad enough, Chancellor Hammond even used the Budget to further cut corporation tax. It’s fully on course to be as low as 17 percent by 2020.
Now we all knew this was on the cards after the 2015 election, sure. But let’s not forget, this is a Tory government which has seen the tax gap increase under its ruling.
Whilst corporation tax reductions may attract businesses across the G20, it will certainly attract those big corporate businesses which have consistently failed to pay their taxes, and shown blatant disregard for the rules.
Fortunately, there are people willing to stand up to big business and the government, on this. In fact, there are people working tirelessly every day to expose them for who they really are. Take for instance, the influential "Fight For $15" movement in the US which has changed the lives of over 22 million people since its beginnings in 2012.
Here in the UK, my Union, the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU), have been working hard too – especially through our "Fight For £10" campaign, introduced to secure a national living wage for fast food workers.
We also have a "Fast Food Rights" campaign – one that seeks to ban zero hour contracts – that is going from strength to strength. Last year we took our case on zero hours contracts to the European Parliament’s Committee on Petitions – and now they’ve taken up the mantle, and called upon the chief representative of the UK to the EU, alongside several other countries, to do something about it.
It’s about time they did.
The truth is - Jeremy Corbyn was right when he said last week that The Tories are in a state of "utter complacency". They refuse to acknowledge the problems working class people of this country face day in, day out. Instead they chose to prioritise big businesses and their chums in the city.
The Tories had an opportunity during this Budget to help secure a well-paid and secure economy for working class people – but once again, they’ve failed to deliver.
Don’t let their sheer incompetence over NI distract from the profound unfairness of what we saw last week. We at the BFAWU certainly won’t.
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