The response of the British Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government to the economic crisis, which has been to implement billions of pounds worth of public spending cuts, is intensifying the effects of the crisis on the British people.
Austerity measures are worsening mass unemployment. Chief British and European economist at forecasting company IHS Global Insight Howard Archer has predicted unemployment will reach 2.67 million people by the end of 2011.
Archer said “the private sector will be unable to fully compensate for the increasing job losses in the public sector [as a result of] the fiscal squeeze that is now really kicking in”.
The BelfastTelegraph.co.uk said on May 23 that at the annual Communications Workers Union (CWU) conference “representing over 200,000 postal workers, telecoms and finance workers” a vote was reached unanimously calling “for a general strike, which officials will now raise with the Trades Union Congress (TUC)”.
The CWU accused the government of “attacking workers through its public spending cuts”.
The CWU’s eastern regional secretary, Paul Moffat, said: “The attacks are causing irreversible damage to public services. Many unions are moving towards co-ordinated action and we must be part of it.
“This crisis was not caused by us, or our families, but we are paying for it. We need to work together with other unions, and the TUC should co-ordinate a 24-hour strike.”
Independent.co.uk said on May 23 that speakers at the conference accused the government “of hitting women the hardest by cutting pensions and childcare support” and warned that “services such as libraries, youth clubs and sports centres were facing cuts or even closure because of the austerity measures”.
The article said the CWU is working to “forge closer links with anti-cuts campaign groups as well as with students who have been fighting higher tuition fees”.
Union member Paul Garroway from Oxford told the Telegraph.co.uk on May 23 that claims from government ministers that everyone was “in this together” were a “lie”.
Garroway said: “The bankers continue to get bonuses, the champagne still flows for the rich, but we are expected to foot the bill for a crisis we did not create.”
The UK’s Office for National Statistics reported on May 18 that the number of people claiming unemployment benefits rose by 12,400 in April to 1.47 million people.
Public Service Trade Union (UNISON) general secretary Dave Prentis said women in particular were suffering because of the “bankers' recession”.
Prentis said: “As public sector job losses gather pace, the number of women out of work will keep on rising. This is a huge backwards step for equality, and a direct hit on families who are already struggling to cope.”
At the same time as cuts affect working people, a May 19 Counterfire.org article said: “The top 0.1 percent of the population ― just 47,000 people ― now earn an average of 538, 600 pounds a year. That’s more than 20 times average earnings…
“The top 1 percent of the country owns 25 percent of all the wealth. The bottom 50 percent, meanwhile, own 7 percent.”
Meadway said, “British incomes are already as unequal as they were in 1940. Decades of slow, but perceptible, redistribution since the end of World War Two have been wiped out.
“That trend is set to continue and worsen.”
Guardian.co.uk said on May 8 that, “while most of the country struggles through the fallout from recession and government cuts, the UK’s 1000 richest people are now worth 396 billion pounds, according to the latest Sunday Times Rich List”.
As is the case with the wave of austerity measures across Europe and in the United States, it appears ordinary people in Britain must also pay dearly for the crisis caused by the rich.
And like elsewhere, British people are beginning to fight back.