Fevzi Hussein: Why we must stand up to austerity measures and march
Fevzi Hussein, life-long trade unionist and more recently a human rights activist with Embargoed explains why this Saturday’s demonstrations need your support.
In May 2010 George Osbourne’s announcement of £18 billion worth of cuts to welfare set a challenge for us all. Earlier this month at the Conservative Party Conference, he gave the news that those most vulnerable in society were dreading: a further £10 billion in cuts to welfare was going to be made, totalling a cut of £28 billion to the welfare budget in just over 2 years.
If anyone was in any doubt, their concerns had now been realised. So, how do these cuts affect our everyday lives.
Well, let’s look at a few facts.
Who had heard of the phrase ‘food bank’ up until about a year ago? The BBC reported last month that more and more food banks are opening every month. The Trussell Trust which runs one of the busiest food banks in the UK (Coventry), states that there are a staggering 13 million people living below the poverty line. A recent video produced by UNITE the Union, which is drumming up support for the huge march planned on 20th October 2012, states that 1 in 7 children are now going without a hot meal. The same video states that 74% of women state that their income has fallen since last year.
However, crisis loan shops like Wonga.com and others are popping up everywhere, preying on those most vulnerable. Indeed the state of the economy has contributed massively to Wonga.com's success and evidence of this was in the recent announcement of a huge £24 million sponsorship deal with Newcastle United – a deal which has raised eyebrows for a number of reasons.
When we look at how BME communities are affected, the picture is rather bleak.
We have seen the EHRC (Equality & Human Rights Commission) attacked with cuts totalling in excess of 60% which makes the prospects of those specialist investigations that exposed discrimination in large institutions and society more and more unlikely. The government has attacked discrimination law by reneging on various aspects of the Equality Law, which when in opposition they supported.
We also know that BME communities are being badly affected by the cuts. We know that BME workers, service users and their communities are disproportionately disadvantaged, due to the fact that they live in those areas which tend to be the poorest and on the lowest pay. Studies have been done which show that black women are the hardest hit of all by the cuts to public sector jobs. There are 1 million youngsters out of work and 1 out of 2 young black people is out of work. The rise of university fees to £9,000 sees university and higher education become nothing more than a pipe dream for those poorest in society.
In addition, racism is already a massive problem in society and the austerity programme will only serve to make racism an even bigger problem as scapegoats are hunted to blame. Muslims will become even more targeted by the likes of the EDL as they seek to spread their messages of intolerance and hatred. Young black men are still 32 more times likely to be stopped by the police than their white counterparts and depending on where you are in the UK, the racial profiling that goes on sees similar patterns exist for young Muslim men. Black men (particularly young men) are disproportionately represented in the Criminal Justice and Mental Health systems. According to ITS services, black men are less able to identify that they have mental health problems and are unaware of the sources of help available to them. The cuts will see these services become even more depleted and thus the problem will grow to become even more acute.
I have not even begun to cover the wider way in which people with disabilities are also affected by the cuts. But I think you get the gist of why I will be making it my duty to be out on the Embankment, London at 11am marching to let the government know that that I am opposed to austerity. If you are in a union or not, all are welcome.
Support the march. Support your trade union. Support our country.
For more information about the national demnstration please click visit
Fevzi Hussein, Policy Advisor, Communication Workers Union