The long march to end austerity

9 Sept rally for Bristol

I’m marching on Saturday for the public service workers who make Bristol great.

Regional secretary Joanne Kaye writes on why Bristol needs public investment, not more cuts.

Ask any Bristolian and they’ll tell you: I’m proud of my city. Robin or gashead, Clifton heights or south of the river, new arrival or the latest in a long line of Bristol residents – this city gives us all something to cherish.

I’m proud of Bristol’s brilliant public services. UNISON represents them all – from care workers and nurses, to teaching assistants, bin workers, city hall staff and many more. These people are the backbone of Bristol.

We all rely on public services, but hundreds of millions of pounds of service cuts have made it a struggle to get a school place, a first home, or care for loved ones. Even basic things like street cleaning or council tax enquiries are suffering, and the knock on effect in the NHS means queues for GPs and hospital operations too.

Our city is being put under stress and the things that make it special are under threat. At a time of change and growth, Bristol is blighted by public spending cuts made by the Tory government in London.

For the last seven years, our public service champions have seen their workloads mushroom, their colleagues made redundant, and the value of pay packets decrease by an average of £3875.

80% of UNISON members are women and I will be marching for a fair deal for each and every one of them. From mums juggling caring and a job that doesn’t make ends meet anymore, to young women preyed on by abhorrent landlords, the shredding of our public services by this Tory government has hit women hardest.

Public service workers tell us heartbreaking stories about the impact of cuts. A common theme is cutting down on even food and other essentials, and taking out loans to cover costs. Others talk about limited contact with their families as they work more hours, often unpaid, to cover work that used to be done by bigger teams. The strain put on personal relationships and health is all too often a problem.

There’s a common thread to these problems: not enough public investment. None of us can meet life’s challenges alone – that’s why we have our brilliant public services! But it can’t be run on the cheap. Sadly, that is exactly what the Tories have attempted for seven years.

It’s right that Mayor Marvin Rees has called this rally to send a clear message that Bristol can’t go on with more cuts. Marvin and his team are doing their best, building more affordable homes, linking up services, and getting the most from every pound of public money. But they cannot go on scraping less butter over more bread.

Bristol voted for anti-austerity, pro-investment policies in 2016 and again in 2017. Now, if we want to make the government listen, every one of us needs to be onboard. So march on Saturday if you can, but it doesn’t end there. Write to your MP, join your union, talk to your neighbours – say thank you to your public service workers. Together we can keep Bristol a place to be proud of.

Find out more about going to the Rally for Bristol with UNISON