Gap between rich and poor ‘widening on a daily basis’

UNISON delegates in Glasgow today committed the union to keeping inequality at the forefront of political and economic debate. 

Clare Williams of Northern region told the hall that the government’s austerity policies were affecting the most vulnerable in society – and that the UK was experiencing the biggest rise in poverty in decades.

“The gap between rich and poor is widening on a daily basis,” she said.

A recent Oxfam report has stated that by 2016 the top 1% of society would possess more than 50% of the world’s wealth.

And the latest annual report by the Joseph Roundtree Foundation has highlighted that insecure, low-paid jobs are leaving record numbers of working families in poverty. Two-thirds of people who found work in the past year have taken jobs for less than the living wage.

Ms Williams said that unemployment in the north east was at 7.5%. Around a quarter of the children in the region were living in poverty.

Josie Bird of the NEC said that inequality was “impacting on our members, their families, their quality of life. It’s affecting my children and the society they are growing up in.”

It was agreed that trade unions had a central role to play in tackling inequality.

Conference called on the union to:

  • engage with politicians, academics and economists to tackle growing inequality and rebalance the economy to deliver real social mobility and a fair distribution of wealth;
  • campaign for decent living standards, through measures to support the unemployed, especially the young, prevent homelessness and lift people out of poverty;
  • continue to campaign to establish the living wage as the national minimum wage;
  • continue to campaign for local authorities to sign up to the ethical care charter.
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