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North East punished by Thatcher's heirs says TUC

The Trades Union Congress has claimed that the North East is still being punished by Thatcher’s heirs.

Speaking at the Northern TUC biennial conference, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady warned that the current government is making cuts that even ‘the Iron Lady’ wouldn’t have .

Ms O’Grady claimed that many of the problems the North East faces now are due to Thatcher’s policies and said that ‘the current government seems hell-bent on finishing the job.’

Speaking at the conference in Newcastle she said: “She demonised unions because we were the last line of defence against a cheap labour economy and because we stood up for a decent society.

“Nowhere suffered more than the North East and the region is still reeling from the consequences a generation later.

“Many of the chronic problems we now face as a country – the destruction of our manufacturing, ship-building and mining industries, the deregulation of finance capital, the housing crisis, rip-off privatisation, the gulf between north and south, growing inequality and falling wages – are direct consequences of Mrs Thatcher’s policies.

“And the current government seems hell-bent on finishing the job – ready to cut and privatise where even the Iron Lady dared not tread.

“This is the nastiest, most ideological, most right-wing administration Britain has ever had.”

Ms O’Grady went on to state that government policies were still hitting the North East hard.

She said: “In this region cuts are decimating services – with Newcastle City Council alone forced to make £100 million of savings, and 65,000 jobs going in a region where a quarter of the workforce are employed in the public sector.

“The jobs crisis is getting worse – with seven times more jobseekers than vacancies in the North East and the closure of factories such as Rio Tinto Alcan in Northumberland piling on the pressure.

“And poverty is ruining yet more lives – with food banks and loan sharks thriving as 50,000 people across Tyneside are hit by the bedroom tax. Middlesbrough has the third highest percentage of kids living in poverty and Hartlepool, South Tyneside and Newcastle are all in the top 20.

“Ordinary people are being clobbered by a government that doesn’t care, in an economy that can’t pay, in a country that frankly can’t go on like this.”

During her speech at Newcastle’s Assembly Rooms the TUC General Secretary backed a Robin Hood Tax on the banks and proposed a campaign for a living wage across the country.

She said: “It’s time to get away from the debt-fuelled growth of the past and ensure that all workers, not just the top bosses, are properly rewarded for their work.

“One thing’s for sure – unless workers’ wages start growing, people won’t spend and local shops and businesses will suffer.

“Since the government came to power three years ago, real wages have taken a huge hit – by £1,200 in the North East and nearly £1,900 in Cumbria.

“And that’s why we will campaign for every worker in this region and across Britain to receive a living wage.

“If Newcastle, Carlisle, Middlesbrough and Copeland Councils and the University of Sunderland can do it, then so can every part of the public sector.

“And with the private sector sitting on a £750 billion cash pile, don’t let UK plc tell us they can’t afford decent wages for all.

“The TUC’s argument is simple – Britain needs a pay rise. That’s the best way to boost demand, grow the economy and get our deficit under control.”

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