Union leaders called on ministers to tax the super-rich and clamp down hard on tax dodgers on Thursday as thousands prepared to join Saturday’s G20 march for jobs, justice and climate.
As Prime Minister Gordon Brown took his pre-G20 world tour to Brazil in a bid to forge consensus on tackling the global recession, union leaders argued that a more progressive tax system at home would pump billions into the Treasury and help stimulate Britain’s economy.
Thousands of trade unionists, activists and concerned members of the public are expected to decend on London on Saturday to demand that world leaders put people first when they meet on April 2 to discuss the crisis.
Union leaders insisted that their proposed programme of public spending – including funds to tackle pay inequalities in local government, massive investment in manufacturing and money to build affordable homes – would create 287,000 new jobs and boost the economy by around 1.5 per cent of GDP.
The cost, they said, could easily be paid for by making the rich pay their fair share of taxes.
An estimated £18.5 billion is lost from the public purse every year as a result of the abuse of tax havens and the total cost of avoidance and evasion by corporations and rich individuals is even greater.
The richest 1 per cent in Britain have doubled their share of total income since the 1980s and now pocket more money every year than the entire wage bills for the NHS, state education and local government put together.
UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis stormed: ‘It is scandalous that the people of this country are bearing the brunt of this recession while the bankers and super-rich continue to enjoy a protected champagne lifestyle.’
He pointed out that, under the current tax system, the richest pay a lower share of their income than anyone else and many big businesses and wealthy individuals use loopholes and City consultants to avoid paying any tax at all.
‘Taxing the super-rich and clamping down hard on tax evasion and avoidance would enable the government to fund a vital stimulus to the economy and jump-start our recovery,’ Mr Prentis argued.
Unite joint general secretary Derek Simpson added: ‘Our future depends on creating an economy based on the fair distribution of wealth – and that means closing the tax loopholes.
‘It is time for the leaders of the G20 to act and end the culture of greed, which has led to the worst economic crisis of our times.’
Fellow Unite joint leader Tony Woodley, who will be addressing Saturday’s rally, said: ‘Support for the UK manufacturing base is our members’ prime concern.’
Scottish TUC general secretary Grahame Smith said that Scotland’s trade unions want the G20 to act ‘not only to provide a short-term stimulus but also to ensure that the world emerges from this recession fairer and greener.’
Plan that puts people first
Union proposals to boost the economy and create jobs through public spending include:
* £500 million a year to recruit an extra 10,000 social workers to bring child protection caseloads back down to manageable levels;
* £1.5 billion a year for the NHS to employ 50,000 more hospital cleaners and reverse staffing cuts;
* £2bn a year for local authorities to help to provide daily home care visits to 370,000 people now denied help. This would also create 80,000 jobs;
* A one-off £12bn to allow councils and housing associations to build 80,000 more homes this year;
* £2.8bn to help to tackle the long-standing injustice of unequal pay in England’s local government and boost the spending power of hundreds of thousands of women;
* A one-off £5bn to improve energy efficiency by upgrading 10 million homes without insulation, creating 20,000 jobs;
* A £13bn government fund to boost the manufacturing industry.