Wednesday, 9 March 2016

POVERTY KILLS - £10Now! a matter of life and death!

Poverty kills people. 
That's the clear conclusion to be drawn from yet another damning report on health inequalities in this rich nation. And since the prime roots of poverty and inequality are rampant low pay and cruel cuts to already miserly welfare benefits, this makes the struggle for a national minimum wage of £10Now! - and an end to benefit cuts - matters of life and death.

The authoritative Glasgow Centre for Population Health (GCPH) has issued a Report proving that life expectancy is a lottery, dependent on what district and income bracket you're born into. 
Overall, during the past 20 years there's been a rise in life expectancy in Scotland and its biggest city, Glasgow. But the wealth-based gap in the length of life a man lives has remained static, with the rich living 13 years longer than the poor. For women, the situation is even more backwards-going. The latest figures show a rich woman living on average 85.2 years, compared with a near-neighbour who is poor only living 74.5 years. That gap has leapt up from 8.1 years to 10.7 years over the past 15 years.  

The Great Health Divide 
Glasgow suffers shorter life expectancy than the Scottish average. But within the same city, and indeed the same corner of the city, we get examples that illustrate the chasm that separates the rich from the rest of us. Women in Drumchapel, Ruchil and Possilpark can only expect to live 73.1 years, whereas a short drive along Great Western Road, those in relatively affluent Kelvinside and Kelvindale enjoy 84.3 years. And that says nothing about the relative quality of life; the prevalence of illnesses in later life that those on low incomes suffer far more than their rich contemporaries.

The GCPH Report's authors write that "health inequalities are intrinsically linked with social inequalities: household income, life circumstances, education and opportunity..." and go on to cite "a third of Glasgow children live in poverty, which is set to rise - in part as a consequence of current and proposed welfare reforms. Related to this, around half of the population living in poverty in Scotland come from households where at least one adult is working."

Health Experts Confirm Socialist Case 
For many of us, there's nothing new in this Report, nor the root causes it identifies, nor indeed the solutions it proposes - which include, to quote, "progressive tax systems on income and wealth, a national living wage and adequate welfare support", with their conclusion that "reducing inequality is the most effective way of addressing inequalities in health or educational attainment". 
But the great advantage of this Report is that a team of health experts have confirmed - in the cold, harsh statistics they've researched - what socialists have been arguing for decades. 

The Price of Profit
Poverty stunts people's lives. And the ruthless, relentless race for maximum profits by the rich who rule society is at the heart of inequality and poverty, including health inequality. 
The same week this GCPH Report was published, a few random examples of the rotten system we have to challenge and eradicate also emerged. 
Energy giant nPower announced plans to slash 2,400 of its 11,500 workforce, the same week their profits in the UK alone reached £154million. 
The government admitted another rise in the numbers suffering the chronic, stressful, health-threatening insecurity of Zero Hours Contracts - where the average weekly wage is £188, compared with an average £479 for permanent employees. 
Shocking statistics on deaths and serious injuries on building sites showed the horrendous consequences of Tory government cuts to the Health & Safety Executive budget, as a means of letting profiteers cut corners to boost their margins. The number of inspections, enforcement orders and prohibition orders on dangerous sites by the HSE have all plummeted by over 50 per cent compared to 2012/13, endangering workers' lives in the name of profit.

£10 is a real Living Wage 
Governments of several party stripes are instrumental in upholding or worsening the levels of poverty and inequality in capitalist Scotland, alongside their allies in big business. 
The Tories have consciously sown utter confusion in the minds of many about the National Minimum Wage, the National Living Wage, and the Living Wage. As of 1st April, workers aged over 25 will have a miserly enhancement of 50p on the pitiful £6.70 national minimum wage 'enjoyed' by those aged over 21. They'll get the brutally mis-named National Living Wage of £7.20. Not to be confused with the Living Wage Foundation's recommended 'Living Wage' of £8.25 an hour!
This deceitful Tory package belittles the concept of a decent living wage, and actually introduces another layer of inequality, designed to divide, rule and exploit the working class. 

Howls from the Profiteers 
Capitalist companies, including in retail, cleaning and catering sectors, are howling at the horrors of having to pay people £7.20 - whilst they pile up profits measured in £billions rather than mere £millions in many cases. 
Even those firms - such as in retail (the biggest single concentration of low pay) - which have granted an hourly pay rise and won plaudits in media headlines for their generosity, are busily, quietly slashing the terms, conditons, hours of work, jobs and premium payments of their staff to pay for the headline-grabbing pay rates. 
That doesn't reach the mainstream media! But at last week's Scottish Divisional Conference of my own union, Usdaw, when I proposed coordinated action to resist this theft of payments and working conditons, numerous other Usdaw reps agreed, and told of people ripping up their union cards after the Usdaw leadership recently accepted and recommended the deal in Tescos which slashed double-time for Sundays and other premium payments. With Westminster plans to extend Sunday trading, and its consequences in Scotland, this problem is set to escalate. 

Labour and SNP pay cuts 
The SNP government can rightly attack cuts to their budget from Westminster, but when they meekly pass on real-time pay cuts to NHS staff with a 1% rise this year after successive years of below-inflation settlements, the unions should organise to force them to issue a decent pay rise, overcoming the recruitment crisis faced by Scotland's NHS, and then mount a struggle to win the funding off Westminster's dictatorship of and for the rich. 
Labour councils, including Glasgow, have provoked strikes by underpaying the likes of the school Jannies and CCTV staff, whilst boasting they are 'Living Wage Employers'.

Join the Struggle for £10Now!
The rampant disease of poverty pay, galloping attacks on premium payments, alongside vicious benefit sanctions that throw people into literal starvation, are the primary causes of the criminal divide between the rich and the rest of us, including the length of life a child is born to expect. 
That's why it's a matter of life and death importance that the demand for an immediate national minimum wage - for all over 16 - of £10-an-hour, and for enhancements to benefits, not sanctions, is stepped up. That's what the SSP has fought for persistently for years. That's what the TUC congress unanimously agreed in September 2014. That's what candidates of the RISE electoral alliance - to which the SSP is affiliated - are committed to. 
Don't let the robbing rich steal years off our lives in their hunger for profit. Join the struggle - inside your union and in the SSP - for £10Now! and against all benefit cuts, as part of the broader struggle to redistribute wealth and enrich the lives of the millions, not the millionaires. 

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