Welsh first minister Carwyn Jones has warned public sector workers across Wales to expect challenging times ahead from the savage attacks from the UK coalition.
Welsh first minister Carwyn Jones has warned public sector workers across Wales to expect challenging times ahead, and argued only a Labour government in Wales can find progressive answers that save jobs and protect services.
Accusing the UK government of “demonising” public sector workers, Jones told the closing day of the Welsh TUC conference in Llandudno:
“Contrary to the UK government, we will not deride and demonise our public service workforce. In Wales we recognise that the public service workforce is our greatest public service asset.
“Only in Wales will we be facing the challenges together and only in Wales are we finding socially progressive answers that save jobs and protect services.
“It is about how we can best protect our public service workforce in Wales from UK government austerity. Improving workforce mobility as service demands change, preventing redundancies and responding to need.
“In very insecure times for us all, we are looking to provide the best protection to our valued public service workforce, so our workforce can deliver the best for our citizens.”
In criticising Whitehall’s plans for regional pay, the first minister continued:
“There is no evidence that public sector pay is ‘crowding out’ the private sector in the jobs market. Since devolution in 1999 until the recent recession, Wales had been outperforming the UK in terms of its private sector jobs growth, completely at odds with the Treasury view.”
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Meanwhile, Jones’s appearance at the conference today and meeting of the Joint Ministerial Council in London meant he was unable to be at the Assembly yesterday when Welsh secretary Cheryl Gillan appeared to answer questions on the Queen’s Speech.
Whilst before the meeting Gillan had argued it was the UK government’s determination to “focus on investment and economic growth”, speaking for her party, the Labour AM for Delyn, Sandy Mewies, argued the Queen’s speech was noticeable more for what wasn’t in it than what was.
She told the Secretary of State:
“Not just in Wales but across the UK, public focus since the Queen’s Speech has been not what on what was contained within the speech, but there has been a great deal of attention on what was missing from the speech, particularly in terms of the much-needed action to grow jobs and growth in the Welsh and the wider economy.”
For Plaid Cymru, leader Leanne Wood chose to concentrate on the 272 jobs at risk across Wales following the announcement that seven of the country’s nine Remploy factories have been earmarked for closure.
She pressed Gillan:
“You said that your legislative programme was all about jobs and growth. Why, then, are you slashing jobs in Remploy factories?
“You paid tribute when you started your opening statement to soldiers from Wales. Why, then, are you cutting jobs in the Welsh Dragoon Guards if you’re so concerned about Welsh soldiers?”
Pledging to look at the issue carefully, the Welsh secretary responded:
“As far as Remploy is concerned, there are nine enterprise business sites in Wales operated by Remploy and they employ 434 people, of which 408 are disabled.
“I have shared your concern about Remploy and I have spoken to the Minister about this and indeed I think the Minister has already been to Wales and been in discussion with Welsh Government ministers and is planning to come down with the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the next couple of weeks to have more discussions with Welsh Government ministers.
“I have to say, we are committed to increasing the number of disabled people in work and we want to give disabled people the opportunity to realise their aspirations and to get into and stay and progress within their work.
“So I shall be looking at that area very carefully.”