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AltAusterity Digest #120 November 28 - December 4, 2019

This week in Austerity News:

Dec 06, 2019

More than 800,000 people participated in a general strike in France this week as transportation workers, teachers and hospital staff led marches against Emmanuel Macron’s proposed pension reforms. The strike is one of the largest in decades and represents the biggest challenge to Macron since the emergence of the gilets jaunes (yellow vest) protests. More than 6,000 police were deployed with over 70 arrests made as skirmishes broke out across the country. The government is attempting to flatten out pension schemes to remove higher-end compensation for workers in certain sectors. The unions have said that doing so would require that workers either work beyond the legal retirement age of 62 or face a severe drop in the value of their pensions.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has said that the Scottish Nationalist Party’s (SNP) election manifesto contains provisions to increase spending as well as measures for tax cuts. IFS associate director David Phillips has said that the SNP platform differs from the other three parties in that it contains provisions that could start the process of another Scottish independence referendum. As with the 2014 Scottish referendum, one of the main arguments against independence would be the prospect of starting out with “a significant budget deficit.” The prospect of more austerity is again being used as a cudgel in the independence debate. While the SNP has said they plan to increase investment in public services year over year after independence, uncertainty over Brexit casts a shadow over the prospects for economic growth.

In Alberta, the Conservative government has warned unions that thousands of health-care positions could be eliminated over the next three years. Expected to be included in these cuts is the elimination of hundreds of front-line nursing jobs. The proposed cuts have been criticized by unions, advocacy groups and academics. The threat cuts are viewed as being the first step in a privatization drive, following the neoliberal formula of underfunding, pointing out inefficiencies that only the private sector can allegedly solve, and then allowing the private sector into the public system.

According to new figures, nearly 800 public libraries have been closed in the UK since the Conservative government began its austerity agenda in 2010. The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (Cipfa) has found that nearly a fifth of the UK’s libraries have been closed after spending has declined by 29.6% over the past decade. Since 2014-15 the total number of paid librarians has also been reduced from 18,028 to 15,300. The squeezing of council budgets has required them to choose between a host of necessary services, with libraries suffering across the UK. Last year alone 35 libraries were closed due to funding cuts.

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