In Salford unemployment has increased by 56% in the past 12 months and in August was standing at 7,321 or 5.2% percent, over 1% above the national average. The recession is now starting to have a detrimental effect on people, families and communities. To help people without work, the Unemployed Union was launched a few months ago and is already starting to have an affect with hundreds of members already signed up.
"We launched the first branch in Salford and now have twelve branches functioning around the country" says the Union's Alex Halligan "We've already got major trade union backing and are going to hold a national conference in six months time.
"We help people with welfare rights, we help them to fill out forms and show them what they're entitled to" he adds "And we campaign for rises in dole and against laws that are being brought in to attack the unemployed, like the Welfare Reform Bill which it makes it legal for people on Job Seekers Allowance to do compulsory unpaid work - it's basically community service for the unemployed."
The union has drafted a charter which calls for The Right to Work for All, a National Minimum Wage of £8 per hour, Free Transport for Unemployed, Free Prescriptions and Legal Advice, Improved Welfare Benefits, Unemployment Benefit to be 70% of a New National Minimum Wage, the Abolition of Student Fees, a Mass Apprenticeship Scheme for all Young People and the Nationalisation of Companies going into Bankruptcy and Liquidation, to save jobs and stimulate the manufacturing industry.
"Tony Blair said that unemployment in this country was finished but I'm afraid that myth's been disproven" says Alex "In credit crunch Britain we've got massive unemployment. In Salford alone we've got almost 42% youth unemployment, so we're standing up for their rights. The figures are still climbing with people on Job Seekers Allowance, and if you count people on sick benefit and all the other kinds of unemployment we've got a huge amount of people unemployed, disproportionately with the rest of the country."
It was the poverty that existed in Salford during the last century which gave rise to the huge unemployed movement here and the Battle of Bexley Square in 1931 where 10,000 people demonstrated outside Salford Town Hall against the Means Test, only to be met with police batons. Now the Unemployed Union has been kickstarted to meet the needs of the 21st Century and is offering practical help as well as campaigning for better life chances for unemployed people.
You can catch the Unemployed Union promoting itself at Job Centres around Salford and on Facebook.
The next meetings of the Union take place Thursday 3rd December and
Thursday 14th January at the Salford Unemployed and Community Resource Centre, 84-86 Liverpool Road, Eccles 0161 789 2999