Published Saturday, 20 October 2012
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Peter Bunting, Assistant General Secretary for ICTU, told UTV that the government needs to change tack over planned austerity measures.
Over 1,000 public sector workers took part in a rally in Belfast on Saturday against the proposed measures.
The Westminster government is standing firm over the cuts which they believe are vital if the economic deficit is to be dealt with.
The demonstration took place at the same time as rallies in London and Glasgow.
Protesters assembled at York Street, Belfast on Saturday morning and marched through the city centre before attending the rally at Custom House Square.
Union members from across the health, education, and community and voluntary sector were in attendance.
It was organised by the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU).
Mr Bunting said the government needs to raise additional funding by targeting the rich and well off - not the poor.
"We have people here today, general community people, who are living on the edge - the edge of an abyss which they are going to tumble into if the welfare bills go ahead, the welfare cuts go ahead."
He added that what is needed is an "economic stimulus" which results in real jobs being available for those coming off welfare or unemployment benefit.
"That's not what is happening in Northern Ireland," he said.
Pamela Dooley, UNISON senior official and Chair of the Northern Committee of ICTU, said that it is time to confront the government with "stark realities from which they cannot escape."
"Realities on which the people demand immediate and direct action.
"Working class people in our society are dying prematurely. The unemployed, and in particular those suffering long-term unemployment are dying quicker than anyone else in this society."
She continued: "As our suicide rates rise low paid workers and unemployed workers, particularly working class men, are taking their own lives at a faster rate than any other group in our society.
"The Government response is to cut low paid public sector jobs, fail to create, or locate, decent jobs in our areas of greatest disadvantage and once again to attack the benefits system supporting our people."
Ross Brown, a Green Party member, attended the rally.
He told UTV the message is that the cuts are not working.
"They are pushing the economy further into recession," he said, before adding that the proposed measures would have a "really detrimental impact on the most vulnerable and poorest people in our society."
"Stormont needs to really grow up and start acting like a proper democratically elected institution - and make the hard choices.
"Raise the revenue from the richest people in society and protect the most vulnerable."