Posts Tagged ‘Workfare’

Police Clear Vagrants Off Windsor’s Streets for the Tourists at the Royal Wedding Today

May 19, 2018

Here’s another injustice, this time nothing to do with Israel. Also this week Mike put up a post about how the Tory council at Windsor had got around the ban on their plans to clear the beggars off the streets of their borough. The plans had been shelved due to massive public outrage. But Tories are Tories, and so they’ve come up with a plan to get round it: they had the cops come round to seize their possessions, meaning their sleeping bags, and put them in storage, so they couldn’t sleep on the streets. This was supposed to be ‘helping’ them.

I can remember a political commentator stating that we now live in an age of ‘inverted totalitarianism’. In the past, the dictator or the authorities in a totalitarian state told people what to do, and the penalty for not complying was brutally clear. Now the authorities also dictate to you, but do it with mealy-mouthed words about helping you.

You can see the same process at work in the sanctions system and work capability tests. Oh no, we’re not leaving people to starve to death, or commit suicide out of despair. We’re incentivising those that can to find work.
Look, so far we’ve helped all these people find jobs. This was followed by statistics, that actually showed you had a better chance of finding work if you didn’t go on their wretched workfare programme.

And the same lying verbiage used to give a veneer of humanity to the Tories’ murderous welfare reforms has been adopted to clear the beggars off the streets. And this is especially hypocritical today, because many of the well-wishers come down to cheer on the royal couple at the wedding today were camping out on the streets. Which is illegal, but no-one was moving them on.

Here’s Chunky Mark making his comments about this, and the Tories wider policy about supporting high house prices for the benefit of rich vulture capitalists in tax exile in Bahamas. He argues that it’s all about pushing down at the people at the bottom of society. They need homelessness and deaths, like the 78 homeless people, who died last year, to keep house prices high in accordance with the law of supply and demand.

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Katy Balls Writes about ‘Liberal’ Tories, But Do They Really Exist?

May 5, 2018

Katy Balls, one of the columnists on the I newspaper, wrote a long column on Wednesday claiming that liberal Tories were a dying breed. This branch of the Tory party includes, apparently, Amber Rudd, Justine Greening and Damian Green in England, and ‘Rape Clause’ Ruth Davidson north of the border. With the resignation of Amber Rudd, their ranks are seriously depleted. She then went on describe how the Tories were planning to compensate for their losses in London by attacking weak Labour seats in the north, stressing a social conservative programme.

Social conservatism is the right-wing ideology that stresses traditional western social attitudes against gay rights, immigration and multiculturalism. It’s also very traditional in its attitude to gender roles. Put simply, it’s the attitude of the Daily Mail, which is vehemently racist, and has published no end of pieces arguing that women and society would be better off if they returned to their traditional roles as wives and mothers.

Reading Balls’ article, I wonder who these liberal Tories were, and if they ever really existed. I’ve seen no evidence that Rudd, Davidson, Greening and Green have ever been liberal at all in their treatment of the poor, the disabled and the unemployed. In fact there’s plenty of evidence against it in the Tories’ attacks on these groups through workfare, benefit sanctions, their cuts to vital welfare services and their support of the low wage economy. And while Dave Cameron made a lot of noise about cleaning the racists out of his party, the Tories are still very much against immigration and racist. Rudd’s supposed to be a liberal, but that didn’t stop her presiding over the deportation of the Windrush migrants, though she wasn’t responsible for the policy or the legislation behind it. That was done by Tweezer when she was Dodgy Dave Cameron’s home secretary. As for Ruth Davidson, the only quality she has which might be described as liberal is the fact that she’s a lesbian with a wife, who is now expecting a child. Tolerance of gays is a policy usually associated with the left, and the embrace of gay rights was another, liberal policy adopted by Cameron. But as Private Eye pointed out at the time, the Conservatives always have had slightly more gay MPs than Labour. So it wasn’t much of a break from the Tories’ existing attitudes, at least regarding their own ranks.

The only thing that marks these people out as liberal is they may be less prejudiced against Blacks and ethnic minorities, and far more tolerant of gays than the rest of the party. But they’ve still shown themselves to be viciously persecutory towards working people and the poor. And their supposed anti-racism didn’t stop them from deporting British citizens with a right to stay in this country, simply because they were Black or Asians from the Commonwealth. Or, indeed, that the party as a whole is less racist, although it might be more disguised and expressed less openly. If Balls hadn’t claimed that Rudd, Greening and Green were liberal, it wouldn’t have struck me that they were so. I’ve seen no evidence myself, and I doubt many others have. And despite her sexuality, Ruth Davidson is extremely illiberal, especially when it comes to rape victims and child benefit.

What Balls seems to mean is that if this crew go, then the Tories will become more overtly racist, anti-feminist, Islamophobic and homophobic. This will lead to increased prejudice against gays, Muslims and ethnic minorities, as well as renewed attacks on women and feminism. But it could also show them to be even more out of touch with society and less electable, whether or not they’re campaign in the north.

Esther McVie and the Rape Clause: Adding Lies and Insults to Traumatic Assault

April 20, 2018

I really can’t let this go without comment. In one of the history books I’ve got here at home, there’s an observation that you can tell how civilised a culture is by how high the status of women is. I think it’s in part of the book discussing the ancient Egyptians, where the status of women was very high for the ancient world. If that’s the case, then Esther McVile and the Tories are dragging us back into real barbarism.

McVile was before the Scots parliament this week to give her testimony regarding child benefit, and the infamous ‘rape clause’. You can only receive child benefit for two children, but it is available for rape victims, provided they can show that their third child was conceived through rape. This in itself is immensely controversial, and Ruth Davidson, the head of the Tories in Scotland, briefly earned herself the soubriquet ‘Rape Clause Ruth’ after she got up on her hind legs to justify the rape clause. That was repulsive enough. Now the Tories have gone even lower and got Esther McVie to try to defend the indefensible.

And what did the Wicked Witch of the Wirral say? That the rape clause offered victims the chance to talk about their assault, and offered them ‘double support’.

It does no such thing. Everything about the modern Job Centre interview is design to humiliate, bully and degrade the prospective claimant. It’s all part of Thatcher’s sacred Victorian values. She followed the ‘less eligibility’ ideology of the workhouse, in which claiming benefits was to be made so harsh and degrading that only the very desperate would willingly go on them.

As for the psychological harm rape does, I know very little about it. But I do know that it leaves victims traumatised and mentally scarred. They may irrationally blame themselves, and definitely do not want to relive the experience over and over again. I can remember watching a documentary on Channel 4 about new advances in neuroscience and mental health, which included a piece about doctors in Canada, who were treating a French Canadian lady. This poor woman was still massively depressed and anxious a year or more after her assault. And it goes without saying that there are any number of rape victims like her. They don’t like talking about their experience, and they feel so deeply ashamed that in general they really don’t want other people knowing about it.

And the DWP is not known for its sensitivity. Like when its wretched servants ask depressives why they haven’t committed suicide yet. No depressed person should be asked this question. And no rape victim should be required to describe the event for an unsympathetic bureaucrat, whose only concern is to find some excuse to sanction their benefits.

One of the many great commenters on Mike’s blog, Aunty1960, posted this about their experience of the way the DWP handles rape claims.

I have witness statements on my After Atos feedback survey from rape and child sex survivors who say they have to recount their ordeal up to ten times every time they are called for an assessment as they have to again go through it with GP social worker, psychiartrist, DWP physiotherapist counsellor etc etc in order to get each bit of paper and supportive documentary evidence.

The assessors are not understanding or supportive and can ask really inappropriate and insensitive questions.

One witness statement says that all the work that has been done over the years has been totally undone because of having to go through the assessments and retell it and relive it everytime. No closure and respect for PTSD triggers, just keep opening the wound over and over again.

Some very inappropriate comments by assessor on women and their sexuality and sexual experiences. Even outright disapproval of a woman being a lesbian and inappropriate comments.

A lot of work undone and lost. and that includes physical ailments where interventions have been completely undone and undermined.

I cannot stand most people most of the time and professionals about sexual abuse and social discrimination and prejudice, Same ideas still there. This just reinforce and compounds it 100 times more.

But McVile’s statement is designed to play to that part of the Tory-voting public, who are fortunate never to have stepped into a jobcentre, at least, not recently. The people, who are prepared to take the Tories comments about their welfare reforms at face value, and swallow all the lies about how they’re not cutting benefits, their simply refocusing them to help people better. The lies that workfare isn’t about giving cheap, subsidised forced labour to big business, including the supermarkets, but about helping people into work by giving them new skills and other such specious rubbish. Quite apart from the morons that believes the lies put out by the Scum, the Heil and the Depress that all benefit claimants are really scroungers, no matter how severe their disability. ‘Cause these papers says so, and they saw that character in a wheelchair running about in Little Britain. Oh yes, and single mothers only have babies to claim the child and other benefits.You can read off the standard Tory attitudes of the people, who will believes McVile’s monstrous, platitudinous lies, almost like ticking boxes in a list.

Not the Scots, however. The day after McVile uttered this bilge, they organised a demonstration against her. Bravo! and maximum respect! McVie is truly vile, along with the rest of the squad running the DWP – Damian Green and his predecessor, Ian Duncan Smith. All of them should be cleaned out and charged with crimes against humanity for their role in manipulating the benefits system to cause the victims of their sanctions to starve to death or commit suicide.

Unfortunately, they’re likely to be rewarded instead. Rape Clause Ruth was in today’s papers because Time magazine has named her one of the 20 most influential women, or at least, influential women in Scotland. Which is enough to have millions of Scots voting SNP because of Nicola Sturgeon. Although I’d rather see named as more influential than Davidson the actress, who played Mary Hen, Rab. C. Nesbit’s long-suffering wife.

Apart from being offensive in itself, McVile’s stupid comments are dangerous because they try to justify a system that is causing people harm. And her words themselves are likely to upset victims of sexual assault and their families. One of the things I’ve learned from being made redundant along with others is that it isn’t just an official action that hurts. It’s also the dull platitudes management offer to try and make it more palatable. I used to be a civil servant years ago, and one day a whole group of us were called in individually to be told we were going to be made redundant. One young lad left in tears. Talking to him afterwards, he told me that it wasn’t the redundancy itself, but the nonsense the manager came out with about the possibility of getting jobs elsewhere in offices in the area. The lad knew that there was no hope of that. The redundancy stung, and what made it all the worse was the smooth assurances made by someone from outside the office to make it all seem better. McVie’s comments are like that, but much worse because of the horrific nature of the crime to which these women have been subjected.

McVie deserves her nickname. She really is vile, and so are the rest of her corrupt and mendacious crew. Get them out, and Labour in!

Ian Blackmore: Universal Credit Is Fast Becoming Theresa May’s Poll Tax

November 2, 2017

This is another short video from RT covering Prime Minister’s Questions the other day. Labour’s Ian Blackmore stated that research has shown that families on Universal Credit will lose £1350 of benefits. This will make them worse off. Universal Credit is fast becoming May’s Poll Tax. This is a reference to Margaret Thatcher, whose administration fell in 1989 due to the protests against her attempts to replace the rates with a universal poll tax. And, he asks rhetorically, isn’t it about time she stopped talking about its implementation and did something to fix it.

May responds by talking a lot of nonsense and lies about how Universal Credit isn’t just about Universal Credit, but about supporting people into work, giving them the skills they need to work, and then, once they are in work, allowing them to keep more of the money they earn.

Bilge. All of it. The government doesn’t support people into work. It just hits them with sanctions, which they claim are to provide them with the motivation to find work, but which are simply a rationale for throwing claimants off benefits on the most flimsy of pretexts. Or phoning them up to harangue them for being on the dole, which they then claim is also motivating them. This is another lie. It’s just abuse and harassment. As providing people with skills to get into work, this presumably means the workfare, in which people are expected to work for supermarkets and other big corporations simply for the benefit money, rather than be paid a proper wage and the corporations actually having to employee real workers and pay them proper salaries. It does not provide people with the skills they need. In fact, it actively prevents them from acquiring them, as has happened with the graduates, who had voluntary work lined up in museums, but were told that this was not part of the scheme and they had to fill shelves for Tesco instead. As for allowing people to retain more of their earnings, that’s another whopper. The tax breaks implemented by the Tories are designed to benefit the rich 25 per cent, and the tax burden has been shifted lower down the scale to the poor, who are now subsidizing them. Which is just how the Tories think it all should be, as they still have the feudal attitude that the poor should be bound to supporting their rich masters for as little as possible.

Rather than making people richer, Universal Credit, and the rest of the Tories’ welfare policies, are designed to make ordinary people poorer for the benefit of the rich. And May has told so many half-truths and lies in her reply to Blackmore that I’m amazed she could keep a straight face.

Protesters Chant ‘Tories Out’ at Jacob Rees-Mogg Meeting

October 4, 2017

This is a very short video from the Groaniad. It’s just over half a minute long, but it shows the protesters at the Tory Conference in Manchester disrupt a meeting held by Jacob Rees-Mogg. The crowd hold up placards and chant ‘Tories Out!’

I think this is just one of a number of protests that have taken place in Manchester against the Tories. I put up a brief video of one that was held outside their conference hall the other day. And I can’t say that I’m not happy that they held this protest in an event held by the Young Master. Rees-Mogg is being touted by some Tories as the next leader of the party, presumably after they dump May. The editor of Conservative Woman was writing in the I the other day, praising Mogg as ‘personable’ and ‘popular’. Well, she’s welcome to her opinions.

I have to say that Mogg in his coat reminds me of a figure from Andean folklore. This is the Pishtaco, described as a White or mestizo (person of mixed Spanish and indigenous heritage) man in a long dark coat, underneath which he carries a pair of long knives. This man kills indigenous children for the grease their bodies contain, which is used to lubricate the machines of European industry.

On the other side of the world, the Asian Indians had a similar story back in the days of the infamous ‘Coolie Trade’. This was the trade in indentured migrants from Indian and China to South America, the Caribbean and Fiji, to work on the sugar plantations to replace the enslaved Black workers, who had just been freed. Pay and conditions were appalling, and the immigrants were treated as slaves. There were also instances of kidnapping, and the British several times organised raids in India, where kidnapped Indian labourers had been forcibly imprisoned prior to their transportation half-way around the world. Furthermore, no provision was initially made for the migrant labourers to keep in touch with their families or send part of their earnings back home. Families were thus torn apart, with no word from their relatives, for years at a time. The imperial authorities responded to the trade by passing legislation regulating the trade, stipulating minimum living and working conditions and demanding that systems should be set up to allow the families of labourers to come with them, and migrant workers to send part of the wages back home to support their wives and families.

However, the kidnapping and complete absence of any news about some of the men, who had gone abroad to work had resulted in the rumour that rather than being taken to work on the plantations, the labourers were being taken to secret factory or workshop, where they were killed and their skulls drained of the cerebrospinal fluid. As with the Andean Amerindian stories about the grease from the bodies of murdered children, the fluid from their skulls was exported to Europe for use in industry there.

These stories are just folklore. However, they were a metaphorical response to conditions of colonial oppression and exploitation. Mogg, with his tall, lanky frame certainly reminds me of the Amerindian figure. And as metaphors they also fit the Britain under the Tories. We are seeing people exploited, with capped wages, zero hours and short-term contracts, welfare to work legislation designed to get the unemployed working for the benefit – but not real wages – for the big supermarkets, and benefit sanctions to make the jobless and those threatened with unemployment feel as threatened and as powerless as possible. And people are starving. There’s about 100,000 forced to use foodbanks as they cannot afford to buy food. Something like seven million live in food insecure homes. And three million British children this summer went without having enough to eat.

Meanwhile, the Tories have given massive tax cuts to immensely rich, cuts which Rees-Mogg has fully supported, while at the same time voting to increase the tax burden for the poor, and cut benefits. And people are dying. I’ve mentioned the long lists and articles on those, who have died in starvation and misery due to benefit cuts by Mike, Johnny Void, Stilloaks, DPAC and so many others.

So the legends of South America’s indigenous peoples and its Indian counterpart also metaphorically apply to today’s Britain. Our people are being exploited and killed by the Tories and their austerity campaign for the benefit of the big corporations. Rees-Mogg himself has always been perfectly polite when he’s appeared on TV, and I dare say that personally he’s probably entirely decent the way he treats others. But his party is responsible for starvation, exploitation and death through a set of policies he firmly supports and wishes to expand.

The protesters are quite right to demonstrate against him and his wretched, murderous party.

Anti-Tory Cartoon – Esther McVey and Wasserman

June 28, 2017

Welcome to another instalment in my ongoing series of cartoons attacking the Tory party and their vile attack on the poor, the sick, the unemployed and disabled in the name of corporate profit. Yesterday I put up a drawing I’d made of Evan Davies, Andrew Lansley, David Cameron, Eric Pickles and George Osborne as members of a cannibalistic pagan cult, like the Aztecs or those of ancient Mesopotamia, because of the immense death toll their policies have inflicted on the British public. As I’ve blogged before, according to Oxford University, 30,000 people were killed by austerity in 2015. Over a hundred thousand people are forced to use food banks to keep body and soul together, and 7 million people live in ‘food insecure’ household, where they don’t know if they’ll be able to afford to eat tomorrow.

This cartoon continues the pagan theme of the last one. It therefore has a picture of Baal, the ancient pagan god of the Canaanites, and other gods from what is now Iraq, with human skulls and a strange, demonic creature, part man, part serpent. The two Tories depicted are, if I remember correctly, Esther McVey and Wasserman – I’m sorry, but I’ve forgotten this Tory functionary’s first name.

McVey was the Tory minister for the disabled in Iain Duncan Smith’s wretched and murderous DWP. She used to be the MP for Merseyside or one of the other constituencies in the Liverpool area, before the good burghers of that fair city got fed up with her and threw her out at the last election. Those Liverpudlians not enamoured of her – and there were quite a few – called her the ‘Wicked Witch of the Wirral’. Unfortunately, losing an election doesn’t seem to have put a stop to her political career, and she flew off on her broomstick to take up a position with the Tories in another constituency. She was also one of the proprietors of a TV production company, which produced the ‘poverty porn’ documentaries, intended to confirm the prejudices of all good Conservative voters that those on benefit are unemployed, not because there are no jobs due to structural problems with the economy, but because they’re really lazy.

So to express the deep festering corruption in this woman’s soul – Mike and the other bloggers and disabled rights’ activists found that in one year, 13-14,000 disabled people had died after being found ‘fit for work’ by Atos – I’ve drawn one half of her face a seething mass of malignant pustules. So great was the carnage inflicted by this woman and her superiors in the department, that one wag amended her Wikipedia page so that she became ‘The minister in charge of culling the disabled’. Which is exactly how Mike and many other bloggers and commenters, like Jeffrey Davies regard her. Mike has made it very clear that this is the genocide of the disabled.

As for Wasserman, he was one of the two ministers, who prepared various documents for the privatisation of the NHS for Maggie Thatcher. She was forced to back down from this policy after there was a mass cabinet revolt, and her personal private secretary, Patrick Jenkin, told her just how bad the American system was. Nevertheless, it did not stop her from trying to get more people to get out private health insurance – she aimed at 25 per cent of the British public. And successive right-wing administrations, including Tony Blair’s New Labour, have been aiming at the privatisation of the NHS ever since, gradually selling off parts of it and passing legislation to allow private hospital management chains and healthcare companies, like Circle Health, to take over the running of doctor’s surgeries and hospitals. Wasserman later appeared in David Cameron’s cabinet, where I would guess that he was doing much the same there as he did under Thatcher.

Jeremy Corbyn has promised that he will end the fitness to work tests and the sanctions system, which have seen so many people thrown off benefits for the most trivial of reasons. He has also promised to renationalise the NHS, thus ending nearly forty years of creeping Thatcherite privatisation.

So vote for him for a fairer Britain, where everyone has access to free healthcare, and tens of thousands are not dying of starvation just so that billionaires can have their tax bill lowered, or have a supply of cheap, subsidised labour supplied to them courtesy of the workfare industry.

If you wish to see the faces and know a bit more about some of individuals, who have been killed by the Tories’ assault on the welfare state, Mike, DPAC, Johnny Void and Stilloaks have published articles on individual victims, and lists of those, who have died, complete with brief descriptions of the circumstances of their deaths. The last time I looked, it was about 500-600 plus people, but the true figure is many times higher.

To stop the carnage the Tories have inflicted and are continuing to inflict, vote Labour.

End Workfare Now! Part 1

June 20, 2017

This is the text of another pamphlet I wrote a year or so ago against the highly exploitative workfare industry. As the pamphlet explains, workfare, or ‘welfare to work’, is the system that provides industry with cheap, unemployed temporary labour under the guise of getting the jobless back into work by giving them work experience. If the unemployed person refuses, he or she is thrown off benefit.

These temporary jobs go nowhere, and it’s been proven that the unemployed are actually far better off looking for jobs on their own than using workfare. And it’s very similar to other systems of supposed voluntary work and forced labour, such as the labour colonies set up in Britain in 1905, the Reichsarbeitsdienst in Nazi Germany, and the use of forced labour against the ‘arbeitscheu’ – the ‘workshy’, as well as the compulsory manual labour required of all citizens in Mao’s china during the Cultural Revolution, and the Gulags in Stalin’s Russia.

Mike over at Vox Political has blogged against it, so has Johnny Void and the Angry Yorkshireman of Another Angry Voice, and many other left-wing bloggers. It’s another squalid policy which New Labour and the Tories took over from Reagan and Bill Clinton.

Jeremy Corbyn has promised to get rid of the work capability tests. I hope also that under him, the Labour party will also get rid of this vile policy, so that big corporations like Poundland and supermarkets like Tesco’s will have to take on workers and pay them a decent wage, rather than exploiting desperate and jobless workers supplied by the Thatcherite corporate state.

End Workfare Now!

Workfare is one of the most exploitative aspects of the contemporary assault on the welfare state and the unemployed. It was advocated in the 1980s by the Republicans under Ronald Reagan in America, and in Britain by Thatcher’s Conservatives. In 1979 the Tory party ranted about the need to ‘restore the will to work’. Geoffrey Howe, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, declared that ‘The Government and the vast majority of the British people want hard work and initiative to be properly rewarded and are vexed by disincentives to work’. At its heart is the attitude that the unemployed should be forced to work for their benefits, as otherwise they are getting ‘something for nothing’. Very many bloggers and activists for the poor and unemployed, including Vox Political, Johnny Void, Another Angry Voice, and myself have denounced it as another form of slavery. It’s used to provide state-subsidised, cheap labour for big business and charities, including influential Tory donors like Sainsbury’s. And at times it crosses the line into true slavery. Under the sanctions system, an unemployed person is still required to perform workfare, even if the jobcentre has sanctioned them, so that they are not receiving benefits. Workfare recipients – or victims – have no control over where they are allocated or what jobs they do. The government was challenged in the courts by a geology graduate, who was forced to work in Poundland. The young woman stated that she did not object to performing unpaid work. She, however, had wanted to work in a museum, and if memory serves me correctly, had indeed got a place at one. She was, however, unable to take up her unpaid position there because of the Jobcentre’s insistence she labour for Poundland instead. A young man also sued the government, after he was sanctioned for his refusal to do 30 hours a week unpaid labour for six months for the Community Action Programme. The High and Appeal Courts ruled in the young people’s favour. They judged that the government had indeed acted illegally, as the law did not contain any stipulations for when and how such work was to be performed.

Iain Duncan Smith, the notorious head of the Department of Work and Pensions, was outraged. He called the decision ‘rubbish’ and said, ‘There are a group of people out there who think they are too good for this kind of stuff .. People who think it is their right take benefit and do nothing for it – those days are over.’ This is rich coming from IDS, who was taking over a million pounds in farm subsidies from the EU. Eventually, Smith got sick of the criticism he was taking for the government’s welfare policies, and flounced off early in 2016 moaning about how unfair it all was that he should get the blame, when the notorious Work Capability Tests inflicted on the elderly and disabled were introduced by New labour.

Those forced into workfare are in no sense free workers, and it similarly makes a nonsense of the pretense that this somehow constitutes ‘voluntary work’, as this has been presented by the government and some of the participating charities

The political scientist Guy Standing is also extremely critical of workfare in his book, A Precariat Charter, demanding its abolition and making a series of solid arguments against it. He states that it was first introduced in America by the Republicans in Wisconsin, and then expanded nationally to the rest of the US by Bill Clinton in his Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. It was part of his campaign to ‘end welfare as we know it’. Single parents receiving social assistance were required to take low-paying jobs after two years. Legislation was also passed barring people from receiving welfare payments for more than five years in their entire lives.

David Cameron, unsurprisingly, was also a fan of the Wisconsin system, and wanted to introduce it over here. In 2007 he made a speech to the Tory faithful at the party conference, proclaiming ‘We will say to people that if you are offered a job and it’s a fair job and one that you can do and you refuse it, you shouldn’t get any welfare.’ This became part of Coalition policy towards the unemployed when they took power after the 2010 elections.’ Two years later, in 2012, Boris Johnson, speaking as mayor of London, declared that he was going to use EU money from the Social Fund to force young adults between 18 and 24 to perform 13 weeks of labour without pay if they were unemployed. In June that year David Cameron also declared that there was a need to end ‘the nonsense of paying people more to stay at home than to get a job – and finally making sure that work really pays. Ed Miliband’s Labour party also joined in. Liam Byrne, the Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions, declared that

Labour would ensure that no adult will be able to live on the dole for over two years and no young person for over a year. They will be offered a real job with real training, real prospects and real responsibility … People would have to take this responsibility or lose benefits.

This was echoed by Ed Balls, who said

A One Nation approach to welfare reform means government has a responsibility to help people into work and support for those who cannot. But those who can work must be required to take up jobs or lose benefits as such – no ifs or buts.

Forced Labour for the Unemployed in History

Standing traces the antecedents of workfare back to the English poor law of 1536 and the French Ordonnance de Moulins of twenty years later, which obliged unemployed vagabonds to accept any job that was offered them. He states that the direct ancestor is the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act, the infamous legislation that, under the notion of ‘less eligibility’, stipulated that those receiving support were to be incarcerated in the workhouse, where conditions were deliberately made much harsher in order to deter people from seeking state
support, rather than paid work. This attitude is also reflected in contemporary attitudes that, in order to ‘make work pay’, have demanded that welfare support should be much less than that received for paid work. This has meant that welfare payments have become progressively less as the various measure to make the labour market more flexible – like zero hours contracts – drove down wages. The workhouse system was supplemented in 1905 by the Unemployed Workmen Act, supported, amongst others, by Winston Churchill. This directed unemployed young men into labour, so that they should not be ‘idle’ and be ‘under control’. Nor were leading members of the early Labour party averse to the use of force. Sidney and Beatrice Webb, two of the founders of the Fabian Society, were also in favour of sending the unemployed to ‘labour colonies’, chillingly close to the forced labour camps which became such as feature of the Nazi and Communist regimes. Weimar Germany in the 1920s and ’30s also developed a system of voluntary work to deal with the problems of mass unemployment. This was taken over by the Nazis and became compulsory for all Germans from 19-25 as the Reicharbeitsdienst, or Imperial Labour Service It was mainly used to supply labour for German agriculature. Because of its universal nature, the Reicharbeitsdienst had no stigma attached to it, and indeed was seen as part of the new, classless Germany that was being created by Hitler. In a speech to the Service’s workers, Hitler declared that there would be no leader, who had not worked his way up through their ranks. Much harsher was the Nazi’s treatment of the serially unemployed. They were declared arbeitscheu – the German word, which forms the basis of the English ‘workshy’. These individuals were sent to the concentration camps, where they were identified with a special badge on their pyjamas, just like those marking out Jews, gay men, Socialists and trade unionists, and so on.

Liam Byrne also harked back to the Webbs to support his argument for workfare as Labour party policy. He stated

If you go back to the Webb report, they were proposing detention colonies for people refusing to take work … All the way through our history there has been an insistence on the responsibility to work if you can. Labour shouldn’t be any different now. We have always been the party of the responsibility to work as well.

The Workfare Scheme

The result of this is that many unemployed people have been placed on the Mandatory Work Activity – MWA – scheme, which requires them to perform four weeks of unpaid work for a particular company, organisation or charity. The scheme also includes the disabled. Those now judged capable of performing some work are placed in the Work-Related Activity group, and required perform some unpaid labour in order to gain ‘experience’. If they do not do so, they may lose up to 70 per cent of their benefits.

This has created immense fear among the unemployed and disabled. Standing quotes one man with cerebral palsy, who was so afraid of being sanctioned for not performing the mandatory work, that he felt physically sick. Mental health professionals – psychiatrists and psychologists, have also released reports attacking the detrimental effect the stress of these tests are having on the mentally ill. So far they have estimated that upwards of a quarter of a million people with mental health problems such as depression and anxiety have had their condition made worse – sometimes very much worse – through the stress of taking these tests.

The system also affects those in low-paid part-time jobs or on zero hours contracts. These must prove that they are looking for more working hours or a better paid job. If they do not do so, they may lose benefits or tax credits. In 2013 the Tory-Lib Dem government made it even harder for people to claim tax credits by raising the number of working hours a week, for which tax credits could not be claimed, from 16 to 24.

End Workfare Now! Part 2

June 20, 2017

Arguments for Workfare

The arguments trotted out to support the workfare policies are these.

1. Everyone has a duty to work. Those who take money from the state have a reciprocal obligation to work for the support they have received.

2. Following Moynihan in America, it’s argued that part of the problem of poverty in society is communities, where there are families, which have not worked for generations. In order to break the cycle of poverty, these people must be forced into work.

3. It’s also argued that many individuals have also been unemployed for so long that they, too, have lost the habit of working. These people must also be forced to work.

4. The unemployed are also socially marginalised and excluded. Workfare helps them, its supporters argue, become integrated into society and so become productive members of the community once again.

5. It is also claimed that workfare allows people to acquire new skills. In 2012 a report was published on the exploitation of the people forced to work for free as security guards for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. A spokesman for the ConDem coalition responded to the claim by stating: ‘The work programme is about giving people who have often been out of the workplace for quite some time the chance to develop skills that they need to get a job that is sustainable.’ As Johnny Rotten and the Sex Pistols sang back in 1977 ‘God save the Queen and the Fascist regime.’

6. Workfare somehow reduces government spending on welfare programmes. Liam Byrne, New Labour’s advocate for workfare, who was quoted in the first part of this article, said ‘The best way to save money is to get people back into work.’

In fact there are serious arguments against just about all of these points, and some of them simply aren’t factually true. Let’s deal with each of these arguments in turn.

The Duty to Work

If people have a duty to perform free work for the goods and services that are provided freely by the state, then the middle classes and the elite should particularly be targeted for workfare, because they use the state infrastructure and its services more than the proles and those at the bottom of society. But the middle and upper classes most definitely are not required to perform these services. One of the worst policies of Mao’s China during the ‘Cultural Revolution’ of the 1960s and ’70s was the policy of taking skilled workers, intellectuals and artists away from their work to perform manual work elsewhere in that vast nation. It was bitterly resented, although at the time it was in line with the idea of creating a classless ‘workers’ state’. The respected TV critic and broadcaster, Clive James, in his column for the Observer, reviewed a programme that exposed this aspect of Chinese Communism. James was horrified at the effect this had had on breaking the health and skills of those sent to labour in the fields, such as a dancer for the state ballet. But if such forced labour is unacceptable for the middle and upper classes, it should also be so for those, whose only crime is to be without a job.

Furthermore there are also strong objections to performing workfare for a profit-making company. Those who do so, like those poor souls working free of charge for the big supermarkets like Sainsbury’s, are helping to make these companies even more profitable. It isn’t society that profits from their work, but extremely wealthy individuals like David Sainsbury and his shareholders, and the people running his competitors, for example. This parallels the exploitative nature of Stalin’s gulags and the Nazis’ use of skilled Jewish workers by the SS. The gulags were the immense archipelago of forced labour camps used to punish political prisoners and other victims of Stalin’s regime. Over 30 million Soviet citizens are estimated to have been imprisoned in them at the height of the terror. The vast majority were totally innocent. The system was used to industrialise the country, whose economy had formerly been dominated by agriculture. Under Stalin, the heads of state enterprises would supply lists of the types of workers they needed to the NKVD, the forerunner of the KGB, the state secret police. The NKVD would then arrest workers with those skills, and supply them to the businesses as requested. In Nazi Germany, the SS also formed an enterprise to exploited the skilled Jewish workers, such as jewelers, they had imprisoned. They were put to work producing luxury goods, which were then sold by the SS. They even produced a catalogue of the products made by these slave artisans.

This claim also implies that low income people have a duty to work in an inferior position for the benefit of their social or economic superiors in a master-servant relationship. This is a distortion of the concept of duty. The same idea also leads to the view that if you are unsuccessful in the labour market, you therefore have a duty to work for nothing, a view of society that is both regressive – harking back to some of the worst aspects of the Victorian era – and alienating. On the other hand, if you are performing work that is unprofitable, then there should be no duty to perform it. If it is genuine, valuable work, then the people performing it should be paid the current market rate, not simply provided with unemployment relief.

Standing also makes the point that the concept of duty has led to the belief that people should be forced to find work. But the use of coercion is divisive and actually undermines the commitment to work. He also argues that it actually amoral, because it takes away from workers their ability to choose for themselves whether to be moral. Plus the fact that workfare is not levied on the idle rich, or the friends and relatives of the politicians forcing it on others

Multigenerational Families of the Unemployed

The number of families that actually fit this description is so small as to be negligible, both in America and over here in Blighty. The academics T. Shildrick, R. MacDonald, C. Webster, and K. Garthwaite examined this issue in their Poverty and Insecurity: Life in Low Pay, No Pay Britain (Bristol: Policy Press 2012). Their research revealed that only 1 per cent fitted the description of a family in which two generations were unemployed. Official attempts to find these pockets of intergenerational unemployment have similarly turned up next to zilch. The whole idea is rubbish, but that hasn’t stopped papers like the Daily Fail claiming it’s true.

Getting People out of the Habit of Not Having a Job

Researchers have also looked at this one, too, and guess what? Yup, it’s similarly rubbish. There are very few people like this. But rather than acting as an incentive to find work, actually being forced to work unpaid in poor conditions may actually act as a deterrent. The Anarchist activist and writer, Alexander Berkman, made this point about work generally in his 1929, What Is Anarchist Communism? He made the point that much poor work was caused by forcing unwilling workers to perform jobs that they did not want and weren’t interested in. He pointed to the experience of prison labour, as an illustration. In prison, those workers, who were forced to perform such jobs did so badly. However, if they were given a job they enjoyed, then their work rapidly improved. He also made the point that Standing also makes about poorly paid but necessary work, that instead of forcing people to do it, wages should be increased to encourage workers to do them, and increase the social respect for those, who did those jobs. In a very stretched comparison, he described how both road sweepers and surgeons both helped keep people health. Surgeons, however, were given respect, while road sweepers are looked down upon. He felt this was simply a question of money, and that the social stigma attached to cleaning the streets would be removed, and the two professions given equal respect, if road sweepers were paid the same amount. This is too simplistic, as the surgeon is far more skilled than the road sweeper. But sweeping the streets and related dirty jobs would undoubtedly be more attractive if they were better paid.

Integrating the Jobless Back into Society

Far from being calculated to help the long-term unemployed back into society, the type of work that they are forced to do under workfare is humiliating. In many cases, this is quite deliberate as part of the government’s ideology of ‘less eligibility’ and dissuading people from going on benefits. And studies by the researchers and the DWP itself have also found that workfare makes absolutely no difference to whether a claimant gets a job afterwards.

Enabling the Unemployed to Acquire New Skills

This is also rubbish, as the type of menial work people are giving under workfare, in which they sweep the streets or stack shelves, are by their nature unskilled. And if a skilled worker is forced to perform them for months on end, this type of work is actually like to make them lose their skills.
Workfare Cuts Government Spending

This is also rubbish. In fact, workfare increases government expenditure on the unemployed, as the government has to pay subsidies to the firms employing them, and pay the costs of administration, which are actually quite heavy. And the work those on the programme actually perform doesn’t produce much in the way of taxable income, so money doesn’t come back to the government. Furthermore, most of the people on benefits are actually working, which makes Liam Byrne’s statement that the best way to save money is to get people back into work’ a barefaced lie.

In addition to demolishing the government’s arguments in favour of workfare, Standing also provides a series of further arguments against it. These are that the jobs created through workfare aren’t real jobs; workfare is unjust in its treatment of the unemployed; it stops the unemployed actually looking for jobs for themselves; it lowers their income over their lifetime; it also acts to keep wages down; it keeps the people, who should be working at those jobs out of work; it’s a dangerous extension of the power of the state; and finally, it’s a gigantic scam which only benefits the welfare-to-work firms.

Workfare and Real Jobs

According to the ideas of the market economy developed by the pioneer of free trade, the 18th century philosopher Adam Smith, workfare jobs don’t actually constitute real jobs. Smith believed that the market would actually produce higher wages to entice people into performing unpleasant jobs. On this reasoning, if workfare jobs were real jobs, then they would have a definite economic value. They would be created through the operation of the market, and the workers in them would also be paid proper wages for performing them.

There are also moral problems in the definition of what constitutes a ‘real job’ that someone on workfare should have to perform. If it is defined as one paying the minimum wage, then workfare is immoral as it puts downward pressure on the wages and conditions of the people already performing those jobs, forcing them into poverty. If those ‘real jobs’ are defined as those which are dirty, dangerous, undignified or stigmatizing, and so unpopular, they would have the opposite effect of what the advocates of workfare claim – that they are encouraging people to find work.

The solution for progressives is to make the labour market act like it is supposed to act, rather than it actually does in practice. Adam Smith was quite wrong about wages adjusting upwards for unpopular jobs in a market economy. The wages provided for work should match both supply and demand, and people should not be made into commodities as workers. They should have enough economic support to be able to refuse jobs they don’t want. Instead of assuming that people need to be forced to work, there should be the presumption instead that most people actually do. It is arbitrary and ultimately demeaning for all concerned to try to identify people who are somehow ‘undeserving’. Genuine supporters of equality should want the wages in unpleasant jobs to rise, until there is a genuine supply of willing labour.

End Workfare Now: Part 3

June 20, 2017

Workfare Is Unjust

Workfare unfairly penalises the unemployed. For example, in 2011 the ConDem government made the conditions imposed on benefit claimants and the penalties for avoidance under the Labour government’s New Deal even more stringent. Those performing workfare were required to work for up to thirty hours a week for 28 days. The work performed was to be that which benefited the community. Taken as wages, this meant that claimants were working at a rate of £2.50 an hour, well below the minimum wage. If they turned the job down, or didn’t complete the course of mandatory labour, they had their benefits sanctioned for three months. This was increased to six if they repeated the ‘transgression’. This is unjust, because no-one else in society is expected to work for the minimum wage except convicts in prison.

It’s also unjust in that it makes the economically insecure even more so, and takes away the way long-accepted social right to refuse to work. At the same time, it gives power over the unemployed to the state’s bureaucrats and the private outsourcing companies. Also, forced labour is offensive against human dignity and does not lead to increased personal development.

Workfare Stops People Looking for Jobs

Spending thirty hours a week on workfare actually cuts down on the available time the unemployed are able to spend looking for work. P.A. Gregg, in their book Job Guarantee: Evidence and Design (Bristol: Bristol University Centre for Market and Public Organisation 2009) actually found that because of this, workfare actually stopped people from getting jobs.

Lowering Incomes over Life

Workfare is also unjust, as instead of giving people the ability to acquire a career, or jobs leading to one, it may instead lower their long-term income by keeping them in a series of low-paid, temporary work. People should have the right to decide for themselves which jobs to take and what they should do when it affects their long term prospects. If the state instead forces them to take a certain course, then it should also be required to compensate them if the course demanded is the wrong one.

Workfare Keeps Wages Low

By forcing people to take low-paid jobs, and making this a threat to force other workers also to take jobs that pay less than they would otherwise take, workfare leads to lower wages. The Labour Party in the UK declared that it was in favour of a ‘national living wage’ above the minimum. However, it then contradicted this intention by stating that those performing workfare would do so at the minimum wage. The Labour party may have meant this to stop those on workfare competing with those in paid employment, though MPs like Liam Byrne have shown themselves to be every bit as spiteful and punitive in their treatment of the unemployed as the Tories. In any case, this policy still puts on pressure to force wages downwards.

For there to be a genuine living wage, politicians should increase and strengthen the ability of the unemployed to bargain for higher wages. It is only when workers really have an effective ability to bargain that employers are either forced to pay a living wage, or decide that the job is unnecessary and the potential productivity too low. Standing concludes from this that ‘The reality is that the utilitarian mindset does not care about the precariat’.

Workfare Labour Replaces Genuine Workers

If the jobs performed under workfare were genuine and productive, it would be unfair to workers in those jobs, and to the short-term unemployed, as the government-subsidized labourers supplied under workfare would replace existing workers, or stop them hiring other unemployed people. In 2011 Tesco collaborated with the Jobcentres to create 3,000 unpaid placements for those on workfare, who would work for the company for four weeks. Homebase and Asda were
also keen to use such unpaid labour. As was Poundland, which also announced that it was taking on benefit claimants, though it denied that this would affect their existing recruiting activity. Whatever those companies said, clearly their use of cheap workfare labour was replacing paid workers and stopping the unemployed from getting permanent jobs with those companies.

Workfare Extends State Power

When the High and Appeal Courts upheld the challenge to performing mandatory workfare by the geology graduate, who objected to having to work in Poundland, and a young chap, who had been sanctioned for refusing it, the Condem government responded by rushing through emergency legislation making the refusal to perform workfare punishable by sanctions. The procedure in which the legislation was rushed through parliament was supposed to be use only in national emergencies. The legislation further contravened accepted notions of justice, in that it acted retrospectively. That is, it punished actions committed before the laws against them had been passed, an idea that strikes at the very notion of justice enshrined across the world in human rights laws. The Labour party, which should have opposed this motion, didn’t. They abstained, and members of the Shadow Cabinet were told that if they voted against the motion, they would have to resign. This demonstrates just how deeply workfare had become embedded as the official ideology of the state and the main parties.

Welfare-to-Work as Corporate Scam

The private companies administering workfare, such as A4E and Ingeus, have profited immensely from this new, growth industry in unfree labour. They are paid £13,500 for every person they manage to put in a long term job. If the job is only short-term, then they receive only half that amount. There is thus considerable pressure for them to choose only those most likely to obtain long term employment, and thus discriminate against vulnerable minorities, including the disabled. The Employment Related Services Association, the trade body for the welfare-to-work industry, complained that more of the people being referred to these companies were those with disabilities, who had been judged ‘fit for work’ according to the tests imposed for the Employment and Support Allowance awarded to the disabled to help them maintain their independence.

The workfare companies also have wide powers in deciding which ‘work placements’ to put people on, and what counts as ‘community benefit’. The DWP permits them to place workers in private companies if this is considered to benefit those firms’ local communities. For a long time the DWP has refused to publish the information on the allocation of workfare labourers to private firms. The government flatly refused to reveal the identities of the participating firms on the grounds that if they did so, the scheme would fail due to public pressure forcing them to drop out. A list of the firms involved has recently been released after a series of Freedom Of Information Act requests. The two largest workfare contractors also refused to comment, when they were asked if they were forcing the workers contracted to them to work for private companies.

Additionally, many of the private companies administering the scheme are run by, or have links to, politicians, which is symptomatic of the general corporate corruption of parliament and the revolving door between corporations, MPs and senior civil servants. Tomorrow’s People, the charity that became notorious for stranding the workfare labourers it had employed for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee under London Bridge, where they were forced to sleep, was run by a Conservative peer.

Conclusion: End Workfare Forced Labour

Workfare is thus highly exploitative, and should be banned. It is the thin edge of a wedge leading to the increasing use of force against the poor and unemployed. One staff member from the Citizens’ Advice Bureaux described the situation to Standing thus

The boundaries of the acceptable are being pushed further in the direction of unfree labour. We’ve been here before – breaking stones in return for food during the Irish famine, and similar schemes in 16th & 17th century England, the difference being that technology means peoples’ activity can be monitored more and informal economy lifelines are being pushed further underground. I was talking with a colleague who has picked up growth of prostitution as one means of survival. I don’t know what it would take to break us (society, whatever that means) out of apathy to make protests against what we’re doing to ourselves.

Standing also makes a very apt point, directed at those members of the Left, who refuse to take a stand on it, fearing that it would damage their parties’ chances of winning elections. He states

It is a moralistic policy that should be passionately opposed by every liberal and progressive. If doing so puts political success at risk, so be it. Values matter.

This looks like a dig at Blairite New Labour, which has consistently abstained on the workfare issue instead of firmly opposing it. The Blairites based New Labour’s electoral success on appealing to swing voters, and not challenging Tory policy, except on the grounds that they could administer it more efficiently and were more concerned with social justice. The latter view is particularly specious, as in many cases New Labour went much further in its austerity and privatisation programmes than the Tories. It’s a concern that still motivates the Blairites in their repeated campaigns against the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn. And it’s not an excuse for failing to tackle this new form of forced labour, a system that is slowly edging towards real slavery.

Bibliography

Alexander Berkman, ‘Lazy Men and Dirty Work’, in George Woodcock, ed., The Anarchist Reader (Fontana Press: 1986) 334-338.

Alex DeJonge, Stalin and the Shaping of the Soviet Union (Fontana/Collins 1986) 270-2.

‘Miss World and Mrs Mao’ in Clive James, The Crystal Bucket (Picador: 1982) 232-4.

Guy Standing, A Precariat Charter: From Denizens to Citizens (London: Bloomsbury 2014) 262-79.

‘Labour Service (Reicharbeitsdienst – RAD)’ in James Taylor and Warren Shaw, A Dictionary of the Third Reich (London: Grafton Books 1988) 213.

‘Unemployment’ in James Taylor and Warren Shaw, A Dictionary of the Third Reich (London

Chief of Charity Mind to Head Government Mental Health Review with Chief of HBOS

January 14, 2017

Mike has also posted up today another story, reporting that Paul Farmer, the head of the mental health charity, MIND, has caused further anger among mental health workers and activists by agreeing to head a government review of mental health in the workplace. This review would also be headed by Lord Dennis Stevenson, the head of the banking conglomerate HBOS. May has stated that this is part of her government’s decision to looking into the ‘burning injustice’ of mental health. Among the issues it will examine is that of discrimination for jobs.

Farmer upset mental health activists at the end of October, when he claimed that his charity had no contracts with the government. A disgruntled employee then leaked documents showing that despite his denial that it would ever do so, the charity was in fact joining a government framework which would allow it to later obtain them.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/01/14/fresh-anger-over-minds-government-links-as-farmer-heads-new-review/

This, sadly, won’t come as a surprise to many left-wing bloggers. Johnny Void in particular has covered case after nauseating case where the very charities, who should be protecting the poor, the sick, the homeless and the vulnerable, have instead decided to throw in their lot with the government and become part of the nexus of private firms and non-profit organisations now doing the job of state welfare agencies. And in the cases Mr Void has examined, one after another of the heads of these charities also decide that the punitive legislation inflicted on those unable to work is badly needed to encourage them to get back on their feet. The most notorious of these are the private firms and initiatives seeking to profit from exploiting the unemployed under the workfare schemes. This is also pointed out by Florence, in her comment to Mike’s article above.

Perhaps I’m being too cynical here, but I predict that the review will conclude, following the pseudoscientific bilge spouted by the welfare to work industry, that work is good for those with mental health problems. They will then argue that existing legislation needs to be relaxed, and those with depression, anxiety and other disorders need to get off their rear ends and be forced into work through the workfare schemes.

I can even remember the head of one of these charities running an advert promoting this line. This showed a drawing of a young woman in bed, and the quotes ‘I didn’t get up for work today. I don’t think I’ll get up for work tomorrow’. This was supposed to be an example of the negative attitude that prevents people with mental illness getting jobs, which the charity was determined to combat.

I’ve got news for them. They really obviously don’t know what they’re talking about. One of the things I’ve learned from my own experience after a nervous breakdown years ago from talking to others like myself is that those with mental illness do not just arbitrarily decide they don’t really feel like working. It’s the opposite. They cannot face work and its stresses. And accompanying the depression itself, is further feelings of depression and guilt over the fact that they have not been able to ‘pull themselves together’. Many of them may even have been working for several weeks or months before it all becomes far too much.

And quite often, they may have been driven to their depression by the job itself, through pressure of work, vindictive or poor management, or simply mind-numbing, soul-destroying boredom.

And you can see how this review is going to be slanted by the appointment of Lord Stevens. Is he a mental health professional, say, a psychologist, psychiatrist, psychiatric nurse, or neurologist? No, he’s a banker. I dare say his appointment will be defended on the grounds that he understands the needs of business, but the reality is that he’s there to make sure that anything done in the name of the mentally ill will benefit private business. So you can bet that both he and Farmer will recommend that some part of the welfare state that actually protects and defends the mentally ill should be sold off or abolished on some spurious pretext.

Theresa May has no interest in removing or combating the ‘burning injustice’ of mental illness, as her party’s policies have created so much of it. She is merely interested in seeming to do something, and by allowing the further exploitation of her party’s victims.