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Nuit Debout: Is France Finally to Have a Spanish ‘Indignados’ Movement?

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On Lâche Rien!

Several thousand people launched an occupation of the place de la République, Paris, at the end of Thursday’s  demonstration against the new labour law. The group, Convergences des luttes (converge of struggles) was behind the initiative. Up to 4,000 people were present at the height of the protest.

The left weekly, Politis, says it’s the birth of a new, unprecedented, movement (Nuit debout», acte de naissance d’un mouvement inédit).#

A statement read to the crowd from the philosopher and economist Frédéric Lordon observes,

Il est possible que l’on soit en train de faire quelque chose. Le pouvoir tolère nos luttes lorsqu’elles sont locales, sectorielles, dispersées et revendicatives. Pas de bol pour lui, aujourd’hui nous changeons les règles du jeu. En donnant au capital des marges de manœuvre sans précédent, cette loi est génératrice de la violence néolibérale qui frappe désormais indistinctement toutes les catégories du salariat et, par là, les pousse à redécouvrir ce qu’elles ont en commun : la condition salariale même.

It’s possible that we are in the middle of doing something. Those in power tolerate our struggles when they are local, by a particular social or employee group, separated, around specific demands. Today they have run out of luck: we are changing the rules of the game. Giving capital unprecedented freedom, this (labour) law creates neo-liberal violence which will henceforth hit every type of employees, and for that reason, pushes workers to discover the thing they have in common: the condition of being a wage-earner.

Le Monde asks if this is the first step towards a movement, which many compare to the Spanish ‘indignados’ (the indignant) which gave rise to Podemos,  that the supporters dream will sweep the country.

The occupiers took decisions on the basis of a 80% majority of support for motions (that is, not “consensus” model that bedevilled the Occupy movement).

A key proposal is to draw up, cahiers de doléances,  the lists of grievances that preceded the French Revolution. They hope to spread the movement across France.

This morning the CRS removed 500 occupiers from the Square.

Est-ce l’amorce d’un mouvement qu’ils rêveraient « lame de fond » ou peut-être « déferlante » ? Est-ce l’annonce d’un « sursaut citoyen » qui mettrait dans la rue des Français de toutes conditions avides de protester et débattre, en criant leur défiance abyssale envers leurs élus et envers un système ? Est-ce le prélude d’un processus dit « révolutionnaire » ?

Whether they carry the “wind of revolution”, as one participant stated, remains to be seen.

The Tendance’s favourite recent French left group, HK et les Saltimbanques, sang.

We wish the young comrades well!

This music really sums up the wrongs of the world and how to fight back.

More here: «Nuit debout» : expulsés à l’aube.

A NUIT DEBOUT NE SE COUCHERA PAS !

Le 31 nous ne sommes pas rentrés chez nous après la manifestation.

Au plus fort de la nuit, nous étions plus de 4 000 Place de la République.

Concerts, débats citoyens et projections ont ponctué cette nuit qui s’est déroulée sous les hospices de la bienveillance et de la fraternité.

Mais à 5h45, la police a encerclé notre rassemblement pacifique, et maîtrisé jusqu’au bout, avant de nous contraindre à quitter les lieux manu militari et sans explication.

Nous nous insurgeons contre cette violence injustifiée étant donné la légalité absolue de notre occupation de la Place.

Nous appelons dès aujourd’hui, toutes les forces progressistes à rejoindre et amplifier ce mouvement en nous rassemblant à nouveau Place de La République dès maintenant ce 1er avril et jusqu’à dimanche soir au moins.

Une assemblée générale est prévue vers 17h. Et ce soir des débats et de la musique encore…

Vendredi 1er avril depuis la Place de la République

NUIT DEBOUT

France Mass Protests: Unions and Students against ‘reform’ of the Code du travail, the “Loi Myriam El Khomri”.

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Students Join Demos Against Plans to Weaken Workers’ Rights.

End of term protests threaten François Hollande’s labour legacy

French president trying to cement his place in history with sweeping reforms to the country’s rigid employment laws.

François Hollande is facing one of the biggest tests of his presidency as his sweeping labour reforms sparked protests by a potent mix of leftwing students and French trade unionists.

Student unions and youth demonstrators were staging sit-ins and street marches on Wednesday, teaming up with unions and striking rail workers in a wide-reaching protest movement that could prove highly toxic for the president. It is the first such collaborative protest against the Socialist government since Hollande came to power four years ago.

Reports the Guardian, neatly illustrating a report with a good reason why leftists do not trust the paper.

The “sweeping reforms” to the “rigid employment laws” were opposed by over a million people who signed this petition below:

Loi travail : non, merci !

Why?

The Petition gives is a list of some of the key measures.

☞  En cas de licenciement illégal, l’indemnité prud’homale est plafonnée à 15 mois de salaire.

In cases of illegal redundancies the amount awarded to those who win their case is limited to a ceiling of 15 months wages.

☞  Les 11 heures de repos obligatoire par tranche de 24 heures peuvent être fractionnées.

The day’s rest day – at present 11 hours per 24 hours – can be divided into sections (that is, distrinuted over the whole day).

☞  Une entreprise peut, par accord, baisser les salaires et changer le temps de travail.

A company can, by agreement, lower wages and change working hour.

☞  Les temps d’astreinte peuvent être décomptés des temps de repos.

Standby time can be counted as breaks.

There follows other technical changes – including those affecting apprentices- essentially allowing employers more ‘flexibility’ and their employees the possibility of working more hours according the employers’ needs.
 Une mesure peut-être imposée par référendum contre l’avis de 70% des syndicats.

This is the key point: a company will be able to organise a referendum on new working arrangements directly  appealing to the employees without the intermediary of the trade unions.

☞  Une entreprise peut faire un plan social sans avoir de difficultés économique.

Laws on redundancies will make it possible to offer a proposal to get rid of people (plan social) whenever they wish.

☞  Après un accord d’entreprise, un-e salarié-e qui refuse un changement dans son contrat de travail peut être licencié.

Anybody who doesn’t knuckle down to the new arrangements can be sacked.

☞  Par simple accord on peut passer de 10h à 12h de travail maximum par jour.

By a simple agreement bosses can increase working hours from 10 to 12 hours a day.

Salarié-e-s ou non : cette réforme nous concerne toutes et tous !

Interpellez la ministre du travail et demandez lui de renoncer à ce projet.

1. Signez la pétition
2. Interpellez la ministre sur http://loitravail.lol
3. Likez la page Facebook de la mobilisation

Signez la pétition et RDV sur http://loitravail.lol

—-

Put simply the project, under the name of El Khomri, but piloted by Prime Minister Manuel Valls and his Economics Emmnual Minister Macron, is designed to introduce as much as possible of the British/US model of “flexible” working.

For an expert analysis,  by an acknowledged authority in the field, see Gérard Filoche:

Intervention au Bn du PS lundi 7 mars : une rupture théorique, juridique, historique, pratique avec un siècle code du travail

Valls, who received a mere 5.63% % of the vote in the 2011 Parti Socialiste ‘primary’ to select a Presidential candidate, has met strong opposition from his his own party MPs and activists. He is described as being, with Italy’s Matteo Renzi, the last of the true believers in the Blair Third Way project – giving priority to  adapting economies to ‘globalised markets’.

The result is that some consider that the PS is on the verge of a split. A more probable result, given that breakaways from the Socialists have a long history of marginalisation, the latest being Jean-Luc Mélechon’s descent into populism at the head of the small (well under 10,000 members) Parti de Gauche, is political paralysis.

To use Léon Blum’s words, the Hollande Presidency will be seen not as a “conquest of power” nor even a successful “exercise of power” but a descent  into manoeuvring to impose the plans of a minority of the Socialist Party and the – majority – of French employers and the Right.

France faces a wave of protests Wednesday over unpopular labour reforms that have divided an already fractured government and raised hackles in a country accustomed to iron-clad job security. Follow our live blog for the latest news.

Youth organisations and unions have called for protests across France over labour reforms on the same day as a rail strike over a wage dispute that is set to cause transport chaos.

High school pupils are expected to take to the streets alongside unions, ecologist movements and university students over the controversial reforms.

France’s Socialist government has faced massive blowback — including from within — to measures that would give bosses more flexibility in hiring and firing, in a bid to turn around a record 10.2 percent unemployment rate.

The reforms spell out simple conditions such as falling orders or sales, or operating losses, as sufficient cause for shedding staff. They would also cut overtime pay for work beyond 35 hours — the work week famously introduced in the 1990s in an earlier Socialist bid to boost employment.

An online petition against the El Khomri draft law, named after Labour Minister Myriam El Khomri, has attracted more than a million signatures while a poll showed seven in 10 people were opposed to the proposed changes.

Meanwhile, trains are expected to suffer “severe disruption” due to a strike as workers demand salary increases. The Paris Metro will remain largely unaffected.

France 24.

Ensemble.

It is not at all popular: L’Humanité reports:

Anti-Austerity Protests and New Movements in Belgium.

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Crédit photo<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
: Alexandre Demarbre<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
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En front commun, les syndicats entendent protester contre les mesures du gouvernement Michel.<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />

Protests against Austerity – supported by all the trade union federations – are taking place in Belgium today.

They are demonstrating against the latest round of cutbacks of the Michel Coalition government (a centre-right cabinet backed by the hard-right Flemish nationalists of Bart de Wever).

On the spot news here (in French).

Tout autre chose/Hart boven Hart (Another thing Completely/ Heart Over Heart) – a citizens’ movement partly inspired by Podemos – took to the streets yesterday in Brussels for a ‘parade’.

The parade consisted of ten blocs, each representing the theme “Any other horizon”.  These were “common goods  by and for all,” “tax justice”, “a place for every generation,” “solidarity against poverty”, “dignified work”, “a nurturing environment,” “value our diversity “,” ecology:  it makes sense, “citizens without frontiers “and” dare democracy! “. Podemos, MOC (Mouvement Ouvrier Chrétien) and sp.a. (socialisten en progressieven anders, a small left split from the Flemish Socialist Partyjoined with a float  “against capitalism” during the parade. Pro-Palestinian protesters, too, decided to make their voices heard during this event.

Reports Le Soir.

17 000 personnes ont bravé la météo pour la parade Tout Autre Chose  Russia Today says,

Rainy weather in Brussels did not stop tens of thousands of people from protesting against austerity measures introduced by the new Belgian government. Attendance estimates from police and organisers differed sixfold.

The rally saw somewhere between 17,000 and 20,000 people on Sunday, RTFB broadcaster reported, citing police estimates. Meanwhile, march organisers claimed that up to 120,000 people participated.

Image from HART BOVEN HARD Facebook page Some are wondering if Belgium is about to experience a Podemos type movement.

The Work Agenda: What happened to the leisure society? Rory O’Kelly. Review.

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How Should We Look at Work? 

The Work Agenda: What happened to the leisure society? Rory O’Kelly.

Chartist Free E-Book.

O Laziness, have pity on our long misery! O Laziness, mother of the arts and noble virtues, be thou the balm of human anguish!

Paul Lafrague. The Right to Be Lazy. 1880.

One of the sections of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twentieth Century deals with the justification of colossal salaries and wealth. The media, he observes, is full of stories about business ‘stars’. They are used to indicate how graft and talent are rewarded. There is a “just inequality, based on merit, education, and the social utility of elites.” (1) Everything is slanted to suggest that that the majority of high-earners and the well-off deserve their rewards. Criticisms of pay and bonuses come when these are gained without apparent hard work.

Piketty enjoys pointing out that is impossible it is to demonstrate any connection between effort and reward in the modern economy. The part of social wealth going to Capital, and the well-off, increases regardless of individual cleverness or toil. Much depends on “luck”, the ability of top mangers to fix their own pay, and the influence of the wealthy to press for low taxes. Entrepreneurs, like Bill Gates, turn into rentiers, with more cash as they get older, they live off an initial innovation that was rarely one person’s discovery in the first place. In sum, to those that have, shall be given.

Many accept this case. But there are deeper problems. It is not just that certain kinds of elite work are valued, leaving others – the majority – aside. Why is ‘work’ itself such a self-evident virtue that it makes those not-in-work look as if they are afflicted by vice? O’Kelly begins the excellent and thought-provoking The Work Agenda, by stating, “Work is seen as good in itself and maximising the number of people working and the amount of work done as self-evidently right.”

This assumption looks strange in the light of 1960s (and much later) predictions about automation and the ‘leisure society’. Paul Lafargue looked forward to a time when, thanks to the abundance created by technology, slogging your guts out was not the goal of existence. The 1970s and 1980s saw criticisms of ‘productivism’ and the cult of labour in socialist ideology. André Gorz’s Adieux aux proletariat (1981) took up these ideas. He suggested that in a “post-industrial” society people should control what is produced. They could share work according to need, and wants, with a universal guaranteed income, and more and more free-time. More modestly the French left in the late 1990s thought that the 35 Hour week would be a step in this direction.

Today, however, O’Kelly says, the obsession with the absolute value of ‘work’ blocks people from considering a “rational way of sharing the output of a society across all the members of society.” Many people may well spend time on benefits, over the course of a lifetime. Others, of a whole range of reasons, may be on them for much longer. Structural long-term unemployment is a feature of all Western societies, as is the need to help those who are incapacitated

Instead of recognizing this, and adapting social spending to it, governments, from Tony Blair onwards, have tried to push everybody into work – regardless of their medical condition, the needs of the labour market, and the rights or wishes of those to be pushed in this direction.

Putting the Disabled to Work.

The Work Agenda does not dwell on the ideology of work. Instead it is devoted to how the doctrine is used to undermine the basis of social benefits. This is most obvious from changes to the benefits for the disabled. The idea that ‘work is the best form of welfare’ is applied to the sick (which covers a multitude of diverse categories of people). There is an economic rationale, “Getting people into work is pursued primarily as a way of reducing transfers between working and non-working people; in simple terms: the cost of benefits.”

Fitting square pegs into round holes barely begins to cover the injustices that have resulted from these policies. Known to the general public through the scandals surrounding ATOS, and the ‘assessments’ of those claiming disability benefits, these are part of a much wider picture. O’Kelly’s background in the social security system helps him come to grips with the detail. He clearly knows the operations of what is now the DWP inside out, and uses them to great advantage.

The Work Agenda lays out the history and rationale of the present structure, “The driver behind the Welfare Reform Act 2007 and the creation of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) was the belief that by changing the definition of incapacity sick or disabled people could be made capable of work.” As he notes, “Until recently the medical situation was taken as an objective starting point to which the benefit system then had to respond. The great change in 2007 was to take the needs of the benefit system as the starting point (my emphasis) and to change clinical definitions to conform to those needs.” This was, as we know, a Labour government, or ‘New Labour’,  that made this turn.

O’Kelly argues (on the basis of close acquaintance with the civil service decision-making) that there never was a time when large numbers of people were classified as medically unfit in order to reduce the unemployment figures. There were always rigorous tests. What has changed is that governments have decided to change their nature.

Now it might seem reasonable – and it’s repeated often enough – to assert that there are large numbers of people who “choose” not to work. But in the case of invalidity benefits there is a simple way of determining this: medical advice. Present legislation is designed to alter the character of this criterion. Instead even ill people can be judged “capable” of working – according to a fairly loose test of what being able to carry out basic tasks is, including those even those objectively unwell can do. This O’Kelly says, means. “Effectively moving sick people into employment without improving their health”. This process is “likely simply to transfer the costs of sickness from the benefit system to statutory sick pay and private sick pay schemes.”

The problem then is not that ATOS is a particularly venal organisation – though opinions might differ on this after the company’s dissembling and bleating about being harassed. It is the changed nature of the tests for incapacity that drives the injustices that they have caused.

A persistent case is that mental troubles are rarely easily definable according to a check-list of questions and a short interview with an assessor. There are plenty of other not always ‘visible’ illnesses. As the pamphlet indicates, “It is a striking fact that the classes of people whom the government is most anxious to take off benefits for incapacity overlap very largely with those whom no rational employer (in either the public or the private sector) would want to take on.” As somebody who has sat, during various employment courses, with people with very serious mental-health issues, and others with deep health problems, we might equally ask why they are obliged to take these “preparation for work” training schemes.

Back to First Principles.

Returning to question the principles he began with, O’Kelly makes the observation that “Work (i.e. paid work) is essentially economic activity; the creation of goods and services. It is not a form of welfare, it is not a form of therapy and it is not a punishment. It can of course be used in any of these ways, rather as a stiletto heel can be used to hammer a nail into a wall. It does not do the job very well, however, and it is not very good for the shoe either.”

The work agenda is used, in effect, to “Micro-manage the lives of the poor”. Not only the disabled on what is now the Personal Independence Payment (PIP), but anybody on benefits,

are now subjected to close surveillance over their lives. This erodes personal autonomy, and increases dependency. The DWP, and private companies gaining rent from public contracts, are entrusted with the power to grossly interfere in people’s lives. They claim rights over claimants. They have fewer and fewer responsibilities to them.

For those “success stories” who get off benefits, O’Kelly notes, “The present system does also however offer scope for giving notional employment (or self-employment) to people who are able to do very little and who will continue to get the great bulk of their income through the benefit system whether nominally ‘employed’ or not. Some of these people will get psychological benefits from ‘working’; for others the effect will be the reverse.”

It might be suggested, as O’Kelly does, that the Ministers in charge of these policies have little experience of the world of ordinary work themselves. More insidious is the influence of the welfare-to-work industry. They influence policy to an undue degree, essentially with their claims to propel people into the – self evidently good – world of work. That claimants dislike them and that they are unable to meet the demands of their contracts (notoriously over the Work Programme) and capable of dissembling about their operations, is ignored.

In the meantime few people question the absolute value of this “work”, or why so many people spend their lives in low-paid, insecure, unrewarding employment. Or why those with Capital get so much more, including a slice of the revenue of those obliged to claim benefits – forced onto the welfare-to-work schemes run with the profits of wealthy private contractors foremost in mind. The culmination of this process will come when claimants will, as the Help to Work programme intends, have to work for their benefits. (2)

*******

(1) Page 419 Capital in the Twenty-first Century. Thomas Piketty. Harvard University Press. 2014.

(2) Picketty suggests that some free marketers propose the following “Instead of holding public debt via their financial investments, the wealthiest European households would becomes the direct owners of schools, hospitals, police stations, and so on. Everyone else would then have to pay rent to use these assets and continue to produce the associated public services.”(Page 541 – 2 Op cit). This is in effect happening in the United Kingdom, beginning with PFI. The welfare-to-work industry in effect is given a chunk of the welfare state and everybody’s taxes are used to pay rent to the owners of their enterprises.

You can read The Work Agenda as a free E-Book by clicking here.

Don’t Defend the Big Issue: John Bird is no friend of the Unemployed and Backs Workfare.

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Workfare Backing Bird at the launch of a Big Society initiative 

The Big Issue claims that its mission is this,

The Big Issue offers people who are homeless the opportunity to earn their own money; a livelihood.

Now its founder, John Bird (MBE) faces a challenge.

Iain Duncan Smith has said the magazine sold by the homeless, the Big Issue, is being used by immigrants to claim benefits.”

Following a speech on welfare policy in Berlin, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith was quoted in the Times newspaper as having referred to the Big Issue magazine while discussing the issue of benefit tourism.

Mr Duncan Smith praised the magazine, saying it was “a brilliant idea by a brilliant individual, who himself was homeless.”

However he added: “But actually what is happening progressively, more and more, is people mostly from southern and eastern Europe have actually ended up being Big Issue sellers and they claim, as self-employed, immediately, tax credits.”

The government also said the new earnings threshold would “help ensure that benefits only go to those who are genuinely working”, and that it was being introduced “as part of the government’s long-term plan to cap welfare and reduce immigration.”

Of the 3,500 vendors currently registered by the Big Issue, 25 per cent are Romanian or Roma, 66 per cent British and the remainder other nationalities.

But the Big Issue says that the average weekly earnings of its vendors are currently £47.10 – well below the minimum earnings threshold to qualify for in-work benefits.

Defending himself founder of the Big Issue said,

The Big Issue was set up to lift people into work and reduce the chance of people in need ever to resort to wrong doing. By giving people a hand-up rather than a hand-out it is providing a real and ongoing cost saving for the taxpayer.”  Channel Four.

Before anybody starts defending the Big Issue remember this.

Here is the reason unemployed activists loath it from the bottom of their hearts,

The best way to defend the benefit system is to remove the rotten part of it. The part that takes able-bodied people and turns them into kids waiting around for the arrival of their pocket money.

And with 85% of our prison system full of people from a workless background, you can see that these kids can get into trouble.

Since 1991 when I set up The Big Issue I have tried to get people back working rather than begging or wrongdoing.

I believe that work, any kind of work, is better than hanging around waiting for something to drop into your lap. As an ex-offender, beggar, rough sleeper and heavy drinker, I can say that it isn’t much of a life.

Yet many well-intentioned liberally minded people defend the right of people to live an often defeated life. A life where their health and mental wellbeing is destroyed. Simply because we give people a handout rather than a hand up.

I have stood against the growing use of benefits that stop people building a life for themselves. Why is it that the amount of people who are on benefit who get to our top colleges is less than 1%? How is it that many of the children whose families are trapped on benefit do poorly at school?

Why? Because benefit does not help them. It is dressed up to look like a social support system but is in fact like a big brick wall built around people who desperately need support to get out of poverty.

The benefit system needs to change. It cannot be an endless alternative to work. It has to come with strings attached. People on benefit must help people in the community who need our help – the old, the disabled and the needy.

So Bird is in favour of Workfare.

He is also in favour of his own nice littler earner.

On television  Bird went so far as to suggest that he was helping stop criminality (that is, amongst Roma migrants) by giving them work.

One might ask what that has to do with homelessness.

Some people think that the main objective of the Big Issue is to sustain its own business.

This is this individual’s political background,

A member of the Workers Revolutionary Party in the 1970s,  in March 2007 he announced his intention to stand for election to the post of Mayor of London as an independent candidate.  In May 2007 he unveiled his election manifesto for the 2008 poll.

In October 2007 he announced that he had decided not to stand for election, and was instead going to launch a movement that was “going to try and do what the CND did over the bomb, but over social injustice.”

In December 2007 he agreed with Westminster Council who declared that they were opposed to the presence of soup kitchens on the streets of London. He said:

We have to stop supplying people with the means of being emergency refugees on the streets… no one has ever got off the streets simply because they’ve been fed a good bowl of soup.[9]

In 2010 he helped to launch the writers website abctales.com

In the early 21st century, Bird became a Social Enterprise Ambassador. Social enterprises use a business to address a social or environmental need. The Social Enterprise Ambassadors programme is led by the Social Enterprise Coalition and is supported by the Office of the Third Sector, part of the UK government’s Cabinet Office.

Bird revealed in 2010 “My guilty secret is that I’m really a working class Tory. There, I’ve said it. I’d love to be a liberal because they’re the nice people but it’s really hard work – I can’t swallow their gullibility and I think their ideas are stupid. I’d love to be someone who wanders around in a kind of Utopian paradise seeing only the good in everybody but I just can’t. I support capital punishment for a start. I know this will destroy my reputation among middle-class liberals but I’m 64 now and I should be able to breathe a bit. Wearing the corsetry of liberalism means that every now and then you have to take it off. Wikipedia.

 Nobody should defend this self-promoting right-wing  charlatan. 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 6, 2014 at 10:54 am

Hate on the Dole: George Osborne to Make Unemployed “pick up littter.”

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‘Community Service’ Osborne’s Solution to Mass Unemployment.

The Daily Mail exults, “Benefits will be stripped from the long-term jobless unless they work full time picking up litter, removing graffiti or preparing meals for the elderly.”

“George Osborne will today announce details of the US-style ‘work for the dole’ programme, starting within six months and affecting 200,000 welfare claimants.”

The Independent reports the crucail details.

200,000 people a year who have claimed jobseeker’s allowance for three years will lose benefits unless they take up one of three options after two years on the Work Programme:

  • Thirty hours a week for six months of community work such as making meals for the elderly, cleaning up litter and graffiti or charity work, plus 10 hours of “job search activity”.
  • Daily attendance at a jobcentre  to search for work instead of a  brief interview once a fortnight.
  • A mandatory intensive regime for claimants with underlying problems such as mental health, drug addiction or illiteracy.

Although the benefit sanctions will be controversial, the Tories regard the “work for dole” scheme as an example of “tough love” and insist their aim is to help the jobless back into work.

We note,

Statistics released by the DWP today show that the performance of the Work Programme – which was already achieving less than doing nothing at all – is steadily getting worse.

By June 2013 a lower percentage of people who had been on the scheme for one full year had found a job which lasted at least 6 months  – known as a sustained job outcome – than in the previous two months.  In April 2013 14% of claimants who had been on the scheme for one year had found sustained jobs, by June this had dropped to 13%.*

Boycott Workfare  rightly compares the plans to the punishments given out to those who have broken the law.

Unemployed people and campaigners have condemned George Osborne’s announcement that long-term unemployed people will be forced to work unpaid or face losing their social security as a criminalisation of unemployed people.

The maximum community sentence that a judge can hand out is for 300 hours, but claimants on six-month workfare schemes are already being forced to work without pay for 780 hours. The four-week Mandatory Work Activity scheme is already the equivalent of a medium level community service order that a person might receive if they were found guilty of drink driving or assault.

When a similar scheme was introduced in the US, thousands of jobs in the Parks Department were lost in New York alone – to be replaced with forced unpaid workers. Similar case studies have emerged in the UK, where workfare placements are already taking place in hospitals, council offices, charities and businesses.

What is the record of previous workfare schemes?

A pilot has already been tried.

Boycott Workfare commented on the results,

The preliminary results are from the trailblazer pilot, which tested CAP along with Ongoing Case Management (OCM) – “a more intensive a more intensive offer of flexible and personalised adviser-based support, as well as a set of mandatory activities, delivered by Jobcentre Plus through increased adviser interventions for six months”. These two schemes were tested with a control group continuing on standard job centre plus, and participants randomly assigned to the schemes.

Fifteen to 18 per cent in each programme strand had entered paid employment, become self-employed or were waiting to start work at the time of the survey, six to seven months after starting on the trailblazer. These job outcomes did not vary significantly between programme strands, nor did the types of jobs entered, take-home pay and hours worked.

For participants on OCM, those who reported receiving more personalised support to their individual needs were significantly more likely to be in work at the end of the programme. However, for CAP participants, neither attending a placement nor receiving jobsearch support were significantly associated with a job outcome around the end of the programme.

The majority of participants reported being in receipt of JSA at the time of the survey. DWP statistics published alongside this report found statistically significantly lower levels of benefit receipt for both CAP and OCM participants compared to the control group about six months after starting the programme.

The degrading sight of the Chancellor of the Exchequer announcing, with glee, that the out-of-work will have to clean the streets, wash the walls of scribblings, and cook for the old, awaits us today.

His Minister of Work and Pensions, Ian Duncan Smith, is said to be devout Catholic.

Not doubt that played something in the decision to make life hell on earth for the unemployed.

Important Update.

Johnny Void points out how the hard right Policy Exchange has manufactured statistical support for Workfare.

“The general public’s opinions on workfare have been grossly distorted by the nature of the questions asked in this survey.”

* The TUC said (26 September 2013),

Work Programme is still failing to help vulnerable people, says TUC

Commenting on figures published today (Thursday) by the Department for Work and Pensions on the government’s Work Programme, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

‘Despite the official spin, the Work Programme is still failing to deliver for many jobseekers.

‘Just one person in 25 is able to find a proper job after a year on the scheme, and disabled people have seen virtually no benefit since its introduction. Although there has been an increase in placements for those on those on the dole these improvements are starting to tail off.

‘The government is obsessed with punishing those out of work, rather than helping them find jobs. The best way to get to grips with our unemployment crisis would be to offer a jobs guarantee for anyone out of work for at least a year.’

Written by Andrew Coates

September 30, 2013 at 10:34 am

Blue Labour Comes Back and Wants (more) Welfare ‘Reform’.

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Not for Blue Labour.

Radio Four last night examined Blue Labour’s plans for welfare reform (You can hear it here. Transcript here).

Mukul Devichand opened with this,

These voices are the gurus of a new circle at the top of the Labour Party. They’re highly influential: in charge of writing the policies for Labour’s next manifesto and crafting Ed Miliband’s key speeches. And if you thought Labour would simply tinker around the edges of welfare, and reverse some of the cuts, you’d be rrong if this group had its way. Labour long ago jettisoned the idea that the central government could run industry. In this week’s Analysis, we’ll explore how this group also wants the central state to walk away from a top down model of welfare.

Following this Maurice Glasman opined, “The state is necessary, but as a external administrative neutral force it undermines relationships. It can undermine humanity.”

If that is an indication of the quality of New Labour thought we socialists on the dole can rest easy in our beds, till late afternoon if we wish.

The state is a relationship that can undermine humanity, might have been a more coherent idea.

But we let this pass.

Sir Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham then took another step backwards.

Here are his thoughts on the Welfare state,

I think the problem has been we forgot what it was originally set up for. It cuts people’s legs off. It rewards people the more need they can demonstrate. It does things for people and that’s a mistake. So for example on housing, if you come in and say, “I’m homeless, I’m in need,” we’ve rewarded in the past, we’ve rewarded people. The more need they have, the more likely it is we’ll support them. So you’ve got to show, you’ve got to prove that you can’t do things. That’s the wrong way to do it.

Perhaps Sir Robin has found a way of abolishing need.

Apparently so,

He began by stating,

The Soviets learned in 89 that it didn’t work. We still think we should run things centrally and we’re one of the most centralised states and a democratic state in Europe. It’s nuts. We need to do more in terms of pushing power and responsibility and opportunities down locally, and I’d argue that if we’re going to make the welfare state work there needs to be a much stronger local element where the community and the values of the community can be put to work. You cannot put something that meets an individual’s needs, you cannot structure that from the centre.

As Devichand wryly observed, the Soviets are not around to answer back.

He by contrast has set up Workplace, a local alternative to Job Centres,

The government’s Work Programme is a disaster, and it’s a disaster because it’s designed by civil servants to be run nationally and you don’t start with the employers. We go to the employers and say could we present people to you who are job ready, who are the right people you want? And the result is that not only do we get five thousand people into work; half of them are long-term unemployed, a large number are young people.

The Work Programme is in fact thoroughly decentralised.

It is delivered, in scores of different ways, by private providers, mostly companies, but including ‘social enterprises’ and charities.

This is the result of extensive lobbying by these providers (who’ve become the ‘unemployment business’) as first encouraged by David Blunkett, closely linked to one company (he served on its Board after setting the system up), A4E).

The system is unemployment business driven and nobody knows exactly what they’re going to get.

It is also news that Workplace is unique in going to employers, since that is exactly what all Work Programme providers do.

The root problem is deeper and simpler: there is not the work for the unemployed to be fitted into.

To test the success of Newham’s scheme we got people saying that they agreed that graft should be rewarded and skivers left out. This was not ,

a gathering of the local chambers of commerce; it was a crowd of the recently unemployed in East London, albeit hand-picked for us by Newham Council….

We are reaching the realm where the inhabitants of  Cloud Cuckoo Land go to get away from their mundane lives.

It is a sad indication of the ‘debate’ set up by Blue Labour that it was up to the Fabian Society General Secretary,   Andrew Harrop,  to talk some sense.

That the reasons why welfare is ‘centralised’ (that, is we all have the same rights and benefits are aligned to need) is that Beveridge,

wanted a uniform, consistent system, so that it was based on your citizenship rather than more arbitrary factors, and there’s still a lot of truth in that insight.

Polly Toynbee pointed out that if we decentralise welfare  in the way Blue Labour want

 In the end you might get some councils who say actually we care more about our municipal flowerbeds.

This is not a joke.

A percentage of  Council Tax benefit has been made payable by those on benefits and  decentralised under the Liberal-Tory Coalition.

Those in Liberal or Tory areas can pay twice or event three times what you pay in Labour ones. Poor areas have high charges, rich right-wing ones, despite their reserves, still shift the burden as far as they can onto those on the Dole.

Toynbee later observes,

I think Labour MPs know so well, they are so rooted in their own communities, many of which are very poor, what can’t be done. They know very well that you can’t take money away from the very weakest and very poorest and they won’t let it happen. So I’m pretty confident that this will end up being a creative policy with a lot of good ideas, that it will spark all sorts of things off, but don’t let’s imagine it’s a new 1945 settlement.

A creative policy?

The Analysis programme  did not go far into this.

But the rest of Blue Labour’s ideas, about contributive benefits, are equally askew. They would create a gap between sections of the unemployed. They would (and are) be hard and expensive to administer.

Countries that operate these schemes , like France, have had to introduce minimum levels of benefit to all, regardless of contribution, and still suffer from continual deficit crises in their systems.

The Living Wage is equally no panacea for low pay. With rents still rising, and the inflation rate on goods that the less well-off buy going up, it does not mean the good life for all.

Jeremy Cliffe, of the free-market Economist concludes,

The Attlee government, Labour’s perhaps most venerated and mythologised government, set in place a Welfare State which involved the benevolent state pulling levers, transferring wealth from those that had it to those that didn’t, and this involves moving on quite dramatically from that. And I think there are many in the labour movement, perhaps understandably those who have worked in the Welfare State, who see their constituents dependent on support in various forms from the Welfare State, those who are close to the trade Union Movement which is obviously rooted in the last fifty or so years of British political economy who are not comfortable with this.

Dropping the reference to the “benevolent state” (Cliffe just couldn’t resist saying that, could he? Still who can deny that  a 1st Class Degree from Oxford teaches you things) and what do we have at fault?

That there is a “transfer of wealth“.

Is this something Blue Labour is against?