liverpool anti-workfare action report

11 06 2012

Adam Ford took to the streets as part of a lively national campaign

 

On Saturday, around forty activists responded to a callout by Liverpool Solidarity Federation, and picketed companies profiting from the coalition government’s workfare scheme. The demonstrators generally won a sympathetic reaction from the public, and the contribution of local musicians provided a much-needed morale boost as the skies opened. Read the rest of this entry »





‘how do we break workfare?’ conference report

1 06 2012

On Saturday May 26th around fifty activists from around the country (although mostly the South-East) met in Brighton for a conference entitled ‘how do we break workfare?’. Here, Ollie Sutherland summarises the main conclusions of the conference

What is workfare and why we need to break it

Workfare is a direct and violent attack on regular working people. It is forcing those unemployed into unpaid labour to receive their benefits, claimed to be valuable work experience to make them more employable. However, the labour is things like stacking shelves – hardly valuable work experience, and is given to businesses (big or small) which have no intention of hiring more staff. In fact, because the businesses can get unpaid labour from the JobCentre or private work providers, they can fire existing staff who they have to pay minimum wage for. Some businesses, like Holland & Barrett, have explicitly said this is their aim – to exploit working people, using what is technically slave labour. The scheme originates from the government’s close ties to business: workfare is the state subsidising private companies, as in making people work in private companies to receive their benefits, the state is paying the workers’ wages (£2/hour or lower) while the businesses get free labour. Read the rest of this entry »





love nor money: unpaid work at tesco

2 04 2012

Sharon Borthwick looks at the absurd ideology behind last month’s row over workfare schemes

What a joke to have a national minimum wage if you are then allowed to pay your employees nothing at all. “Stacking supermarket shelves is better than dreaming of stardom via TV’s the X Factor”, smarms Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith. For a quiet man he doesn’t half come out with a lot of shit. What of young persons more pragmatic dreams, to gain paid employment after education?

Image

“The idea that we should allow a bunch of extremists to get in the way of providing genuine, voluntary help for young people is just crazy” says the indignant Chris Grayling referring to the successes of left groups including Boycott Workfare and Right To Work in either getting firms to withdraw from or postpone their involvement with the government’s workfare programmes, including Mandatory Work Activity whereby claimants can have their benefits withdrawn for thirteen weeks for not working for zero wages  for eight weeks. Read the rest of this entry »





back in the DHSS

5 01 2012

Terry Liddle looks back on a life working at the Department of Health and Social Security

Having graduated from university on to the dole and then working on a short-term Community Enterprise Programme, which I tried to organise into the NUPE union with little success, I was back signing on. One day the counter clerk at the Unemployment Benefit Office asked: “How would you like to come and work for us?” The “us” was the local DHSS office in Lewisham. After a literacy test, I started work on a Monday morning as part of the lowest grade – clerical assistant.

The work consisted of linking letters to claimants’ files which were never where they were meant to be often being buried under piles created by overworked Clerical Officers. It was boring and the pay lousy, but better than the dole! Read the rest of this entry »





giz a fightback: the ‘80s unemployed

10 09 2011

Unemployment threatens to hit early-1980s levels: but how can the jobless stand up to the government? Terry Liddle reflects on his experience of the unemployed movement in those years

In the early 1980s there were 3 million unemployed and students were moving straight from graduation to the dole queue. No exception, I went to sign on at Spray Street dole office in Woolwich. Outside a group of people were leafleting. They were Greenwich Action Group On Unemployment (GAGOU).  As the factories which lined the river from Erith to Deptford closed down, it was set up by the newly unemployed and a community worker from Greenwich Council, shades of things to come!

GAGOU spent a lot of time on individual cases of which there were many. In this we enlisted the help of sympathetic staff at the dole office. And in turn when they were in dispute our banner would appear on their picket line. But we did not make links with local union branches, many of which would not let the unemployed join, or with the Trades Council. Read the rest of this entry »





reflections on june 30th strike day: a movement taking its first steps

27 07 2011

For Izzy Parrott, the J30 day of action was about more than pensions: but it didn’t have the feel of a wide, grassroots movement. 

I went to the strike with Hackney Welfare Action, a benefit claimant and unemployed workers’ group in Hackney, where members support each other with problems at the Job Centre, take action collectively and campaign against ‘work for your benefits’. This is sister group to the Hackney Housing Group, which I’m personally involved in.

Hackney Welfare Action members first went to the picket line at Hackney Benefits Centre, which was a useful show of support for the three workers on the picket line, including one trade union representative. Only fifteen out of three hundred workers crossed the picket that was made up of three workers and roughly thirty supporters. The workers were pleased to have the support and the dialogue we had reminded me that the picket line is still a great place to have conversations! Read the rest of this entry »





more work, no pay

11 11 2010

editorial of The Commune

On 7th November the ConDem coalition announced its plan to force unemployed people to work a 30-hour week of manual labour to ‘earn’ the £65 Jobseekers’ Allowance.

Tory Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said the Work Activity scheme will “make work pay”. Quite the opposite. It will make people work for free, slaves to the state.

Government rhetoric claims that people in work are having to support the “work-shy”, and that this tax is unfair. Yet the whole coalition cuts project means that working-class people will get less services for the tax money they have to pay to the state, which is of course as high as ever. Read the rest of this entry »





for the right not to work!

8 06 2010

by Steve Ryan

The recent right to work conference was apparently a great success with some 600 people attending, a demo in support of BA workers after and a call to demonstrate on 22nd June, Budget Day.

technology has not reduced the workload, but rather increased its pace

All very good, but steps towards a truly communist society surely should recognise that work in itself is not the be all and end all of life. Read the rest of this entry »





who benefits from cuts?

31 05 2010

by Adam Ford

European governments have been announcing public spending cuts almost daily since they agreed a €750 billion ‘rescue package’ for the euro currency a fortnight back. Greece (€30 billion), Spain (€80 billion), Italy (£24 billion) and Portugal (£2 billion), were this week joined by the new UK government, which slashed £6 billion with immediate effect, and promised the financial markets much, much more.


In their statement, Conservative Chancellor George Osbourne and Liberal Democrat Treasury secretary David Laws (who would later be forced to resign following expenses revelations) declared there would be a civil service “recruitment freeze”, along with substantial losses for regional and university budgets. The Transport department will lose £683 million, meaning a drastic scaling back of badly needed road maintenance seems inevitable. Read the rest of this entry »





stop demonising the unemployed

16 05 2010

by Duncan Smith

Unemployment figures were up to 2.5 million by the end of March, and there’s no reason to think they won’t get any higher: some estimates put them as high as 3.3 million by the end of the year.

As well as rises in unemployment over the past few years, there have been increased attempts on the part of capital to project an image of criminality onto the unemployed, with high-level campaigns targeting “benefit thieves”. Such campaigns have the basic effect of portraying the unemployed as lazy, scrounging criminals, in what seems like a more-or-less conscious campaign to undermine solidarity on the part of the rest of the working class. Read the rest of this entry »





the deficit! the deficit! but what about unemployment?

18 04 2010

by Oisín Mac Giollamóir

Listening to the debate in the media today you would conclude that there is consensus amongst economists that the key problem of the UK economy is the deficit. And the key question is how to cut it. And the key election issue therefore should be how to cut spending. This is not the case.

Working backwards, perhaps the most ridiculous issue here is the notion that the only way of cutting the deficit is by cutting spending. Fraser Nelson of The Spectator goes so far as to say, “Cameron should ban the word ‘deficit’ and simply say ‘overspend’ instead.” It would seem that some right-wing commentators can’t add. A deficit arises when revenue is less than expenditure. An equally good way of cutting the deficit is by increasing revenue, i.e., by raising taxes. Saying the deficit is an ‘overspend’ is as idiotic as calling the deficit an ‘undertax’. Read the rest of this entry »





unemployment, work and capitalism: 12th april london forum

31 03 2010

The next of The Commune’s London public meetings on the themes of the election will be looking at unemployment. We will be discussing not only redundancies caused by the current crisis but also the role of the unemployed in capitalist society. Do we demand ‘the right to work’, and how can we organise against attacks on benefits claimants?

The discussion will be led off by Sean Bonney (The Commune) and Christine Hulme (PCS union, Department for Work and Pensions). The meeting takes place from 7pm on Monday 12th April at the Artillery Arms, 102 Bunhill Row, near Old Street. Read the rest of this entry »





crisis ploughs on in united states

25 02 2010

by Dennis Marcucci
from Philadelphia

Worst than expected economic reports and job cut announcements show that the prospects for working people in the USA and around the world are going to worsen. After all, most of the world is capitalist, and most of the world is poor. So what does that tell you about this canker sore of an economic system?

Wall Street economists had said that unemployment claims would fall below 450,000. They were wrong. There was only a slight decrease to 470,000. Any reports have to be viewed with suspicion. I was speaking to an “expert” economist on a radio talk show two weeks ago who was telling the audience how claims for unemployment fell. I said that what is not being reported is (i) workers who exhausted their benefits and are now off the rolls and are viewed as employed. (ii) workers who were collecting benefits and found part time minimum wage employment and (iii) workers working temp jobs or contract work. Read the rest of this entry »





action around unemployment

15 02 2010

by Brian Rylance

For those who experienced the deprivation caused by the recession of the 1980s, and were galvanized by the strength of the fight against it, there can be a feeling of hopelessness at today’s relative lack of organisation and militancy to defend the position of the working classes as many are pushed into unemployment again.

Vast numbers of people who struggled against Thatcherism will have used one of the many unemployed workers centres and heard the unions protest on behalf of those without work, but what of this 21st century global recession? It must be admitted that the fightback has been slow in gathering strength, but there now appear to be three main strands of resistance appearing. At a national level there are campaigns to protect the rights to benefits and protest against erosion of the safety net welfare state legislation. This is linked with an attempt to revive the unemployed workers centres that have shut. At a grassroots level there are attempts to create action groups with a more combative approach – some of these have been remarkably successful.

Read the rest of this entry »








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