Sunday, 6 September 2009

Mass unemployment is back: labour movement must act

The following offering is from Workers Power who I don't really know allot about, but this article caught my eye because it makes some good points that I find agreement with.

Workers Power 337 – August 2009

Unemployment is now rising at a rate not seen since the early 1980s and is forcing millions of people into a poverty trap.The unemployment rate was 7.6 per cent for the three months to May 2009, up 0.9 over the previous quarter and up 2.4 over the year. This is the largest quarterly increase in the unemployment rate since 1981. The number of unemployed people increased by 281,000 over the quarter and by 753,000 over the year, to reach 2.38 million. This is the largest quarterly increase in the number of unemployed people since comparable records began in 1971.In many working class neighbourhoods, unemployment is already passing 10 per cent. As this year’s school and college leavers enter the job market, prospects are pretty bleak. Labour’s response is to blame the unemployed, while making it increasingly difficult to claim benefits. Just after Labour came into power 12 years ago, they introduced the New Deal scheme. Under the scheme, long-term unemployed people are forced to do full-time “training courses” if they wish to continue receiving benefits.A recent BBC report on the scheme presents a damning picture: “People all over the country have complained to the BBC about the compulsory courses which are run by private companies contracted by the DWP [Department of Work and Pensions].”New Deal trainee Darren also complained there was not enough room for people on the course. “There would be a class of 30, but only about 18 chairs,” he said.” (BBC News website 4 April 2009)Now the government’s Welfare Reform Bill will only make things worse. The bill, thought up by former investment banker David Freud, will mean that anyone unemployed for more than a year will be forced to work in return for benefits. It will introduce new punitive sanctions against job-seekers not deemed to be doing enough to find work, including increased powers to stop benefits altogether.The bill will also require single parents and disability claimants to actively seek work – again, under threat of having their benefits stopped.It is clear that this bill aims to introduce “workfare”. Claimants who are unemployed for more than two years will have to work full-time in return for their benefits. “Workfare” is effectively super-exploitation of the unemployed as participants will be paid less than £2 an hour.Equally important, it is an attack on all workers. Those being paid less than half of the minimum wage, forcing down wages and making yet more workers unemployed, shall undercut those who would be employed at the going rate for the job.Unemployment represents a massive attack on the wages and conditions of the working class as a whole. Workers who are laid-off are often grateful to find another job, even if it means taking a big cut in pay. Those who are still in work feel under pressure to keep their heads down, work hard and accept pay cuts.The trade unions must now act:• Organise a national unemployed workers movement.• Oppose the Welfare Reform Bill.• Smash the anti-union laws.

1 comment:

Chris H said...

A good article from them Jim.

The suggestion for a new national unemployed wrokers movement is apt given your recent post about the activities of Alec McFadden in organising one in Salford. One can but hope that such an ideal can remain immune from left sectarianism.

The name David Freud is interesting as he was hired by Blair to look at reviewing the welfare system. Apparently his success in the City puts him as an obvious candidate for such a task, as it's not what the system can do for the worker but what the system can provide for private capital.

It's good to see how policy is now being driven by unelected groupings and individuals. Freud, Mandelson, Lord and Lady this and that.

How long is it going to take us to get a system of government where those who govern have the interests of the whole electorate at heart?

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