Socialist Worker

Our unions must fight the scourge of unemployment

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2124

Brick factory worker David Salt is among thousands of workers who joined the dole queues this week. The 47-year old from Stoke-on-Trent was made redundant at a just a day's notice.

David says that the local job centre holds precious little hope.

'You could tell the staff were just going through the motions,' he says. 'They took my details and got me to sign the paper. You're just another number really.

'I looked around at the queue and thought – God, is this really what it's come to? Then they search a 30-mile radius for vacancies. There was nothing.'

Every day another 2,000 people are joining Dave in the hunt for work as economic crisis decimates Britain's manufacturing and service industries.

The Office for National Statistics last week announced that the jobless total jumped by 164,000 in the three months to August to stand at just under 1.8 million on the Labour Force Survey measure – the highest level for nearly a decade.

An alarming 5.75 percent of Britain's workers are now unemployed.

The latest figures cover the period just before the latest and most damaging period of the economic crisis and therefore do not include the most recent rash of closure announcements in the financial sector.

It is not just bank jobs that are going. Manufacturers laid off 46,000 workers in the three months to August.

Helpfully, New Labour's work and pensions minister James Purnell responded to rising unemployment by suggesting people may 'want some retraining to become a driving instructor or there may be people who are in banking that want to go into another form of banking'.

What we actually need is urgent resistance from the unions over jobs cuts. Every announcement should be met with action.

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Article information

Tue 21 Oct 2008, 19:30 BST
Issue No. 2124
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