Socialist Worker

Punish the rich not the jobless

Tories' workfare plan hammers unemployed people | Cheap labour scheme is an attack on us all

Issue No. 2227

The Tories have launched a brutal attack on unemployed people to deflect criticism from the real scroungers—the rich.

This week’s white paper will force unemployed benefits claimants into unpaid work. If they refuse they will lose their benefits.

Bosses and the right wing press are revelling in the plans. The Daily Mail gleefully proclaimed, “The feckless unemployed will be forced to take part in a punishing US-style ‘workfare’ scheme involving gardening, clearing litter and other menial tasks for just £1 an hour in a new crackdown on scroungers.”

The scheme will allow the state to slash jobs and costs by using unpaid labour. In return unemployed people will receive their measly benefits of £65.45 a week for over 25s and £51.85 for under 25s.

The scheme is built on a big lie—that there are jobs waiting to be snatched up and if you haven’t got one it’s because you’re not trying.


On average, five people compete for every job. There are 459,000 jobs available across Britain and 2.5 million unemployed people—and that doesn’t include the 1.2 million part-time workers who want full-time work.

And it doesn’t include the hundreds of thousands more the Tory cuts will hurl out of work.

The unemployed are victims of a rotten system, not villains. The real scroungers are the pampered rich and the millionaire Tories.

The Tory cabinet—stuffed with people who haven’t done a decent day’s work between them—plan to punish people like Louise Whiteside, a 23 year old from Scotland.

She graduated from Dundee University with a first class degree but cannot find work. Louise told Socialist Worker, “Yesterday I applied for a job as a waitress in a hotel, which 250 people have also gone for.

“I’ve applied for 150 jobs in three months. I’ve been around Edinburgh, Dundee and Dumfries & Galloway handing out my CV.

“I worked so hard at uni, I didn’t expect this. Now I think I’m going to have to move in with my parents.

“I find the Tories’ lies about people on benefits repulsive. If they want to encourage us to work, then give us jobs—stop cutting them.”

The Tories’ plans are not only an attack on the unemployed.

Holly Smith, a GMB union rep for the refuse section of Brighton council, believes that every worker is in the firing line. “If an employer can get a worker to do a job for free, why would they pay someone a good rate to do it?” she asked.

“Health and safety standards, and hard won conditions, will go out the window. We do tough physical work, dealing with needles, broken glass, vomit—are they expecting untrained people, some with health problems, to do this work? It’s slave labour—a way of exploiting people.”

Councils facing cuts will throw workers on the dole and then get the same sort of people to do the same sort of work for free.


When a similar scheme was used in New York ten years ago it saw thousands of unionised workers replaced by unemployed people.

The new scheme will hit people who are disabled and lone parents harder than most. They have less flexibility and sink to the bottom of the employment pile when there are so many applicants for jobs.

Colin Hampton is coordinator of the Derbyshire Unemployed Workers’ Centres. He said, “Once a government can get people to work for benefits, everyone’s job is unsafe. They are throwing people onto the dole then talking about needing to create a working habit—it’s disgraceful.”

A government review of similar schemes in the US, Canada and Austrialia was published in 2008.

The review states: “There is little evidence that workfare increases the likelihood of finding work.

“It can even reduce employment chances by limiting the time available for job search.”

The Tories think unemployed people are weak and powerlessness. We need to fight them with unity between the employed and unemployed. And it’s vital that the unions take a lead in the fightback.

‘The problem is joblessness, not jobshyness’

Keith Woods is 37. He lives in Kent and trained as a teacher. He had a breakdown when his father died and stopped work. He hasn’t had a job for three years.

Keith said, “When I signed on this morning people were talking about the new scheme—they were furious. People said, ‘Where are the jobs?’

“I look for work constantly. Only five teaching jobs were advertised across Kent in the last two months. Eighty people applied for the last one—for just a few months work.

“The other jobs available last week were for a welder and a builder, which require training I don’t have, and a part time night job that would see me lose my housing benefit.

“I’ve been forced onto the ‘Welfare to Work’ scheme which means I have to meet with a private company that tries to make me do unpaid work.

“They offered me shelf packing for 30 hours a week. Someone used to be paid to do that job—I’m not stealing someone else’s work.

“Most of the time I’ve spent on the dole has been hateful—scrabbling around for money with no social life. It’s depressing.

“The problem isn’t ‘job-shyness’ it’s joblessness.”

Maximus cash

Maximus is the private company running the Department for Work and Pensions’s existing welfare to work scheme.

Its profits in the first nine months of 2010 shot up by 19.4 percent—to £131 million. And its top boss, Richard A Montoni, grabbed a pay package worth £2 million last year.

It seems not everyone is making sacrifices in Tory Britain.

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Tue 9 Nov 2010, 18:50 GMT
Issue No. 2227
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