Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2252

Profiting from misery

Jobcentre staff have told me there have been lots of complaints about Maximus—a company contracted by the Department for Work and Pensions to get people off the unemployment lists.

I’m unemployed. A Maximus advisor told me to apply for care work, which I have no experience in. He said that telling the employer about my previous experience would be a waste of time—and then asked me what I’d say if asked why I want the job. I said, “I don’t, you’ve asked me to apply.”

They threatened to sanction me for that.

One bloke who was homeless and had other worries refused to phone five employers who weren’t even advertising any positions. He was sent home.

I got a few hours work one week, but not enough to come off benefits. I had worked from 6.30am and went to Maximus straight after. But they wouldn’t even let me eat a sandwich for breakfast in the building.

You can’t eat or have cigarette breaks, no matter how stressed out you get.

When I found one week’s work I informed them about it. But they didn’t record it properly and sanctioned the benefits I should have been given the next week, which meant I was worse off.

Once they even told me that I couldn’t do an afternoon of paid work because I had to see them! They made one woman do three mock interviews and told her she had “failed” all three. They told her, “We haven’t got time to deal with you anymore.”

It’s bullying really. They’re like that even if you apply for every job out there. It doesn’t make sense. We’re not the cause of the unemployment problem, but Maximus treat us like we are—and they’re making money out of it.

They try to force people to apply for jobs you haven’t got a hope of getting just so they can get their commission. They say there are loads of jobs out there. It’s a total lie. I know how many people are chasing every job.

I get jobs from time to time and I enjoy my work. It’s usually part-time and temporary though, so I should be entitled to some extra money—but I’ve signed off from benefits.

I’d rather face financial crisis than put up with the treatment I get at Maximus.

They also throw you off Jobcentre training courses if you say anything “negative”—like talking to people about unemployment figures.

I was chatting to a few people about Socialist Worker meetings. They reported to the Jobcentre that I was being “disruptive” and I was called into an interview room where they threatened to sanction me if I “start trying to recruit people”. I told them I’d look forward to it!

I’m fully in support of the recent strike of Jobcentre workers. They’re facing cuts and if the government gets away with it, it’ll mean less help for people who need it and more people unemployed.

Name withheld, by email

Fighting the cuts in Wales

Labour did very well in the Welsh Assembly elections, unlike in Scotland. Their vote was up by 75,000—a 10 percent increase.

They won half the seats and will now form a government on their own.

Labour in Wales did well for the same reason as the SNP in Scotland. In recent years they’ve been seen as an Old Labour bastion that resisted New Labour’s “reforms”. Now they seem most likely to resist this government and its cuts.

Devolution meant that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were unable to push through as much of their neoliberal programme in Wales as England.

We have no academy schools, no Sats, and financial help for Welsh students—including the education maintenance allowance. There is less privatisation in the NHS and free prescriptions. Wales is far from being a socialist paradise—but there is more of the welfare state left to defend.

With the Tories in control the left is strengthened. The Welsh TUC protest against the cuts in March was a sign of its revival.

Another sign was the outrage in recent days when it seemed that Labour leader Carwyn Jones was about to make a coalition deal with the Lib Dems. Emails flew around with threats of resignations.

Wales will suffer greatly from public sector job cuts. And the Tories will no doubt try to strangle the Welsh Assembly financially through budget cuts.

The potential exists to build a united anti-cuts coalition and strong resistance to the attacks.

Two other election results were significant. One was the crash in support for the BNP—their vote was halved. The other was Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party doubling its vote to 23,000.

This shows an increase in those wanting a socialist alternative and a real fightback against the cuts.

Jeff Hurford, Bridgend

We need democracy, not new ways of voting

The alternative vote may well have been rejected—but the referendum result didn’t necessarily mean there was any great public enthusiasm for the current first past the post electoral system either.

There’s more to democracy than just voting—particularly when it’s only once every five years with little difference between the main parties.

The referendum only took place because it coincided with local elections—and electoral reform was some Lib Dem “vanity” project to make it seem they have influence in the coalition government.

Yet both results merely confirmed that the Lib Dems are paying the price for trying to be Tory and Labour at the same time—without being either.

The Tories, New Labour and the Lib Dems could all be in coalition and nobody would be any the wiser.

What the referendum clearly showed was the need for an alternative type of democracy—not an alternative vote.

We need a democracy where voters regularly exercise their opinions rather than being confronted with a ballot paper once in a while with a list of aspiring professional politicians and their parties.

Nick Vinehill, Norfolk

A new wave of revolt this May Day

Sincere greetings to all of you, and many thanks for your kindness in continuing to send me Socialist Worker while I’m in prison.

I’m celebrating May Day. The Arab revolutions shaking and overthrowing ruthless dictatorships are inspiring fresh revolutionary hopes everywhere.

The waves of world revolution striking the Arab coasts are heralding a new historical period worldwide.

The global capitalist crisis is revealing the limits of the system, and the awful decay from which the working class suffer severely.

The great demonstration of half a million people in London on 26 March and the militant British student movement are another source of our revolutionary excitement.

I wish for May Day to bring further gains for struggles of the working classes and the oppressed all over the world.

Turkey’s Takbim Square, where meetings were banned after a bloody massacre on a May Day over 30 years ago, was reclaimed last year by hundreds of thousands of people.

I wish you achievements in all your struggles.

Serkan Gundogdu, Tekirdag 1 Nolu F Tipi, Hapishane, B1 3G, Turkey

Who’s policing the police?

The Tories plan to give more power to the police.

They say they want to cut “red tape” to allow the police to “do their job”. They say to the police “we are no longer going to be looking over your shoulder all the time”, and give the message that they trust the police to do their job.

It sounds like they want to remove checks for corruption so that the police can spend more time clamping down on protesters.

Most significantly they said they wanted to let police—not prosecutors—decide whether to charge someone.

What about when it’s the police that have done the crime?

Name withheld, Leeds

Lib Dems are taking the hit

The Tories’ strategy is genius. You tell people that you are dropping the price of petrol (then don’t) and talk about the “big society” (then try to sell it off and cut services).

You say you care about people’s happiness (then make them redundant and try to sell their woodland).

You talk about social mobility (then increase tuition fees). You say you won’t touch the NHS (then try to “reform” it).

You hope people believe what you are saying, instead of the reality. And whatever people do notice, you just blame your weaker partners.

It seems to be working too, by the look of the election results.

Don Williamson, Newport, South Wales

Labour loses, can left gain?

Labour’s humiliation in the election to the Scottish Parliament is entirely self-inflicted.

One of the shocks of the night was the defeat of Frank McAveety in Shettleston, in the Labour heartland of Glasgow’s East End.

I don’t think it is a coincidence that the Accord centre for disabled people—due to be demolished to make way for a car park with no alternative to be provided—is in his constituency.

Because Labour is in control of local government, it is taking the hit for the £1.3 billion in Tory cuts pushed through by the SNP government.

Instead of pushing the cuts through at council level, Labour needs to fight them.

However, New Labour are incapable of capitalising on the anger these cuts generate in working class people.

This is because it is still wedded to neoliberal policies.

Unfortunately, the far left have failed to provide an alternative, being too busy fighting among ourselves.

This has to change.

Duncan Brown, Glasgow

Keep all our options open

I agree that Nadine Dorries’ ideas about telling young women to abstain from sex are puritanical madness—not to mention incredibly dangerous.

I also think that as socialists we should defend the rights of young women to make all decisions about their bodies.

The right to free and fair access to abortion is vital—but so is the freedom for young women to choose to have children if they want them.

We should campaign to save and improve the services that make the lives of women easier.

Gwyneth Jones, Newport

Queen doesn’t give us more

I would like to disagree with Jonathan Goll (Letters, Socialist Worker, 14 May).

He claims that having the monarchy is better than having an elected head of state. This is not the case.

David Cameron has just as much power as US president Barack Obama, and it is better that every position is elected even if neither represent the people.

We need real democracy for all.

Josie Gail, Southend

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Article information

Tue 17 May 2011, 18:18 BST
Issue No. 2252
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