Socialist Worker

Brown's Tory jibe at jobless

Issue No. 1686

'On the dole?-Your fault'

Brown's Tory jibe at jobless

"GET ON your bike!" That was the infamous insult hurled at the unemployed by arch-Tory Norman Tebbit in the 1980s. Now New Labour chancellor Gordon Brown is repeating the same message. He told the unemployed this week that there are plenty of jobs around. If they can't be bothered to find them it's their fault for being out of work, argued Brown. "It's about a get-up-and-go approach, not a giro approach," he said.

What an insult to those who face the misery of being unemployed, who scour job centre and newspaper ads desperately searching for work. Albert is a former south Yorkshire miner who lives in Barnsley.

"I'm nearly 53 years old. I'd love to work," says Albert. "But I've got bronchitis after working down the pit and I have white finger." His experience and that of his town could be echoed right across Britain. One in three men of working age in Barnsley is without a job. The area was wrecked after the Tories shut down the mines and manufacturing industry. Gordon Brown says there are a million job vacancies, matching the million people officially out of work.

But there are 1.3 million more people, people like Albert, who would love to work but have injuries and ailments from the toll of previous jobs. They are not even counted in the official unemployment figures. For people like Albert and countless others, the best they can find is rubbish jobs on the minimum wage. "My partner is disabled and we have three kids to look after. I cannot afford to take a job that is minimum wage. "I couldn't live off it. It's impossible," says Albert. Despite all Brown's talk of job vacancies, not a single week goes by without thousands of new job losses being announced. In just one week last month insurance companies CGU and Norwich Union announced 4,000 jobs would go when they merged. The very same week some 18,000 bank workers heard that they face the dole after the Royal Bank of Scotland took over NatWest.

Low pay and high rent

WHAT SORT of jobs are on offer for those seeking work? Dave Owens, a job centre worker in Liverpool, described what is available in his area: "There are lots of vacancies for call centres. These are all minimum wage or just about. A lot of them are part time jobs where the conditions are awful." The same picture can be found across the country. Even in the supposed "prosperous south" most jobs on offer are low paid. Those who try and move to areas like London in the hope that it may be easier to find a job hit another barrier.

They cannot afford anywhere to live on the miserable wages on offer. Albert from Barnsley tells an all too familiar story: "My wife's son went down to London to get a job, but he couldn't afford to buy a house down there. He couldn't afford to live there at all. Now he thinks he will have to move back up here." Gordon Brown's proposal of a cash lump sum to help the transition back to work is an acknowledgement of just how low paid many jobs on the market are. But a lump sum means nothing if you are then trapped in a poorly paid job with no help to pay your rent or access to state benefits.

Brown refuses to take measures that could create real jobs:

  • Taxing the rich to invest in public services that provide for people's needs while creating decent, secure jobs.
  • Increasing the minimum wage to a level people can live on.
  • Pouring money into education to provide decent training.

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Article information

Sat 4 Mar 2000, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1686
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