|Lies. Damned lies. Sadistics.|
The banner over the entrance to the Tory Party conference in Manchester this week may have read “For hardworking people”. But that was just another lie. This government – even more blatantly than the last one – governs on behalf of the richest. And the richest don’t work hard at all. So much for virtue.
In fact, the centrepiece of new policy announcements this week were snide measures calculated to make hardworking people receive even less compensation for their efforts, by using the unemployed as a battering ram against wages and conditions. Prices have risen higher than wages for all but one month since the coalition came to power, but the rate of exploitation will never be high enough for the ruling class.
When the new government announced the start of the cuts in 2010, I wrote that it represented: ‘the logic of the workhouse’, because:
“Despite his professed concern for the UK’s “broken society”, Duncan Smith wants to cut the welfare bill, and – perhaps more importantly from the ruling class point of view – exert downward pressure on wages, by having many more desperate people fighting for each vacancy.”
Duncan Smith has faced many difficulties imposing such attacks in the period since – both from legal challenges and grassroots activism. But while IDS himself seems to be a fading force, the latest measures are tougher still.
If the Tories get their way (and this is a big if considering the chaos surrounding past reforms), as Johnny Void reported:
“Osborne claims that 200,000 people will be forced into either full time workfare or massively increased conditionality – such as having to attend Jobcentres everyday. This will apply to people leaving the Work Programme, the two year scheme which is already costing tax payers a fortune and failing miserably.”
This new workfare scheme is expected to include tasks such as litter picking, and preparing meals for the elderly. At the moment however, fifty thousand unemployed people are leaving the Work Programme each month. With the new workfare scheme lasting six months, there could soon be 300,000 extra people at any one time performing unpaid work. In the context of deepening austerity, these people will effectively be forced to scab on employed people doing the same kind of things in return for a wage. More redundancies will undoubtedly follow, as workfare partly fills the gap.
“[…] will see unemployed people sent to sit around ‘job searching’ in Mandatory Attendance Centres for 35 hours a week. This is the kind of expert help for unemployed people that was so savagely satirised in the comedy show The League of Gentlemen featuring Pauline, the jobsworth jobs counsellor who took delight in humiliating and demeaning her ‘clients’.”
Today, David Cameron floated his intention to withdraw benefits entirely from under-25s judged not in education, employment or training, should the Tories win a majority at the next general election.
But it’s ridiculous to suggest unemployment is caused by some sort of laziness, as the Tories have again and again this week. Officially, there are currently 2.5 million people unemployed, and the government’s austerity policies have done much to exacerbate this during such economic crisis. But at any one time, there are only around 500,000 vacancies. This leaves five unemployed people chasing every job (not counting those in paid work who are looking for a change). It’s a dream scenario for the employer, who can offer lower wages and conditions, while raising the bar ever higher in terms of experience and qualification required.
The coalition has so far succeeded in using the five year old economic depression to dramatically increase the rate of exploitation – the gap between the value workers produce and the compensation they take home. We can’t allow this continue. Unemployed people must begin organising themselves – as they have started to do in Merseyside and other places over the bedroom tax. But those currently in employment must realise that the Tory welfare cuts are primarily aimed at making them work even harder for even less reward, and join in solidarity with those even less fortunate than themselves.