Sunday, 25 November 2012

WORKFARE TO WORKHOUSE.


     Not a new article, but still very interesting and relevant. It also makes the connection between workfare and the governments plans for expanding the the prison population by "tough" on crime, "tougher" sentencing. After all a prison population is a captive, union free work population, and more and more companies are using prisons as cheap labour pots.
      Workfare isn’t just an austerity measure, it’s part of a longer term restructuring of the labour market. That makes it all the more important to kill it while we still can.
      Workfare has been kicking up a twitter-storm again lately. First with such joys as a permanent job stacking shelves on the Tesco night shift for your £67/week JSA, and unpaid ‘pre-employment training’ which is “mandatory; (...) Claimant informed consent is not required.” Then later it was announced that “disabled people face unlimited unpaid work or cuts in benefit.” This got me thinking. Workfare significantly pre-dates austerity. Labour introduced the New Deal in 1998 during the supposed ‘boom’ years, which was rebranded the Flexible New Deal in 2009. The idea was to ‘help’ people who’d been unemployed for more than 6 months back into work with ‘voluntary’ training and work placements. This went hand in hand with demonising the unemployed as work-shy scroungers – workfare was purportedly to get them back into work.
     In the world of workfare, ‘voluntary’ of course means ‘we’ll sanction you if you refuse’. And if your JSA is sanctioned, it can interrupt other claims such as for housing benefit and cause serious cash-flow problems for claimants. The LSE professor who devised the New Deal was made a Labour peer – Baron Layard – and loads of private sector firms (many with links to Labour) got on the gravy train as ‘providers’. Notionally, this was about ‘helping’ people back to work in a context of relatively full employment and economic growth. The whole thing merrily rolled along until the recession hit, when the scheme was revamped and continued to do exactly the same thing – mandatory unpaid work on pain of losing benefits. Bizarrely, the rhetoric demonising ‘scroungers’ has escalated in keeping with the ratio of jobseekers to jobs. As someone pithily put it on twitter, “JOBSEEKERS: Empirically, there are no jobs, but ideologically, we have potential full employment IF YOU WEREN'T SO LAZY.”
Read the full article HERE:

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