Currently, unemployed people can be made to work unpaid for large companies for up to a month. Under the new plans, the scheme will be extended to six months’ unpaid labour. Those who refuse will be stripped of their benefits and left to starve.
As we reported back in March, the negative publicity and protests did not result in the abolition of the scheme. Instead the government and big companies launched a major PR drive, while continuing to raise armies of unpaid workers to boost the profits of Britain’s richest companies.
Workfare means working up to 30 hours a week to continue receiving benefits at £53 a week. This works out at a measly £1.70 an hour – well below the official minimum wage. Working a 40 hour week on the minimum wage would still leave you below the government’s official poverty line.
The government insists this slave labour will give a work ethic to the unemployed – as though the 1 million unemployed youth are desperately trying to avoid working.
The hypocrisy of a government of millionaires talking about ‘work ethic’ at the same time that they are cutting hundreds of thousands of jobs is beyond belief. Prime Minister David Cameron only ever had one ‘proper’ job in his life – working at a friend’s PR firm practicing the lies and deceit necessary to a parliamentary career.
There are more than 1 million 16-24 year olds not in work, education or training, 20% of the total. Amongst Black youth the unemployment rate is 50%. There are 800,000 people who have been unemployed for more than a year.
There are 2.65 million people unemployed, but just 400,000 vacancies. This means 6 people chasing every job, but in areas of high unemployment like the north the average number of applicants per vacancy is much higher.
Even the welfare-to-work profiteers who run the scheme admit that less than a quarter of people on the scheme find work at the end. No matter, as long as the scheme continues to provide hundreds of millions of pounds’ profit for those involved.
Many people argue that rich companies making record profits can easily afford to employ people on proper wages. This is true. But in a capitalist market, ruled by the logic of profit, all wealth comes from the value created by workers. So inevitably, bosses must compete with each other to maximise profits by reducing the cost of their employees’ wages and conditions.
Neither the Tories, nor the Lib Dems have a real plan to eradicate unemployment – they think it’s a necessary part of society. High unemployment benefits the rich because they use the fear of sacking to keep their employees in line.
We demand an end to workfare. We won’t be made to pay the cost of a crisis we didn’t cause. We fight for an end to the minimum wage which discriminates against younger workers – we want a living wage which reflects the value we create. Instead of using us as unpaid labour to boost the bosses’ profits, the government should be taxing the billions of the super-rich and investing that in socially-useful jobs which will benefit our communities and society as a whole.
Ultimately, workfare is only the symptom of the wider disease – Capitalism and its crises, which is wrecking our lives and planet. Protests and campaigns can limit attacks and even win temporary victories like the NHS. But only socialism – the democratic economy managed by and for the working class – can start to bring about an end to the criminal waste of lives, talent and potential.
Abolish workfare – tax the rich to provide real jobs, training and education
For a living wage of £9 per hour
Share out the work – reduce hours with no loss of pay
Nationalise all companies closing down or sacking workers