Problems At Work? Contact A Real Fighting Union And Stuff Your Boss!

stuff-your-bossTo hear the current government talk you would think the business community are paragons of virtue – nobly trickling down wealth to the rest of us whilst sticking to the rules and giving us poor plebs something to do in the daytimes.

The reality, as anyone who’s ever had a real job knows, is that most businesses are a bunch of crooks, happy to rip off their workers, customers or even the state as long as it lines their filthy pockets.  And small businesses are often the worst despite the shrill calls from many well meaning folk that it’s just the bankers, or multi-national corporations, that are fucking up our lives.

Whether it’s rogue landlords or bent bosses, the only way to beat these bastards is through sticking up for each other and acting together – as workers, claimants or tenants.  As the working class, and don’t let any fucking idiot tell you that no longer matters – everytime a liberal says class struggle is over a stockbroker cracks open another bottle of champagne.  They know exactly what the game is, and they are terrified of us remembering we can fight back and win if we act collectively.

The Newcastle branch of the radical Solidarity Federation union have a track record of succesfully taking on exploitative employers and beating them.  They have just launched a new campaign to highlight worker’s rights and give support to local people being screwed over by their boss.  In their own words: “We specialise in the cases that other unions leave behind, and will show solidarity to all workers in struggle regardless of membership. SolFed has an excellent track record of winning case work. If you or anyone you know have a problem with your boss, get in touch.”

You can find more details on their website, please share and spread the word:

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Pauline Got Promoted! DWP Management Psychobabble Is Turning Jobcentres Into Cults

pauline-pensIf you want an example of the glassy-eyed idiots currently handed senior positions at the DWP then the twitter feed of the regional manager responsible for 149 Jobcentres in Central England is a good place to start.

When not attending tax payer funded leadership and emotional intelligence workshops, Sandra Lambert seems to spend most of her day tweeting ‘inspirational’ claptrap from her feed @CEDirector_WSD
The most disturbing thing is that she is not alone. This nonsense seems to extend across DWP management.

The Jobcentre is starting to look more like a cult than a public service.  And like most cults behind the bubbly and uplifting facade lies cruelty, exploitation and abuse. Here’s some more of Sandra’s motivational tweets, along with some words from the victims of the current sanction happy regime in Jobcentres.

“I have been told by staff at the Jobcentre that people like me are ‘scrounging scum’, and told ‘you don’t look sick, you’re lying’” 

MIND report into the impact of benefit conditionality on people with mental health conditions: Fulfilling Potential? ESA and the fate of the Work Related Activity Group,

“When some [staff] talk to you on the phone it is in such a derogatory way that you end up walking away wanting to end your life. Confidence and assertiveness takes a real hit.”

Fulfilling Potential? ESA and the fate of the Work Related Activity Group,

“losing my benefits brought back that feeling of insecurity and struggling… it brought me back to the behaviours that I was used to in addiction.”

High Cost To Pay Homeless Link report into benefit sanctions.

“I explained to my Jobcentre adviser that I suffer severe anxiety and IBS and cannot always leave my home; I gave doctors letters but she said if I didn’t attend [Work Programme provider] she would sanction my money. I had no choice but to go as I cannot pay for food and heat already. I attended the twin training centre and had an anxiety attack. I had to leave and find my way home feeling very ill and frightened; a horrific experience.” Fulfilling Potential? ESA and the fate of the Work Related Activity Group,

Caller E is being threatened with a sanction by her work programme provider. She is unable to leave her two daughters alone – one of whom has health problems – to attend back to work courses in the summer holidays. No help with childcare costs has been offered.

Gingerbread report: Single parents and benefit sanctions, November 2014 (PDF)

“My mum has been taken to court and fined for not being able to pay the shortfall in council tax and is struggling to pay the rent arrears accrued when I was sanctioned and the strain has quite literally smashed our family to pieces – I feel like a burden on her and have felt suicidal on more than one occasion.”

“My partner also cares for me so he was left incredibly stressed and upset from this situation [being sanctioned] due to firstly no money (he has to look after me full time pretty much) and secondly my conditions and mental state became so hard to cope with (it also affected his mental health, he attempted suicide when he could not cope).”

“Starved and lived off what I had [due to sanction]. Scrounged food from bins and only left the house after darkness fell. Had no electric or gas so had to get ready-to-eat food. Struggled and went without nothing for 3 days with just bread and a block of cheese that my friend kindly gave me as it was past its sell by date.”

“The stress put us both in hospital with stress-related problems. We were refused hardship payments but later got this [revoked] because we went to CAB and Shelter. It had a massive effect on our son, who at one point was being considered for going into care because we couldn’t provide for him.”

“I wasn’t long out of a safe house for domestic abuse I tried to commit suicide and my doctor had to put my medication up and I have to get someone to collect them weekly.”

All from Punishing Poverty, Manchester CAB report into the impact of benefit sanctions.

h/t @screenedout @lynnfriedli @boycottworkfare

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Benefit Delays Set To Soar As Waiting Period Increases To Pay For Workfare

macmillanThe number of people dependent on food banks is likely to soar as the government have pushed ahead with plans to increase the waiting period for the main out of work benefits.

According to the largest food bank provider, the Trussell Trust, benefit delays are the reason almost a third of claimants find themselves having to resort to emergency food packages.  On the 27th October this year the length of time before a benefit claim can be made upon becoming sick, disabled or unemployed increased from three to seven days.

Astonishingly this nasty little move was not done to save money.  In a response to a damning report on the change by the Social Services Advisory Committee (SSAC) the DWP admitted they would be “using the savings from the waiting days change help fund the administrative costs of the broader package of initiatives.”  What they mean by these initiatives are the ever increasing range of Jobcentre harassment and workfare type schemes which are backed with punitive benefits sanctions – the other main reason people have to use food banks.  People will have to wait longer for benefits to pay to administer the sanction they get when they are finally able to claim.

Despite being stuffed with Iain Duncan Smith’s cronies, the SSAC slammed the increase in the waiting period for benefits, agreeing with charities consulted that this is likely to lead to increased food banks usage.  The  Committee said these changes should not proceed without a “robust analysis of the costs and benefits”.  The DWP claimed they have already done this and that the increased conditionality for benefits will mean everyone gets a job and that will save loads of money.  They concede the change will mean some people will suffer hardship when going through periods of ‘disruption’ but they don’t appear to really care.

As the report notes, that period of disruption could include being diagnosed with cancer.  Those with a terminal diagnosis are exempt, however not all cancer patients are eliguble for that exemption.  As a result of submissions made by healthcare charities the SSAC said there is a ‘compelling case’ that those on ESA – the out of work sickness and disability benefit – should not have to face the longer waiting period for benefits.  The DWP rejected this, saying it would create a ‘perverse incentive’ for people to claim sickness benefits rather than the dole so they could fraudulently claim four days benefit, around £40.

The SSAC also recommended that details of Short Term Benefit Advances (STBAs) be published on the website.  These are the small loans that can be claimed if benefits are delayed.  As reported yesterday, the DWP have done everything they can to hide the existence of these emergency payments.  This is confirmed by the government’s response to the SSAC in which they reject this proposal saying that STBAs are not a: “separate scheme to be advertised in the way that benefits are.”  Therefore they will not, at least as of Autumn this year, be making the existence of these payments known online.

The DWP say they will publish details of the change in the waiting period for benefits on the website, which is very big of them.  Except they haven’t done.

Last week Iain Duncan Smith was pleading to anyone who would listen that he cares about people using food banks and will be doing ‘much more’ to raise awareness of emergency loans.  But this report reveals the truth about attitudes towards claimants who are hungry whilst waiting for vital benefits.  They really could not give a fuck about people forced to depend on food banks and are determined to make the problem worse.

You can read the report and the government’s response at:

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As Hunger Soars Iain Duncan Smith Is Still Hiding The Existence Of Emergency Benefit Delay Loans

IDS-malnutritionFollowing last week’s food banks report, which found delays in processing benefits are one of the key reasons for growing hunger in the UK, Iain Duncan Smith said to Parliament:

“Today I have announced that we shall be doing much more to raise awareness of interim payments for people who need them, particularly those who are in difficulty.”

These payments are called Short Term Benefit Advances (STBAs).  These are repayable loans that can be accessed whilst waiting fot the Jobcentre to get round to processing a benefit claim.  And the shameful truth is, that whilst the number of people using foodbanks has soared, the DWP have done everything they possibly can to hide their existence.

There is no mention of these payments on the section of the website which provides information on “Jobseeker’s Allowance and low income benefits”  or the section on “Benefits for families”.  In fact there is no mention of these loans on any government website at all except buried in policy documents.

This is not surprising.  When Short Term Benefit Payments were introduced, the jobcentre worker’s PCS Union warned that the DWP did “not intend to advertise the availability of STBAs to the public.”  When guidance on the Social Fund was later published, detailing the kind of help available from the government in an emergency, there was still no mention of these loans.

Short Term Benefit Payments were brought in to replace Crisis Loans which Iain Duncan Smith scrapped in April 2013.  These were small interest free loans which could be taken out if benefit payments were delayed or in the event of a household emergency.  The average sized loan was about thirty quid and the repayment rate was almost 100%.  So blasé was the Secretary of State about ending this vital support that when he was interviewed a year later he seemed to have forgotten his petty and vicious decision and claimed that they still existed.

Crisis Loans were a well publicised part of the benefits system and could be accessed by calling a dedicated phoneline. Unlike STBA’s, Crisis Loans still even have their own webpage – which states they no longer exist in Scotland, England and Wales – but makes no mention of their replacement.  This is not an oversight as Iain Duncan Smith is now trying to pretend.  It is clear that as families with children have gone hungry whilst waiting for benefit claims to be processed, the DWP have pursued a strategy of hiding information detailing the emergency payments they are entitled to.

The reason for this has not been to save money or cut the deficit, these loans barely cost the tax payer a penny.  The existence of these payments was hidden out of pure spite – to deliberately make life harder for people in desperate circumstances to access the help they need.  Now we are seeing the results of that policy with unprecedented numbers of people dependent on food banks to survive this Christmas.  That means children going hungry and all because of a nasty and vindictive little move by Iain Duncan Smith – and one that he is now trying to hide.  Don’t let the bastard  get away with it.

Short Term Benefit Advances can only be accessed by speaking to Jobcentre staff.  Child Poverty Action Group have published details on how the process works.

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Custard Creams Are Cheaper Than Cous Cous, But You Can’t Expect A Fucking Baroness To Know That


The lowest priced flavoured Cous Cous, at £4.55/kg, costs five times more than a kilo of custard creams.

Anyone who claims that healthy food is a cheaper option has clearly never enjoyed the dubious nutitional delights of a pack of Everyday Value Custard Creams (35p, 1,972 calories).

They’ve also probably never been to a supermarket.  Or at least never been to a supermarket with less than a tenner to last until the end of the week and two kids to feed.  This hasn’t stopped a string of pompous twats from appearing in the media this week and telling us how much better they would be at being poor than the plebs using foodbanks.

The nearest supermartet, who shall remain nameless because they are bastards, sells a kilo of value oats for 75p.  This means you can, just about, make a large bowl of porridge for 4p, as Baroness Jenkins claimed at the launch of this week’s food bank report – although that’s porridge with water and ignores the cost of cooking it.  But it is bollocks that a bowl of sugary cereal will cost 25p as she also suggested.  A well known national discount retailer are currently knocking out 450g boxes of Sugar Puffs for a quid, which works out at just under 7p a serving.  A cheaper option to this would be supermarket value Rice Snaps, which are 10% sugar but come in at under 5p a bowl.  Value cornflakes are even cheaper at around tuppence per bowl.

The cheapest source of meat protein I could find in the supermarket this morning was a tin of value meatballs in tomato sauce for 40p, which works out about £1.06 a kilo.  Despite the sauce this still probably beats the price of the lowest cost unprocessed meat alternative, which is raw pigs liver for £1.50 per kilo.  According to their website this store does packs of cooking bacon for about 80p, or £1.60/kg, although there was no sign of them today with the cheapest bacon at £3.79/kg.  Frozen value chicken portions also come in quite cheap at £1.75/kg, as do chicken legs at a similar price, but much of that weight will be bone.   In terms of bang for your buck, or more correctly calories, then value chicken nuggets, at 72p a bag, or £2.25/kg are probably a more economical buy.  As are chicken burgers (£2.13/kg) and value sausages at £1.44/kg.  Avoiding meat altogether will not save you any money.  Vege-sausages of all types are a lot more expensive than the value range meat alternative whilst a kilo of lentils will set you back £1.80.

The humble carrot or a white cabbage can both be bought for 60p/kg.  Onions cost about the same, but the price of veg rises steeply after that jumping to £1.47/kg for loose broccoli, the next cheapest source of fresh green veg.

Carrots are also one of the cheapest forms of tinned veg costing 19p a can, although you only get a measly 300g.  In contrast 420g of value baked beans are 24p, competing with a 300g tin of value mushy peas (16p) as the cheapest form of vegetable the local supermarket sells.  Cheaper still is a 420g tin of value spaghetti at 20p.  Stick that on a few slices of economy range white sliced bread and you’ve got dinner for two kids for about 30p, or the price of an apple.

This is far cheaper than the recipes that the Daily Telegraph helpfully published this week teaching us all how to make meals for 50p a portion.  One of those meals was a vegetarian chilli – which would actually cost over £2 for a single person because you can’t buy an eighth of a tin of chick peas.  This chilli, whilst undoubtebly nutritious, only contains about 250 calories.  Half a deep pan cheese value pizza provides almost twice that amount and costs the same price.  According to the NHS an 11/12 year old child needs around 2000 calories a day.  It would probably be healthier and cheaper to feed them a pizza and a vitamin pill for dinner than the Daily Telegraph’s suggestion.

As for afters, well you can usually pick up a banana for just short of 20p, if you really want to be the kind of person who gives their kid a banana for pudding.  A far lower cost option would be a value chocolate mousse for 4 and a half pence.

These are not isolated examples, everywhere you look it is the same.  A litre of pure apple juice is 65p, two litres of own brand coke is 55p.  14 tiny lunchbox size packs of raisins costs £1.89, whilst a multipack of 12 bags of crisps is 66p.  The cheapest mild chedder is priced at £5.40/kg whilst processed cheese slices come out at £3.53/kg.

One of the reasons for the constant sneering at those using food banks for not being able to cook is that there is little understanding of how poor some people actually are.  People with nothing will buy a pack of biscuits because it’s the only thing they can afford.  Someone with a quid left on a prepay meter cannot afford to risk turning on the hob to make porridge because that might mean the lights go out that night.

Unless you’ve been that poor you just won’t see how much cheaper it is to buy shit food.  You won’t notice that pound shops do big boxes of sugary cereals for a quid, or that value chicken nuggets are a cheaper source of protein than lentils. And that’s okay,  It doesn’t make you a bad person, just lucky.  But it does mean you should shut the fuck up about things you know nothing about.

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Come And Clean Our Mansion For No Pay … Just One Of Many Exciting Opportunities On Government Job Seeking Website

ujscreenshot3A cleaning job advertised on the government’s Universal Jobmatch website is asking potential candidates to carry out ‘volunteer shifts prior to engagement’ in breach of minimum wage laws. (H/T @AtosMiraclesfb)

The vacancy is at Thornton Manor, a stately home in Wirral which has been converted into a luxury wedding and conference centre.  According to one intrepid jobseeker who inquired about this job, potential recruits are expected to carry out a voluntary shift in case they don’t like it.  It was then admitted that actually this unpaid work is for the benefit of both parties although in some cases potential employees may not have to carry out a full shift.

This is the latest example of grasping employers using ‘try before you buy’ schemes to minimise the cost of recruitment.  Taking on staff involves a level of risk, and greedy companies are now trying to push the cost of that onto unemployed people by forcing them to work for free before they are given a proper job.  Of course starting a new job can also be risky.  There are no shortage of abusive and exploitative employers out there after all.  But there is little in place to protect unemployed people against that.

Thornton Manor are almost certainly acting unlawfully – they are not a charity and if people are expected to work then they are entitled to be paid the minimum wage.  Astonishingly however some companies running government workfare schems are openly advertising this kind of exploitation.  And it’s legal.

Those sent on unpaid work schemes by Jocentres have little or no workplace rights, including the right to a wage.  Welfare-to-work company Ixion Holdings are currently offering employers unpaid workers on Traineeships for up to six months with ‘nominal risk or cost implication’.  ixion-trybuy2

Ixion were also recently caught lying to potential employers that forced unpaid workers Community Work Placements are ‘volunteers’.  They are wrong about the time Traineeships are expected to work without pay as well.  The latest guidance states that the work experience element of a Traineeship should be 240 hours, or eight weeks.

What is taking place is a simple wealth grab from the very poorest to the rich.  Unemployed people being expected to bear the cost of risks associated with recruitment means fatter salaries for company directors.  It also means that under the cover of so-called work trials like these, unscrupulous companies can  maintain a rolling stock of free workers and never actually pay any of them.  And the DWP will cheer them on because making the life of unemployed people as miserable as possible is now far more important than helping them get jobs that pay a wage you can survive on.

Thornton Manor are on twitter @thorntonmanor and have a facebook page.

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Shock New Figures: UK Spends Less On Healthcare, Benefits and Pensions Per Head Than Any Other Northern European Country

social-protection-spendingThe UK spends less on social security benefits, pensions and healthcare combined per head than any other northern European country figures released by the Office for National Statistics reveal.

In news which has sent the Daily Mail spinning out of control, the UK’s spending on ‘social protection’ is lower than France, Germany, the Netherlands, Ireland and in fact every country in Northern Europe, as well as Italy.  These figures are based on spending per person from 2012, before many of the benefit cuts were implemented.  With even more savage cuts to social security threatened, then the UK could soon slip even further down the ranking behind the beleagured economies of Greece and Spain.

Social protection covers a wide range of spending including benefits, pensions, healthcare and social exclusion.  In a worrying trend the Daily Mail has decided to lump all thse vital services under the banner of ‘welfare’ suggesting that pensioners and people who use the NHS may be next in line to face being smeared as scroungers by the right wing press.

Almost half (47%) of the UK’s social protection spend goes on pensions.  Just 2.5% of the total is spent on unemployment, just over half the European average, The UK also spends less as a proportion of the budget on disabled people and families with children.  Subsidies for landlords remain healthy however with 5.5% of the spend going towards housing costs reflecting the ever growing Housing Benefit bill.

Social protection spending works out at £6,959 per head each year but that doesn’t mean that’s how much it costs you as the Daily Mail implies.  It is how much you get.  People on lower incomes will pay considerably less than that, whilst corporation and other business taxes also contribute.  Depending on how long you live you will receive much if not all of what you have paid out back in your penson.  At least for now.  On top of that comes a comprehensive (for now) system of healthcare alongside now sadly less than adequate income protection insurance in the event of illness, accident or unemployment.  The welfare state is still good value though for everybody except the very rich and were it to disappear then we would be paying a lot more to line the pockets of insurance company spivs.  And it would be the rich who get the tax cuts were that to happen.  Don’t get mugged by the Daily Mail into thinking otherwise.

You can vew the figures on the ONS website.

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