It was Tony Blair who introduced the first mass workfare scheme with the flagship New Deal back in the late 90s. Much like the Government’s current schemes it was widely derided as a failure that placed billions in the pockets of private sector providers like A4e, but had less than impressive results actually finding young people work.
Despite the disastrous results, workfare continued throughout the Labour Government’s period in office, becoming rebranded as the ‘Flexible’ New Deal in later years. When the Tories came to power it was expanded and renamed (at vast cost) as the ‘Work Programme’. Six months unpaid labour, under threat of benefit sanctions, has been at the heart of all these schemes.
Labour’s workfare obsession is set to continue although gormless gimp Miliband is claiming that placements will be paid the minimum wage. He promises a million new jobs, all funded by the tax payer. But then he would say that wouldn’t he. In fact he can say pretty much anything he likes, no-one’s really listening after all. He also warns that those who don’t take up his pretend jobs will face the toughest sanctions ever.
These jobs would be paid for with a ‘bankers tax’, a fine idea except spending it on subsidising low paid workers for multi-national companies is missing the point somewhat. Almost all of the problems that exist with workfare still exist with Millibands scheme, which in many ways could prove far worse for worker’s pay and conditions. This daft plan would enshrine six months Government subsidised work for private companies as the norm for young people. Whilst a million people currently in minimum wage work would lose their jobs, young people, whether they had other plans or not, would be sent to replace them or forced into poverty. Just like under the current policies, it would be the most vulnerable who faced sanctions. As Miliband’s workfare workers would be paid by the state and face benefit sanctions for non-compliance, they would have few, if any workplace rights. Just like today’s workfare staff, they could potentially be used to undermine industrial action. The Unions should reject outright any plans for a million strong army of scab labour. If private companies want workers they should pay for them. And young people deserve a choice about where they work.
Don’t expect any change from Labour though. So desperate are they to show they hate the poor and unemployed just as much as the Eton toffs, they are determined to look tough on benefit claimants. It’s a little bit pathetic really. New Labour was bad enough, now we have Forced Labour.
As it was Labour who introduced the brutal Atos testing regime for sick and disabled people it’s unlikely they would plan more enlightened policies for claimants on health related benefits either. The truth is most of them supported much of the recent Welfare Reform Bill. They voted against it purely for political point scoring, not ideological concern for the country’s poorest people. The Labour Party are not the opposition, they are a slightly inept carbon copy of the Tory Party. They will do nothing should they ever claw their way back to power, but continue the attacks on the five million voters on some form of benefit. Just like they have done nothing to support public sector workers or supported the biggest strikes in living memory. They haven’t been the party of the working class for a long time, if they truly ever were. But more than ever they are toadying sycophants to the rich, sucking up to big business in the hope of making lots of money like Tony Blair did when they do the decent thing and retire. The entire fucking lot of them, Labour and Tory alike, need stringing up. The system is broken. It can only be fixed from the bottom up and that means us.
An upcoming conference organised by New Labour think tank Progress, shows Labour’s real position on workfare. Entitled ‘A new welfare state: Putting work at the heart of welfare’, it leave little doubt of their intentions. One of the speakers, James Purnell, was one of the architects of today’s brutal benefits system. Shadow Employment Minister Steven Timms, who recently claimed to support the Government’s workfare schemes ‘in theory’ is also listed to speak. The event is to be held at Portcullis House on the 27th March, one day after the Tory’s workfare conference which is already drawing protests. Unlike the Tory’s event however, which costs £150 to attend, this one is free. Register here.
Labour are not the only ones on the fake left keen on forced labour. The Guardian’s use of unpaid internships is well documented. Now it seems that the website Left Foot Forward also wants a workfare slave. They claim that they are unable to pay a wage, despite having swanky central London offices (also known as some bloggers kitchen). Amusingly they say that they do ‘aspire to a pay policy, and will rectify the situation as and when it is possible’. That’s the aspirational left for you. I too have a workfare position. This flat needs cleaning and I’ve run out of fags. This is not a paid position. In fact can you lend us a tenner as well?