Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/707/14057
'We want jobs - not slave labour!'
Youth Fight for Jobs is one of the key organisations fighting the government's workfare schemes. As the name suggests the campaign demands investment in real jobs not the government's slave labour schemes. Here Paul Callanan, YFJ national organiser, spoke to the Socialist about why young people find themselves in this situation.
Why does unemployment hit young people in particular?
First off this has nothing to do with young people not being willing to work! Young people were in a precarious situation before the current crisis.
Even when the economy was relatively stable young people worked mostly in the retail or service sector, quite often being paid less than the measly minimum wage, with insecure contracts that could see them hired and fired on a whim.
Now that the crisis has hit the high streets, increasing numbers of youth are being put out of work, with no other jobs to go to. Many employers pass over young people's CVs - they want workers with experience.
And since the 1980s big business has massively reduced its investment in manufacturing, increasing its profits from super-exploitation in countries where workers' rights are minimal.
This was accelerated by the Thatcher government's deliberate drive to destroy Britain's manufacturing base. One result is that apprenticeships and training-on-the-job schemes have dried up.
Today big business has an estimated £130 billion stashed away but it faces restricted opportunities to invest profitably in Britain's depleted manufacturing sector. Business investment fell by £1.7 billion at the end of 2011, a drop of over 5% on the previous quarter.
Going into education can be seen as a way of avoiding the dole queue but with cuts and privatisation, tuition fee hikes and the scrapping of EMA student payments, increasing numbers of young people, especially working class youth, are denied access to education.
Why is the government pursuing its workfare policy if it's so unpopular?
Workfare is hated because people see it for what it is - super-exploitation. Look at the figures: 600 people applied for 35 Tesco jobs in Leicester. People are desperate for work but the government is forcing the unemployed to work for companies like Tesco for their dole.
Despite this widespread opposition the government appears to be ploughing on. It doesn't act in the interest of the majority of people, but in the interests of capitalism and big business. One of the ways in which the government will help out big business is to provide cheap, even free labour for them. Another is privatisation.
Why should people in work care about workfare?
Because if bosses can use the unemployed as free labour then why would they want to carry on paying their present staff? Why would they take on any more at the going rate?
What we call for is a movement of workers and youth to stop this race to the bottom and fight for decent jobs, terms and conditions for workers and the unemployed alike.
Can we really win job creation?
We can certainly win victories. Look at what we've already achieved with so many companies forced to pull out of the scheme.
But the best way of fighting unemployment is preventing it. It's possible for workers to stop the bosses' attacks if they organise and fight back. Just look at what happened with the tremendous victory of the construction workers who have successfully defended a national agreement that protects jobs, terms and conditions.
And we can win job creation. Look at the example of Liverpool council in the 1980s. They refused to implement cuts and actually set a 'needs budget', based on local need for housing, welfare, etc. They were able to win the money from the Thatcher government because they gave a fighting lead and mobilised trade unions and working class communities to support their stand.
And, until the battles of last year, mainly over public sector pensions, there has been a low level of trade union struggle in recent decades. Young people haven't had experience of defeating the bosses. But we are learning fast!
What can be done to help young people into work?
Youth Fight for Jobs and the Socialist Party call for investment in jobs and training. We also think that the existing work should be shared out but with no loss of pay.
Why should some have to work all the hours in the week while others cannot get a job? But there are other measures that would help - like ending the attacks on pensions that will force people to work till they drop.
There should be a programme of socially useful public works. For example we have huge levels of unemployment in the construction industry and a massive council house waiting list.
A programme of house building would give young people the opportunity to train in construction trades and provide millions of families with affordable social housing.
We call for the banking system to be nationalised under democratic control of elected committees with representatives of trade unions, communities and so on as a way of funding this.
We say that the top monopolies should be nationalised as part of a democratic plan of production. Then the vast wealth and resources in the hands of the 1% could be used to meet the needs of the 99%.
In The Socialist 29 February 2012:
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