The Socialist 26 September 2012
Action against austerity
Reasons to join the 20 October demo, reasons to build for a 24-hour strike
Tories cut jobs - then increase penalties for unemployment!
A Jobcentre worker
Workers in Jobcentres around the country will be trained up in the government's new sanctions regime over the next few months, ahead of their implementation on 22 October.
These include much harsher penalties for claimants who fail to follow directions, forget to attend meetings or when advisers doubt that claimants are available for work or are "actively seeking" work.
Penalties for all of the above are being increased from one or two weeks' suspension of benefits to an automatic four weeks for the first offence. Second offences will carry an additional sanction of 13 weeks.
New sanctions will also apply to people claiming Employment Support Allowance, involving open-ended suspension from benefits as well as a fixed period penalty up to a maximum of four weeks.
Leaving a job or being sacked for "misconduct" (a flexible concept with some employers) entail an automatic 13-week sanction under the new regime.
Capping the government's plans is a three-year sanction - three years of exclusion from benefits - for those who commit three "higher level" offences; sacked for misconduct, leaving voluntarily, failure to participate in mandatory work activity, neglecting to avail of an employment opportunity or refusing/failing to apply for a job.
With Slasher Osborne already moving to freeze benefits for two years, and thereafter to remove the link with inflation, all of these measures are about saving money, not about encouraging people to look for work.
Staff on the training day I attended expressed indignation that yet again the government was simply trying to bludgeon people out of the benefits system.
Much of the education and training offered is held in low regard by Department for Work and Pensions staff, by claimants and by employers.
Many of the jobs being touted are short-term, involve work in difficult conditions and/or come with piddling salaries that, even augmented with tax credits and housing benefit, are hard to live on. Both of those, by the way, have been recently cut.
The government is still pushing ahead with its plan to cut housing benefit for those out of work over a year by 10%.
Infatuated with privatisation
This government is infatuated with privatising everything. Perhaps I am being unduly pessimistic? Look how well G4S handled security at this year's Olympics - a perfect example of good organisation, and I am sure they can take over the role of the police! Do we really need the NHS? - I am sure Richard Branson and his Virgin empire can show us how it should be done!
The Fire Service are told to make even further massive cuts, but the government said this can be achieved by "more flexible staffing arrangements, and better sickness management" - we all know what that means!
If the government has its way everything in Britain in the near future will be done by the private sector, and houses will be left to burn, patients and the elderly left to suffer in hospitals and care homes, and private security firms will vie with each other to maintain law and order.
The government's opinion of the public sector is shown by Tory Chief Whip 'Thrasher' Mitchell when he allegedly abused a bobby at No.10 by calling him a 'pleb' saying 'he should know his place'.
L Black, Swansea
TUC name the date!
A report by the 'Resolution Foundation' think tank has showed that average wage increases are below inflation - ie workers' pay is being cut!
So what's the Con-Dems' response? Cut benefits too. Prime Minister David Cameron wants benefits to be linked to wage increases instead of inflation, with the idea that unemployment is high because benefits are too high - not because there aren't enough jobs!
However, the report also says that wages are being held down because of the "loss of trade union power and government policies to force the unemployed to seek work" (FT 19/9/2012).
This shows that we need to rebuild the power of trade unions and fight workfare schemes. A hospital worker comments:
"This report is being used by the Con-Dems to attempt another cynical and brutal attack on our welfare state.
"It shows how capitalists use mass unemployment to continue to depress wages, combined with labour market "flexibility" and the anti-union laws.
"Now the Con-Dems want to use low wages to cut already-low unemployment benefits, adding to the urgency to implement the TUC Congress decision to consider organising general strike action.
"The PCS civil service union gave a brilliant example recently of the kind of response that unions should give when their preparedness to strike secured over 1,000 new jobs in the home office and HMRC.
"PCS vice president John McInally's TUC Congress speech in support of the POA's general strike motion was spot on when he said: "Austerity is a sanitised expression for what is an unremitting class war on our people.
The aim is to achieve, on the basis of the cuts and privatisation programme, the biggest transfer of wealth and power in many generations."
"The report is another reason why trade union leaders need to conduct a militant struggle against austerity, starting with a 24-hour general strike. The TUC should name the date!"
Campaign with the Socialist - We need your reports and support!
Use this letter to build support for the Socialist among trade union bodies in the run-up to 20 October.
It can be downloaded from www.socialistparty.org.uk/txt/255.pdf
Dear trade union branch secretary,
Let's campaign together for a 24-hour general strike as the next step in the battle to defeat austerity.
We are in the fight of our lives. The IPPR think-tank now estimates the government will need to make £14 billion of further brutal cuts to meet its deficit target.
But we already, with only an estimated 15% of the planned cuts, have suffered too much for a crisis caused by the bankers and the super-rich.
Pay freezes, pension cuts, increasing numbers of workers relying on food-banks and unemployment stand testament to this.
Now the coalition is looking to implement a 'Beecroft-lite' bonfire of workplace rights. The need for a serious and determined resistance is clear - which is why the historic vote by the TUC to pass the POA prison officer union's motion is so important.
It called for "coordinated action where possible with far reaching campaigns including the consideration and practicalities of a general strike".
This offers us a way to take on the Con-Dem cuts.
The Socialist, a weekly paper of the Socialist Party, is 100% committed to backing and building the campaign to make this happen.
We back the likes of Bob Crow, Mark Serwotka and others who have called on the TUC to now name the date for as soon as possible after the 20 October demo.
The Socialist has a record of reporting on workers' struggles across England and Wales and internationally.
We now see it as vital that we reflect the mood that exists for this motion to be urgently acted upon - contrary to what some may say.
We have published many articles by leading trade unionists from the RMT, FBU, PCS, POA, Unison, NUT and other unions - Socialist Party members and not. We welcome debate and discussion about this crucial step - can your branch contribute?
The model motion, letter and petition from the National Shop Stewards Network can be used to build this campaign (www.shopstewards.net).
We intend to increase our page count in the run-up to the 20 October TUC demo to accommodate this important material.
We appeal for your reports - but also for your support.
Can your branch take out a subscription for five or more copies? Can you pay for a greeting/ ad from your branch or a group of your members?
This will help us with the additional costs of expanding the paper and make sure that these reports and articles reach the widest possible trade union readership.
Please send reports, updates, comment pieces and letters to: email@example.com
We very much look forward to hearing from you and your members.
In this issue
Fightback against austerity
Socialist Party feature
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party reports and campaigns