Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/701/13521
End the slave labour culture of workfare
Paul Callanan, Youth Fight for Jobs
The clocks are being turned back. The future for young people is looking like it has been ripped from the pages of Dickens' novels - with the Con-Dem government and local governments playing the role of modern day workhouse masters.
Over the past months 10,000 people have been taking part in a trial run of a work-for-your-dole scheme. The government have touted it as a chance for the unemployed to get themselves back into work and gain experience in the workplace. But Youth Fight for Jobs (YFJ) has warned all along that this was merely a wheeze for the bosses to get work done for free.
The results have borne this out. Of the 10,000 people that were forced onto the trial, around 20% turned down the "work". Another 30% simply didn't show up on the first day. The government are clearly living in la la land when they hail this trial as a success.
Employment minister Chris Grayling has made the insulting claim that this failure is down to some people being deterred "because they are working in the black economy or they don't want to look for a job"
One young job seeker is suing the government. Cait Reilly, a graduate who has been unable to find work, had planned to volunteer at a museum. This job fits in perfectly with her desired career as a geologist. Yet that had to be cancelled as she was forced to work in a Poundland. She is taking the government to court on the grounds that forcing people to work for free contravenes her basic human rights.
Another pilot scheme has been rolled out by Labour controlled Islington council. They plan to force school students to become "junior assistants". For £25 they will spend hours after school and Saturdays doing jobs like "highway repairs or photocopying and filing, or making tea and coffee for meetings."
We have to demand that if the job is out there, workers doing it should be well paid and on good terms and conditions. What we are seeing instead is the true face of Victorian values. If you can't find work then be prepared to become a slave.
Workfare can demoralise a whole generation of people. But it will also accelerate the race to bottom. Existing workers could be driven to accept lower pay and working conditions for fear of their employer taking on JSA claimants to do the job.
The only real solutions to the scourge of unemployment are socialist ones. To roll back the tide of the slave labour culture we need to build a mass movement that can change society. We need a movement that calls for the nationalisation, under democratic workers' control, of the top 150 corporations that control the vast majority of wealth. We need programmes of public works like house building. And we need a benefits system that genuinely helps get people back onto their feet and protects us from poverty.
In The Socialist 18 January 2012:
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Youth fight for jobs
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party feature
Socialist Party campaigns
International socialist news and analysis