Tories attack Universal Credit recipients with ‘get any job now’ threat

Jobcentre Plus, photo Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons)

Jobcentre Plus, photo Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons)   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Katrine Williams, PCS member

Bosses used the pandemic as an excuse to maximise profits by driving down wages and conditions, and now struggle to recruit. The Tories are putting maximum pressure on unemployment benefit claimants to take any job, however unsuitable, and regardless of the safety and conditions, with their ‘Way to Work’ scheme.

UK benefits are at their lowest level, in real terms, since the 1980s. The Tories are keen to sanction even this meagre income. They are slashing the time where you can look for jobs in your normal line of work from three months to just four weeks.

However, the trade unions are starting to use the leverage of labour shortages to fight back. The unemployed want work, but also want reasonable living standards and decent jobs.

Some of the sectors with the highest number of vacancies are among the lowest paid, where vital workers are massively undervalued and overworked – health, social care, retail and hospitality.

The trade union movement needs to campaign for pressure and legislation, coupled with union action, to be brought to bear to force employers to pay a decent wage and value their workforce with job security, good working conditions and well-designed jobs. The Socialist Party fights for a £15-an-hour minimum wage.

The last thing PCS union members in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) want, and the public need, is another raft of numerical targets to hamper delivery of services. Measuring services, by counting appointments booked and referrals to schemes, never works.

This creates unbearable pressure on Jobcentre workers. If the Tories genuinely wanted to help claimants, they would make all the thousands of temporary DWP staff permanent to help tackle the high workloads and backlogs, and give individualised support to claimants to help find suitable work.

The Tory spin does not stand up to scrutiny. The Tories quote figures like being at least £6,000 better off in full-time work. But 74% of children living in poverty are in working households. Getting stuck in low-paid jobs does not help workers get into better jobs.

The Tories misjudge that attacking benefit claimants will divert attention from their antics and from big business profiteering.

The Socialist Party fights for the right to a job for all. We fight for a massive government programme of investment in socially useful job creation, with trade union rates of pay, secure and stable hours, and with free training schemes for skilled work. Share out the work with no loss of pay.