I found the catch…

Tuesday, 9th October 2007 at 20:33 UTC 6 comments

Well, I meant to write this a few days ago, but seeing as I was out of town and very busy, and forced to upload in a Weatherspoons using the free 30 minute wifi vouchers they give out to anyone who knows about them and bothers to ask for one, I never had time to write it. That said, if this is to become a big issue, then maybe its still relevant. David Cameron might have made a brilliant conference speech with lots of admirable policies for the press to shout about, but I think I’ve found the nightmare policy which should remind people that these are still the same old Tories.

I was reading a copy of the Independent, trying to find out as much detail as I could on Cameron’s speech. I was getting tired of the continuous references to his party’s turn around in fortunes and the two policies everyone was talking about: the inheritance tax changes and the tax on the super-rich who free-ride here. And then I found it, and I felt a mixture of relief and anger. Relief that my instincts (and those other people’s who I’d been following) were right. Anger that they would even dare to threaten Britain with such glaringly unjust policy. (Yes, I’m getting to the point, bare with me…)

“Mr Cameron struck a hard line on welfare reform, saying that the Tories would implement US-style schemes to get the unemployed back to work. “We will say to people that if you are offered a job and it’s a fair job and one that you can do and you refuse it, you shouldn’t get any more welfare”.

To many this will sound totally obvious. People are on welfare payments because they are unable to find work, ergo, people who are offered a job should not get welfare payments, apart from maybe some income support. But lets start by picking at this bit by bit, starting with direct quote.

What constitutes a fair job? Is a woman refusing to work in Ann Summers acceptable? The current government thinks not. Will it still be under the Tories? Fairly good chance that it will be, given their being ‘conservative’, but no guarantees. 40 hours a week solid cleaning public toilets at minimum wage: is that fair employment when someone has a degree? Is it fair employment full stop? Who gets to decide?

What if the employer only wants people who want to do 50 hours, will unemployed people really be able to refuse to opt-out of the EU Working Time Directive, an act which so many see as wasteful and selfish when working class people dare to refuse to sign on the dotted-line (as I have always done, and encourage others to do). What if people are told they must take full-time jobs when they want part time ones?

Further down the line, we have the major worry that young people will be forced to take the job they are offered, even if its in the surveillance industry, the arms industry, indeed any one of a number of industries I would refuse to work in. What if there’s such a shortage of military recruits that young people who fail to find work within, say, 6 months of becoming available, are forced to sign-up; economic conscription is already a huge problem in Britain, much bigger than people realise, and we have seen deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan of young people who have been betrayed by society and forced to join the army because they couldn’t find any other employment.

Pushing a large number of people back into the world of work is great for business: suddenly people cannot refuse work on the grounds that it is underpaid or the boss is known the whole town over for pushing employment law to the limits. Capitalism dictates that prices go down when supply is high; wages go down or stagnate if too many people are looking for work at once. People who feel aggrieved at the thought of others getting away with sitting at home all day had better realise that their salaries are under threat if there is suddenly more supply of ‘willing’ workers.

What else constitutes a job you can do? For instance, in China, if there’s a job someone can do, and its thousands of miles from their wife or husband’s job, tough, they only see each other for a 2 weeks each year (my Mum met two doctors in this situation); yes this is extreme, but look how far people are commuting now. If Cameron really worries so much about the family, is he going to set limits on commuting distances/times (not always relative) when deciding how little time working class kids get with their Mum or Dad each night before bed?

In his documentary, Bowling for Colombine, which many see as being simply anti-gun propaganda, Michael Moore meets with the victims of exactly these kinds of policies. He tells the stories of children who have become economic orphans, abandoned at home while their parents travel huge distances with almost no public transport to undertake menial jobs, returning each night for just a few hours sleep, forced to work long hours on mutliple jobs to make ends meet.

A 6 year old boy who’s mother worked three jobs, 70 hours a week and who had almost no time for her child, found the unlocked gun at home, managed to take it to school and shoot a 5 year old girl. While the issue of gun control is clear in this case, Moore draws another connection: he visits the boss of the company which employed the mother in two of her jobs, and confronts him with the fact that he is depriving children of their parents.

David Cameron: if you implement these kinds of policies, no matter how benignly your implementation begins, you will have set in train moves to force parents to abandon their children’s upbringing in favour of creating a cheaper labour pool for the companies which are your party’s traditional support base, and even if it doesn’t result in children killing each other, you will have proven that you really don’t care about family values at all, only enforcing social controls to create a willing workforce for employers.


Entry filed under: Community, Conservatives, Economics, Politics, Workers.

Critique of Faslane 365 The Branding of Protest

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Helen  |  Tuesday, 9th October 2007 at 21:49 UTC

    It actually is stated when you receive JSA that if you get offered an appropriate job and turn it down, they can refuse to give you benefits. Despite this, I doubt that they’d be able to find out if you turned down a job offered to you, unless you actually said “McDonald’s offered me a job but I said no because they’re shite.”

    Politicians, alas, gain popularity by appealing to people’s prejudices, and those doley scum end up being targeted. There actually are some good government funded schemes for helping people get back into work – Future Prospects in York spring to mind – but the Job Centre (or “Jobcentreplus”) could do with so much improvement. For instance, JSA takes ages to arrive – several weeks generally, which is no good if you have bills to pay straight away. Secondly, wouldn’t it be nice if they actually talked to you about what you need to get back into work, for instance whether a CV writing workshop would be useful and giving you a list of various employment agencies and other useful resources.

    I have to confess, I think it might be good for people with no dependents if they could be offered some kind of work, even if it was at minimum wage, as an alternative to JSA. It should be similar to temp work and there could be a maximum travelling time imposed so people don’t have to spend hours or lots of money getting somewhere. And if they get a job they could leave without a notice period. Also, obvious caveats like not forcing veggies to work in abattoirs or pacifists to work in arms manufacture should apply. It could also be good if Job centres had links with companies offering work experience – even if it didn’t pay, for a science graduate, say, it could be invaluable getting some actual experience in the industry and would be better than an interview to demonstrate their skills.

    Then again I’m expecting them to be humane and compassionate and treat the unemployed like people… Which doesn’t really seem to happen. The system as it stands seems deeply flawed… I was actually scared to get temp work just in case I exceeded the 16hrs per week and had to sign off, only to start the whole weary process again…

    The issue of single parents and carers is a different one… That bit in Bowling for Columbine was utterly heart-breaking wasn’t it? And it’s surely a false economy… as much as getting a lone mother to work may save the state money, if her kids aren’t being properly looked after because she can’t afford childcare, chances are the kids will be taking up state funds later on.
    (Reminds me of a bit on the news about the nurses pushing for better pay. The reporter made some comment about “saving public money”… personally I’d rather be taken care of by a happy nurse than one utterly pissed off because (s)he works long hours for crap pay. And yes, my taxes can go to this.)

  • 2. Greg  |  Tuesday, 9th October 2007 at 22:37 UTC

    Is this finally a response to my waving of the blue flag last week? Good good. The Indy’s very rarely a reliable source for anything, though. I suggest you listen to the speech itself on conservatives.com

    Now, a few points:

    1) What you’re doing here is pointing out some danger areas, rather than showing any actual consequences, of the policy Cameron suggests. Yes, if the policy were implemented it would be *possible* that these bad things could happen, but there are danger areas with all policies. You claim to be proving that this part of Cameron’s speech shows that the Tories are still evil, but your logic only works if you assume that the inherent risks will be actualised, which you can only do by assuming that the Tories are still evil. You’re using circular logic and it proves nothing.

    If you say that we should eliminate the dangers, we can’t. Whatever policies any government passes, there will always be danger areas like these. It’s a slippery slope and we’ve no option but to stand on it.

    2) Why shouldn’t a graduate clean toilets fulltime? What’s morally wrong with that? Yes, it may be a waste of a good brain, but why should education guarantee someone a pampered life where they’re immune from having to work at a shitty (however literally you choose to take that) job? Are you suggesting they’re above that? Or do you merely want an excuse never to have to clean toilets, because you’re a graduate?

    3) Bowling for Columbine was shot in America, where the minimum wage is about as many dollars as it is pounds over here.

    4) Tell me, what do you think of this article? http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2007/10/09/do0902.xml
    I ask out of interest – I’m not trying to set a trap or anything.

    5) Your bed is very comfortable. Thankyou. (For any random readers, I should probably state that Graham was NOT in his bed when I slept there!)

  • 3. Graham Martin  |  Wednesday, 10th October 2007 at 0:36 UTC

    5.1) We wouldn’t both have fitted, its a single bed!
    2) I was actually alluding to something completely different, something which Helen went near to saying, which is that Job Centres are designed to destroy people until they accept any old job, and that reducing people’s morale to zero is not fair full stop. There’s realistic, and there’s making people feel like shits for not being selected for a more invigorating level of work.
    3) And you trust Cameron to keep raising it, and not to regress to the mantra of “pay should only increase when the work done increases”?
    1 and 4 will have to wait. Apart from anything else, Greg, don’t flatter yourself with the thought that I consider you when selecting what to write about. The same applies to everyone else. That said, I had a feeling this issue might draw responses. Oh well. At least I was right for once.

  • 4. R  |  Wednesday, 10th October 2007 at 11:15 UTC

    One of my mates who lives abroad doesn’t claim the JSA equivalent for exactly this reason. She maintains if she were to try and claim, she would be forced to work in the islands greenhouses which she doesn’t want to do*. So instead she sends her husband out to work and lazes at home all day on the internet 😉

    *NB. I have not looked into the system myself, all this is purely anecdotal

  • 5. Duck  |  Wednesday, 10th October 2007 at 17:28 UTC

    Ever tried claiming benefit nowadays? I spent months trying to get something to live on when I was signed off by GP (meaning it would be illegal for anyone to employ me) and after 5 months and 2 weeks I still hadn’t had any money at all. There was a bunch of obscure forms that I was magically supposed to know about, fill in, sometimes get several other people to fill in, and sort out in a ridiculously tight time-frame – without even knowing they existed, and because no-one had told me about them ’till months later when it was too late for me to get them in then this was somehow my fault. The worst bit was the way most people I dealt with seemed to assume I was lying about everything. Not as in a polite ‘we need you to show us your bank statement for our records’, but a level of sheer personal vindictiveness I’ve only ever encountered in a couple of psych nurses before. This wasn’t the odd once or twice, but most (not all) of the staff I came into contact with. They kept accusing me of lying even when I had proof I wasn’t (I soon learnt to send all post recorded delivery & photocopy everything before sending). I was signed off for five-and-a-half months, & by the end of it had to tell my GP that he had to sign me as fit for work ‘cos I’d run out of money to eat & hit the end of my overdraft. I got nothing, despite filling in every form they actually told me about. Stupidly complicated bureaucracy, but even that wouldn’t have been so bad had less of the staff obviously enjoyed their little power trips. I’m not given to badmouthing people on the basis of their occupation, and there was the odd person who actually treated me like a human being. They were massively the exception though. I’ve never encountered sheer systematic cruelty like it.

    I was told when on JSA in Wales that I had to work in an abbatoir & meat-packers. Fortunately I found a job in a care home before I actually had to start. The interview would’ve been fun
    ‘So why do you want this job?’
    ‘So I can sabotage your evil murdering operation from the inside’.
    I think they were just a bit gobsmacked that *anyone* could possibly fail an interview at the Sony factory – I scored the worst of anyone in the 5 years they’d been doing it at their manual dexterity test. Most of the other interviewees turned up very drunk & dressed for a night out, & I was the only one who didn’t get a job – Jobcentre couldn’t work out how I’d managed it. I suspect telling the assessor that she was doing Ichigara tests all wrong didn’t help either!

    I’ve done full-time bedpan-scrubbing (literally), & I have no problem with doing it again (probably lined up for a few months if I graduate). I do have a problem with a system for which the much-overused adjective ‘Kafkaesque’ is appropriate for once.

  • 6. Helen  |  Wednesday, 10th October 2007 at 23:15 UTC



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