Archives For employment

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

1) A JOB NO LONGER GUARANTEES INDEPENDENCE, CHOICE OR A ROUTE OUT OF POVERTY (AND EMPLOYMENT DOESN’T MEAN YOU HAVE TO GET PAID)

Cameron’s motto following election was his vow to ‘make work pay’ – let’s see how he has done so far!

Image: The Guardian

Image: The Guardian

Most people classed as being in poverty are in work!

“For the first time, there are more people in working families living below the poverty line (6.7 million) than in workless and retired families in poverty combined (6.3 million), according to the 2013 annual survey of poverty trends from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.”

 – Another first for Cameron, as a record of 5m people are stuck on low pay (2014)!

“An extra 250,000 people joined the ranks of the low-paid last year, bringing the total to a new high of 5.2m, according to a report from the Resolution Foundation.

The number of low-paid workers has become a serious problem, said the report, with almost one in four being stuck on that rate for the last five years.

Matthew Whittaker, chief economist for the Resolution Foundation, said that while low pay was likely to be better than no pay at all, being stuck on a low wage “creates not only immediate financial pressures, but can permanently affect people’s career prospects.”

More people in work are becoming dependent on help to get by

“In the past two years, 93% of new people claiming housing benefit have been working.” Apr 2013

If you’re on a workfare scheme (working for free under threat of losing your benefits) you’re counted as ‘in employment!

“The Office of National Statistics confirmed this in response to a parliamentary question.”

Hmmm, maybe that helps explain why there are already more people ‘in employment’ in the UK than ever before….

– The Work Programme has been worse than doing nothing at all. It has been punishing claimants and rewarding private contractors for poor results.

The success rate in the first year for A4E , a private welfare-to-work provider, amounted to 3.5%, below the government’s minimum levels of 5.5%.The government said they expected “that providers will significantly exceed these minimum levels.”

“Effectively, the department was saying that if firms failed to hit these targets, they would actually be making the situation worse than it would have been if they had done nothing.

“So the government wanted to see 5.5 per cent of 18-24-year-olds claiming jobseekers’ allowance in sustained work after the first year. They got 3.4 per cent.

“DWP also wanted long-term jobs for 5.5 per cent of over-25s on jobseekers’ allowance. The actual result was 3.4 per cent.

“And they wanted the same percentage for new claimants of employment and support allowance (ESA) – the payment for some sick and disabled people that replaced incapacity benefit. Only 1.5 per cent of people from this group found sustained work.

“This last figure is especially poor and that is important, because getting people off ESA could be one of the keys to beating long-term unemployment.”

FactCheck, Why the Work Programme isn’t Working – Yet

Claimant cases cited being forced to apply for jobs they were not qualified for or could not get under threat of sanction. We were paying for a company to force unemployed people on poverty benefits to write meaningless applications under threat. Who is benefitting here?

The situation has not got any better in the years since with statistics released in 2014 revealing that the Work Programme had seen a 3% success rate for the 1.5million people referred. Additionally, 5 times as many people were sanctioned as found work. Again, a result that is worse than doing nothing at all. Yet, the entire work programme is projected to cost the public purse between £3 – 5bn in the five years from 2011.

Prevalence of Zero Hour Contracts

The Office For National Statistics revealed that over half of big companies used around 1.4 million zero hour contracts in 2014. While in some cases these are agreeable terms, over the last few years, the desperation of employees has been exploited through the use of zero hour contracts, which are presented as the only option by employers, leaving workers without holiday pay, sick pay and no promise of hours. They have also been used as management tool by companies.

“What we see actually, is that these contracts are being used to disempower the employee. So we’ve seen evidence of really bad management practice where someone is on a zero hour contract, their boss says ‘I want you to work Saturday.’ They might say ‘I can’t’ or ‘I can’t get childcare’ for example, or ‘I would simply rather not’, and they are zeroed down, which is effectively where they’re pushed to very few or no hours in the medium or longer term. So that’s in effect, using these contracts as a management tool, when that’s not what they’re intended for and that’s a great imbalance of power between the employer and the employee.”

Giselle Cory, Resolution Foundation

This open letter by Steve Thomson serves as a heartbreaking example of what this type of contract can do to employees when abused:

AN OPEN LETTER – TO JD WETHERSPOON

I have dined in your establishments many times but I write to inform you that I will never do so again and nor will any of my friends or family.

The reason for this is that my stepson has the misfortune to work in your Thomas Sheraton bar in Stockton and I am now aware of the basis upon which you operate and profit.

He is “employed” on a zero hours basis and earns barely enough to feed himself. Not long after joining your establishment he got into trouble with his rent due to the extremely low wages and was evicted from his home. I blame the basis of his employment with you for this. He now lives 2 miles away from your bar and is obliged to walk this distance to and from work as he does not earn enough to afford public transport. Yesterday my wife was obliged to buy him new shoes as he had worn holes in his existing ones. I think it is appalling that you do not provide your kitchen staff with appropriate footwear. If you feel that this communication is becoming a stream of negative comments then I urge you to read on as I have more to say. This 4 mile round trip trudge is sometimes made to attend a one hour shift. Unbelievable, a day’s work of just ONE HOUR. Furthermore, if he attends expecting a longer shift this is sometimes not the case as he is sent home if trade is slack. He, your employee takes all the risk, you the employer take none. You’ll note that I do not mention his name. This is for fear of reprisals. Before you scoff, let me tell you this: When he first joined you, after two months of working every single weekend he politely enquired if he might have a weekend off. He was given the weekend off but worked no other hours either. A genuine ZERO hours. This was clearly a reprisal and he has never asked for the weekend off again.

The only way he can survive on such grindingly low wages is by getting benefits top ups. In order to do this he must provide pay slips which you do not provide. He is obliged to download them and print them himself and given that he will never be able to afford a computer and printer so long as he works for you, he must go to the library. I put it to you that it takes him more effort to work for you for a pittance than it does me to fulfill a full time job.

Clearly your business model requires that the public purse subsidise your employee’s wages. This to my mind makes your firm and others like you one of the benefit scroungers we hear so much about these days.

Yours sincerely

STEVE THOMPSON

Removal of employment rights 

And to add to all that, Cameron has taken it upon himself to remove employment rights during his term. There’s been his introduction of a tribunal fee for employees who want to take their employer to court, apparently to encourage settlements out of court. Yet, this only harms the already powerless employee, and it “has severely limited access to justice for workers, according to research from the Universities of Bristol and Strathclyde.”

Some declared Cameron’s actions as a ‘war’ on workplace rights as he backed proposals to make it easier to sack staff without explanation with a “fire at will” policy (NICE!), as well as changes to redundancy notice periods to a third of what they were, and cap compensations for unfair dismissals.

So Cameron has made the jobs market one stricken with misery, in work poverty, bad conditions and low employee rights (and sometimes no pay at all!) and now he wants as many of us to take part in it as possible. Great!

 

Image: The Telegraph

Image: The Telegraph

 

 2) IF AUTOMATION IS NOT TAKING AWAY JOBS, YOU’RE NOT DOING IT RIGHT 

Checkouts are being replaced up and down the country, removing jobs from people who, in our current system, are then punished for not having a job. The takeover of technology is going to become more commonplace, and we need to move with it. Technological advances can, will and should free us from the tedious and mundane.

Yes, people’s attitudes to work may change, but the UK needs more flexibility as we are currently seeing one section of society work so much they are driven to poor health, and another section who cannot find work and are driven to poverty. John Ashton, a leading UK scientist commented on this last year:

“When you look at the way we lead our lives, the stress that people are under, the pressure on time and sickness absence, [work-related] mental health is clearly a major issue. We should be moving towards a four-day week because the problem we have in the world of work is you’ve got a proportion of the population who are working too hard and a proportion that haven’t got jobs”, Ashton said.”

Further, the New Economics Foundation say that we could all work a 21 hour work week and sustain ourselves to the standards we have now, with extra time for ourselves:

“A ‘normal’ working week of 21 hours could help to address a range of urgent, interlinked problems: overwork, unemployment, over-consumption, high carbon emissions, low well-being, entrenched inequalities, and the lack of time to live sustainably, to care for each other, and simply to enjoy life.”

Cameron says he wants to overtake Germany in the race to ‘full employment.’ 

“Germans work on average around 1413 hours a year – one of the lowest rates in the OECD, and much lower than the average 1776 in other EU countries. This averages out at just under 30 hours a week.

Despite this, Germans are still more productive per head, per hour compared to the UK who work much longer hours (an average of 43 per week).

Germans also have an average of 40 days holiday a year including bank holidays. This is much higher than the European average of 27, and accounts for an extra 2.5 weeks worth of time off.”

The Alts: Why We Need To Talk About Germany

Anyone hear Cameron mention any of this? Working less, with more holidays? No? weird. Anyone would think he wants us to submit to an economy of low pay, bad working conditions, poverty and restricted employment rights just to keep us busy!

The UK also has the highest rates of work related illnesses in the EU. This is only getting worse in environments of low pay and falling working conditions.

We should be talking about initiatives like the Universal Basic Income, which guarantees all of us some basic subsistence to live. And it is very feasible:

“Natalie Bennett, Green Party leader, backs the idea of the Universal Basic Income and has noted that around £7000 a year could be allocated to every UK citizen through the removal of the over-complicated benefits system and staff. The Citizens Income Trust estimate that £10,000 for everyone could be achieved through these measures and adjustments elsewhere.”

Some may decry the UBI as radical policy, but seeing 1 million people use a food bank when we have enough food, seeing homelessness rising when we have enough homes, and witnessing a wealth gap of such disparity that by next year the 1% could have more than the 99%, is surely far more so. Read our article on the Universal Basic Income to find out more.

Image: Basic Income UK

Image: Basic Income UK

 

 3) THE PROBLEM IS NOT JOBS, IT’S WEALTH DISTRIBUTION AND INCOME

There are more people working than ever, but growing numbers of them are in poverty. The problem is pay, but Cameron’s jobs promises always seem to be divorced from mention of this.

Further, Cameron has actively taken part in a shift of money and power away from the poor to the rich. He and his government make choices everyday that say putting people into poverty, into hunger, into destitution is worth it, but cuts to corporate welfare are not even talking points:

“Benefits are what we grudgingly hand the poor; the rich are awarded tax breaks. Cut through the euphemisms and the Treasury accounting, however, and you’re left with two forms of welfare. Except that the hundreds given to people sleeping on the street has been deemed unaffordable. Those millions for $150bn Disney, on the other hand, that’s apparently money well spent –whoever coined the phrase “taking the Mickey” must have worked for HM Revenue.”

Aditya Chakrabortty, Cut benefits? Yes let’s start with our £85bn corporate welfare handout

Cameron and Osborne went to the EU to defend bankers bonuses for the bankers. Iain Duncan Smith went to court to protect the identities of workfare providers.

Cameron’s ‘full employment’ will be nothing less than ‘full exploitation’. At a time when all of us could be working less and having more freedom, Cameron is promising us a world of full employment, in the jobs market he has helped design for our misery. He has worked to grant more power to the powerful, from the powerless. Another term will see this trend continue.

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1) Young at increased risk of poverty, says report

Joseph-Rowntree-Foundation

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has released a report revealing that the young are now at an increased risk of poverty, as unemployment and insecure work continues to blight the jobs market.

The report said:

“Youth unemployment has risen continuously since 2004. By 2011 it was two-thirds higher than 2001. At a record high, it’s three times higher than that of other adults.”

Education and qualifications seem to play a major part in whether a young person is able to remain out of poverty. The less qualified a person is, the more likely they are to be unemployed and living in poverty and after the age of 19, the likelihood of getting qualifications drops significantly.

  • “The lower people’s qualifications, the higher their risk of unemployment. This risk has risen over the past decade.”
  • “16- to 19-year-olds not in full-time education are at greater risk of poverty than any age group except the youngest.”

Though, gaps in attainment and increased risk of unemployment can be sourced back to early education. The report said:

“An ‘attainment gap‘ emerges before school. It continues through childhood. By 16 and older, it is considerable.

  • Tests at age 3 show a significant gap between more affluent children and the poorest fifth
  • Lower-achieving but more affluent children overtake the highest low-income achievers by age 7
  • Poorer children are half as likely to go to university as their more affluent peers

Across ethnic groups, white young people do less well than their peers from many minorities. But the performance and treatment of black Caribbean and Traveller children raise serious concerns.

For minority ethnic groups poverty is twice as likely, despite improved qualifications.

Poorer higher education students were already more likely to drop out, defer, switch, repeat or restart courses before tuition fees and cuts to Education Maintenance Allowance applied.

But the aspirations of disadvantaged young people are high.”

Read the report here.

2) Bill to stop ‘revenge evictions’ talked out

Image: Shelter

Image: Shelter

On Monday last week, around 1000 protesters demonstrated outside Parliament in demand for better rights for tenants.

Shelter estimate that some 213,000 people are evicted every year in ‘revenge evictions’ which happen following complaints to landlords over poor housing.

A Bill was put to the House of Commons to end these evictions. It required 100 signatures. Unfortunately, only 60 MPs signed.

Shelter also estimate that 2% of the public are landlords and that private tenancies have seen an increase in poor housing standards. Further, at a time of rocketing rents and stagnant wages, affirming rights for tenants should be a priority for government. Everybody should be able to access safe, secure housing.

Unfortunately, the outcome of this Bill shows priorities are held elsewhere.

Shelter later revealed that 2 MPs ‘filibustered’ the Bill – a tactic of talking out, to delay or ‘talk to death’. They are MPs Philip Davies and Christopher Chope.

Shelter vow to continue the fight until they win.

Read Shelter’s blog ‘We Will Make It Happen’ here.

Read more about this story here.

 

3) Government accused of ‘numbers game’ in use of apprenticeships

Hundreds of thousands of people aged 25 and over are entering apprenticeships which pay as little as £2.73 an hour.

Apprenticeships have been bandied around by parties of all colours as a solution to youth unemployment but  “figures from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) show that more than 350,000 of the UK’s 851,000 apprentices were over 25, with more than 50,000 aged over 50.”

“The number of UK apprentices has risen from 491,300 in 2009 to 851,500 today – an increase of 73%.

“However, the proportion of those over 25 has more than doubled – it was 19% of all apprentices in 2009/10, but now stands at 42%.”

There is now concern that apprenticeships are being used to subsidise full paid jobs and losing focus on the young whilst also massaging employment figures.

Read more about this story here.

4) Theresa May says ‘Time is right’ for more police powers

Image: The Guardian

Image: The Guardian

Speaking at a counter terrorism event last week, the Home Secretary Theresa May said that the ‘time is right’ to increase police powers to monitor online behaviour in order to combat terrorism and child abuse.

This news snuck out following a general silence since the terror threat was raised to ‘substantial’ earlier this year in the UK.

Considering the ‘loss’ of 114 files on child abuse within government and the Home Secretary’s inability to find someone to lead the child abuse inquiry who had no connection with those involved, we remain unconvinced that these greater powers to probe our online conversations and activity is in our interests or for the protection of potential victims.

May said these powers should be implemented following the General Election.

Read more about this story here.

5) David Cameron attacks migrant workers, but does nothing about exploitative bosses

David Cameron was criticised for attacking migrant workers with further restrictions to benefits, whilst doing nothing to stop exploitative bosses from paying low wages.

Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “Today David Cameron did not act as a prime minister but as a low-grade scrapper, trying to save his political skin by kicking migrant workers.

“He knows he cannot please his big business paymasters who want free access to European workers and the profits that come from their hard work on low wages.

“Instead he inflames a fear of European workers, proposing to cement them as a second-class workforce with no access to the assistance that millions of low paid workers in this country simply need to make ends meet.

“Too many UK employers are addicted to welfare to top up their low waged workforce. It is not migrants that are dragging down pay, but boardrooms that are holding it down.

“Why does he not tackle this by ensuring that collective bargaining can safeguard wages? Look at Germany, which has far greater levels of immigration than the UK but which has laws to protect decent wages.

“What the prime minister did today was to send out a message that the problems in our economy are the fault of workers, wherever they come from. This is a lie. It is not migrant workers who recruit in Poland, or force zero hours work upon people desperate for a job.

“It is not migrant workers who have sold off council homes, cut our Sure Start places, brought ruin to our NHS, or have forced the greatest collapse in living standards in generations.

“It is business behaviour and political decisions that are causing insecurity, not ordinary people trying to make a living.”

Read more about this story here.

6) Government not doing enough to tackle ESA problems

Dr Litchfield’s fifth and final independent review of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) has been published and the Government has responded to a Work and Pensions Select Committee review into Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
For the last five years, Mind has been feeding into the independent reviews, calling for changes to the WCA process which is used to decide whether someone is able to get the disability benefit ESA. We have also submitted evidence to the Work and Pensions Committee outlining our concerns about wider benefit reforms and the failure of government schemes to support people with mental health problems into work.MIND%20logo[1]

Tom Pollard, Policy and Campaigns Manger at Mind, said:

“We welcome the ongoing improvements to the WCA through the independent review process, and particularly the focus on the experience of people with mental health problems. However the narrow scope of these reviews means that wider problems with the system for people with mental health problems have still not been tackled.

“The Work and Pensions Committee report provided a comprehensive evaluation of ESA and the WCA and included strong recommendations. Unfortunately the Government’s response represents a missed opportunity, with little sign that they are willing to make reforms of the scale needed.

“Very few people with mental health problems are being supported into work through ESA, and huge numbers of people are receiving benefit sanctions from a system that does not understand their needs and barriers. As a result, many people are finding that the stress and pressure they are put under is making their health worse, and making them feel less able to work. That’s why we’re calling for everyone with mental health problems claiming ESA to receive personalised, specialist support which acknowledges and addresses the barriers they may face in getting and staying in work.”

7) Pensioners lead protest for energy rights, after ONS reveal 18,200 excess winter deaths last year

Image: Fuel Poverty Action

Image: Fuel Poverty Action

Pensioners marched and demonstrated outside the offices of lobbyists Energy UK following the release of the winter death toll from the Office for National Statistics.

Find out more about Fuel Poverty Action here.

8) #Cameronmustgo trends for four days

The hashtag #Cameronmustgo trended for 4 days last week, with an outpouring of hundreds of thousands of messages and reasons to sack the Tory PM. Unfortunately, it got no coverage in the media.

From ‘Bring Back News to the BBC’ – Nov 25 –

#CameronMustGo is still trending in the UK on Twitter for the fourth day in a row. No sign at all of it on the #bbctrending Twitter feed. I haven’t heard mention of it on any BBC news outlets (do let us know if you see/hear anything like meaningful coverage). Daily, wall to wall coverage of a single tweet by Elizabeth Thornberry on all mainstream media outlets for many days, but 400,000 + tweets largely ignored by all but single articles in the liberal outlets (HuffPo, Guardian, etc), which have all written multiple articles on Thornberry – 2 to 3 a day for 5 days.

“The mainstream media is talking a completely different language and setting a totally different agenda to the people of the country, and it is happy to talk UKIP, immigrants, scroungers, but not austerity, injustice and poverty. That’s why we need to speak up for ourselves.”

9) George Osbourne’s #AusterityFail

Ahead of budget day on 3rd December, the People’s Assembly have put together a video of messages for George Osbourne.

 

Thomas Barlow – @tbarls

Like many people I have been in and out of work over the past couple of years.

Every job is temporary, or low paid, or unspecified hours, or all of them together.  And all of the jobs come to an end.

Recently I decided that I was going to stop this cycle and follow my dream of becoming a writer.  This is it,  this is what I will do, or die in the process.

So when I was told, suddenly, by my advisor, that I had to come in every day to the jobcentre for the next two weeks at least, I finally felt confident enough to speak back.

Though not at the time I was told.  As my interview was ending my advisor told me

“Oh, and you have to come in every day for the next two weeks, starting tomorrow”

“Really?  Oh ok” I replied meekly and got up to go.  Oh come on Barlow, you are supposed to be a Welfare rights journalist, try again!

“Actually, um,” I sat down.  “Err, could you tell me why I have to come in?”

“Oh I don’t know, we don’t have time to cover that here.  I have booked you an appointment with your special advisor to help you sign off as you are going to declare yourself self-employed.  You can ask them”

“Ok, when will I meet them?”

“Three weeks.”

“Is this really necessary?  I just want to sign off with the right support, do I need to come in?”

“If you don’t come in you’ll be sanctioned.  It is as simple as that.”

I half expected her to say ‘I don’t make the rules…”  Or “Just doing my job…”

*****

I go home.  Raging.

It is the straw.

There is no explaining it, but all the humiliation and fear and shame of years of sporadic employment wells up within me, and makes me unfathomably angry.

From the outside it may seem perfectly reasonable.  You don’t have a job, you should do what you’re told, and shut up.

And that is part of the fear and misery of being unemployed.

You don’t feel like you have the right to be treated like a human.  It is perfectly fine to be treated like cattle, for the mere crime of being unable to become a wage slave.

I am signing off.  Forever.  All the years of being treated as ‘less than’ finally bubble up through my usually meek and polite barriers.  I am going to talk about this.

*****

I arrive at 10.30am, on the dot.

“If you can just take a seat here, I will sign you in.”

“Why am I here?”

“If you can just take a seat…”

“Why am I here?”

“Has no one explained?  Well I am afraid I can’t tell you.  All I know is if you don’t sign this and sit here, we can take your benefits away.”

“You mean my right to live?  Why?”

“I’ll see if I can get someone to answer your questions now, then.”

*****

I am introduced to my special advisor.

“So why am I here?  This isn’t in my jobseekers agreement.”

“Quite frankly Mr Barlow, we can do what we like with you.  You have to come in when we tell you to, or else we will sanction you.”

“You mean you will take away the means for me to live.  Fine.  You have the gun to my head, why am I here?”

“You shouldn’t see it as a gun to your head.  This is an opportunity.  I have loads of clients who wish they could be in here daily.”

“Well I don’t.  And it is a gun to my head.  You can take away all of my money, make me homeless and allow me to starve.  You know sanctions kill people right?  It’s a nice word for a dirty act.”

“Look Mr Barlow, quite frankly we have got the powers we wanted.  Not everyone sees it that way, but I do.   There are people who do spend their time actively job seeking. If you are not willing to search for a job for 35 hours a week…”

“We deserve to die?”

“Well…”

“Because that’s the crux of it isn’t it?  You are saying that in a world of plenty, where there is way more than enough to go around” and there is you know, more homes than homeless, more food in the bin than the hungry could eat, more energy in the world than we all could use  “that if I refuse to be disciplined by you and the state, then I should die.”

“I know what you are saying, I used to be a job seeker myself”  They always have been, job advisors. “I know how hard it can be.  I was refused benefits for months, you don’t have to die.” Nice change of tack.

“How did you get through it?”

“I lived with my mum who supported me.”

“So what about people without family, or without means, or without space, or spare cash?  I mean isn’t this the point of Welfare?  It is a way of looking after each other, because we all have – or should have – more than enough. It isn’t supposed to be disciplinary.  It is not supposed to be something you punish people with, force them to do unwaged work, or make them feel small.”

“That’s not what I want to do.  I want to help people back into work.”

“But that isn’t what you do any longer is it?  You have to find ways to take our means to live away from us.”

“Well it is not what I want to do.”

“OK.  So why am I here again?”

“Because if you don’t come in you’ll be sanctioned.”

“Right…”

*****

I spent the two weeks writing articles and emails on my phone in the job centre.  The computers didn’t have access to email (though they did have access to facebook), so i just made do.

After making a fuss about the pointlessness of the whole exercise, I was left to my own devices.

My fellow ‘jobseekers’ (I would prefer to think of them as human beings, but there we go), spent the two weeks bemusedly looking at Facebook and LinkedIn, before occasionally asking if they could leave to go on a job interview.  They twiddled their thumbs and kept their heads down.

I guess that is what they want from us all.

*****

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On 14th November a jobs fair was held in Chingford, the constituency of Iain Duncan Smith.

Under threat of sanction and checked for letters from the jobcentre, unemployed people from around the borough attended (According to the PCS union, there has been a 350% increase in sanctions for those on sickness benefits, and 920,000 people on JSA have been sanctioned in the year up to March 2014).

Despite being the poster boy due to open the fair, IDS snuck in at 08:30am and scarpered way before the 10am start. Outside a small herd of police manned a handful of protestors. We went along to speak to some of them. Thanks to Lucas Hinchey for the film work here.

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Kam Sandhu

1) Only 1 in 40 new jobs since recession is full time

Image: Parliament Uk

Image: Parliament Uk

While the government have put huge spins on employment figures, claiming it is now below 2m, the growing issue of low pay and in-work poverty is shining light on the fallacy of government success.

“Now, the TUC has revealed that only one in forty new jobs created since the recession is a full-time post. The number of full-time jobs has fallen by 669,000 since 2008 and part-time workers now make up 38% of the workforce. Underemployment – part-time workers who desire a full-time job to maintain a decent standard of living – now stands at 1.3m, double what it was pre-recession.”

Add to this the fact that workfare placements are counted in employment figures, that sanctioning – which has rocketed under the coalition – is lowering the number of people counted as claiming JSA, and the other great massage of figures – the ‘self-employment’ dupe.

26 out of 40 new jobs are in self-employment. Zero hour contracts add to this, but rather than being some self-asserting means of employment it is used to undermine employment rights through a removal of access to holiday and sick pay whilst also increasing insecurity at work. They also allow companies to avoid taxes (and we all know how much they like doing that). The IPPR released research in August which ‘called the strength of the UK’s economic recovery into question, dubbing Britain the “self-employment capital of western Europe”. Self-employment has grown by more than 1.5 million workers in the last 13 years, now standing at 4.5 million – more than 15% of the labour force.’

And thank you to @AnitaBellows12 for highlighting the DWP definition of ‘full time work’ in this FOI request

“A jobseeker can work for less than 16 hours on average each week, and the partner of a jobseeker can work 24 hours or less each week before they are considered to be in full time work and not eligible for Jobseekers Allowance (JSA).”

Read more about this story here.

2) Jobcentre threatens man with sanctions for talking to demonstrators

A jobseeker was told he would face sanctions for talking to a group of demonstrators who stage actions outside the jobcentre in Ashton Under Lyne. Ironically, their action is aimed at the punishing nature of sanctions and aim to help those who have been unfairly treated in the government’s target lead sanctioning regime.

They have released a transcript of the jobseeker’s interview.

“I walked into the Jobcentre for my regular signing on appointment. They asked me to wait in the waiting area. They checked my action plan and said everything was ok. The advisor then said can I ask you what you were doing outside the Jobcentre on Thursday? I said I was talking to the people outside who were demonstrating. She then tried to get information out of me by asking lots of questions. I refused to answer. She then got annoyed because I wouldn’t tell her what I said to them and what they said to me. She then said “well do you really know what you are getting yourself into?”” We and and will sanction you for talking to them. We will sanction you for standing with them or even talking to them.”

Read the full post here.

And if you are still in disbelief that sanctions are a  discriminatory method of removing people’s means to live, read this account of a jobseeker receiving a sanction after 67 jobseeking actions in a fortnight.

3) Inequality is the biggest challenge for the world, say experts

The World Economic Forum have released a new report revealing that inequality is the biggest challenge facing the world in the next year.

Source: F. Alvaredo, A. B. Atkinson, T. Piketty and E. Saez, 2013. ‘The World Top Incomes Database’

Source: F. Alvaredo, A. B. Atkinson, T. Piketty and E. Saez, 2013. ‘The World Top Incomes Database’

The WEF highlighted:

“In developed and developing countries alike, the poorest half of the population often controls less than 10 per cent of its wealth. This is a universal challenge that the whole world must address.”

The Top Ten trends identified by the WEF were:

  1. Deepening income inequality
  2. Persistent jobless growth
  3. Lack of leadership
  4. Rising strategic competition
  5. The weakening of representative democracy
  6. Rising pollution in the developing world
  7. Increasing occurrence of severe weather events
  8. Intensifying nationalism
  9. Increasing water stress
  10. Growing importance of health in the economy

Read more about this story here. 

Read the report here.

4) Care UK strikers in Doncaster celebrate pay deal after 90 days of strikes

Image: Socialistparty.org.uk

Image: Socialistparty.org.uk

More than 60 carers for the disabled celebrated last week after a pay deal put forward by a private equity owned employer looked to end the industrial action.

NHS workers who had been transferred to work for Care UK were facing cuts to wages of 35%.

This win is incredibly important for the social care sector, “where the privatisation of services, and involvement of private equity owners, has corresponded with pay being driven down across the country.”

After 90 days of strikes, Care UK offered an immediate 2% pay rise, increasing by 2% again in 2015 and 2016.

Read more about this story here.

5) Counter terrorism police visit journalist over fracking film

A journalist following the protest movement against fracking received a knock on the door from counter terrorism police, calling into question the protection given to the private energy companies looking to cash in shale gas extraction in the UK.

You can read Nina’s experience here.

6) Benyon family sell investment in New Era estate following protest

Image: Hackney Citizen

Image: Hackney Citizen

After hundreds of protestors joined with residents of the New Era estate to march against rent price hikes, Britain’s richest MP, Richard Benyon and family have opted to sell their investment on the estate.

Benyon was exposed for slamming welfare claimants and the ‘something for nothing’ culture whilst he quietly pocketed over £100,000 in housing benefit from his properties.

Read more about this story here.

 

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This Saturday will see a TUC demo in London calling for better pay and an economic recovery that works for everybody. Protestors will assemble at 11am at Victoria Embankment for a march to Hyde Park. Find out more by clicking here. Below is some info from the campaign:

JOIN US FOR A MARCH AND RALLY IN LONDON ON 18 OCTOBER 2014, TO HELP CALL FOR AN ECONOMIC RECOVERY THAT WORKS FOR ALL BRITONS, NOT JUST THOSE RIGHT AT THE TOP. BRITAIN NEEDS A PAYRISE!

Image: Britain Needs A Payrise

Image: Britain Needs A Payrise

Image: Britain Needs A Payrise

Image: Britain Needs A Payrise

Image: Britain Needs A Payrise

Image: Britain Needs A Payrise

 

Tomorrow over a million people will strike against public sector pay freezes. They deserve our support. Here’s why:

1) Judge rules work programme ‘incompatible’ with human rights

Retrospective law changes made by Iain Duncan Smith and the Department for Work and Pensions, following flaws identified by three judges in a case that involved the use of workfare in Poundland, have been deemed in contravention of European Human rights laws. Human rights lawyers say the ruling is a “damning assessment” and if the appeal is upheld, government will owe jobseekers £130m.

Appeal judges agreed that “the 2011 regulations failed to give the unemployed enough detailed information, especially about sanctions, including loss of jobseeker’s allowance, for refusing jobs under the schemes.”

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To avoid re-paying jobseekers for unfair sanctions and withdrawal of benefits, Iain Duncan Smith changed the laws retrospectively – a callous abuse of his position to avoid giving any justice to the unemployed people who had been unfairly treated.

Iain Duncan Smith will, unsurprisingly, appeal against this decision.

Iain Duncan Smith is also appealing a third time against a decision to release a report problems of the Universal Credit scheme – a flagship policy that has seen hundreds of millions of pounds wasted. All of these appeals are paid for by the public purse.

Read more about this story here.

2) Police begin inquiry into treatment of protestors at Westminster Abbey

Last week, we posted an account by Rob Punton, from Disabled People Against Cuts, about his experience at Westminster Abbey when the group attempted to start a protest against the closure of the Independent Living Fund.

300 police kettled 100 protestors

300 police kettled 100 protestors

Rob Punton also posted his experience on his blog, and detailed that police would not allow food, water or medication into the site, where some 300 police surrounded 100 protestors.

Metropolitan Police are now launching an inquiry into the treatment of protestors at the site.

Read more about this story here.

3) Calum’s List an important resource in understanding the effects of welfare reform

Calum’s List, a website dedicated to remembering the people who have committed suicide as a result of welfare reforms or delays and which was shut down last month, is a ‘valuable resource.’

“It includes cases such as that of Martin Rust from Norwich, a schizophrenic who had been found fit to work by a DWP assessment, and committed suicide two months later. The Coroner cited the “distress” caused by the DWP’s decision as a contributory factor in his decision to end his life. And that of Elaine Christian, who was found dead in Holderness Drain after self-harming and taking an overdose. The inquest heard that she had had to stop work because of poor health and was worried about a medical appointment to assess her eligibility for disability benefits she was due to attend the next day. Vicky Harrison, a 21-year-old who took an overdose after being rejected by what her family estimated to be around 200 jobs in two years. Her case is one of the few on the list to have been reported by the national press.”

The list is important as many of these stories may be reported by local press, but are often not picked up by national media, and this sort of body of evidence is vital in ensuring we understand what is taking place.

Read more about this story here.

4) UK needs 4 day week to combat stress, says leading doctor

One of the UK’s top doctors has called for a move to a four day week to reduce stress, allow people to spend more time with family, and to reduce unemployment.

Dr John Ashton added that this would also benefit people’s health.

“When you look at the way we lead our lives, the stress that people are under, the pressure on time and sickness absence, [work-related]mental health is clearly a major issue. We should be moving towards a four-day week because the problem we have in the world of work is you’ve got a proportion of the population who are working too hard and a proportion that haven’t got jobs”, Ashton said.

“We’ve got a maldistribution of work. The lunch-hour has gone; people just have a sandwich at their desk and carry on working,” added the leader of the UK’s 3,300 public-health experts working in the NHS, local government and academia.”

Read more about this story here.

5) Glenda Jackson makes an excellent speech speaking out against Iain Duncan Smith and DWP

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

Guest Blog by Charlotte Hamilton

A recent article by Simon Biggs and Helen Kimberley in the journal, ‘Social Policy and Society’ that has got me thinking – are we entering a new phase of ageism?

Ageism is traditionally associated with treating the older population separately from the rest of the population. This includes denying older people the same level of choice expected at other stages of life. An example of this was the approach taken to work and retirement; having a compulsory retirement age didn’t allow older people flexibility and choice over their working lives. Efforts in recent years have begun to address this phase of ageism alongside an increasing focus on population ageing.

For countries with ageing populations and concerns of the ‘burden’ this will have on the taxpayer, governments seem to have taken a two-pronged approach to their social policies. 1) Older people who are in need of care and support should receive this in the community and, for the most part, are paying for this themselves. 2) Older people who are active should be involved in work, or work-like (such as volunteering), activities. Both of these approaches are ways to reduce the taxpayer’s bill and the authors focus on the issues around the second.

Governments are introducing policies to encourage people to work for longer (such as rising minimum retirement ages and abolishing a compulsory retirement age) and advocate volunteering or work in older age. In doing so they are reshaping the notion of retirement. The authors argue that work and volunteering activities are now linked to being valued in society in older age and are concerned that there is a lack of debate around the assumption that work in later life is a good thing for all.

By linking work to ‘success’ in later life, governments are failing to acknowledge differences across the adult life course. There is evidence to suggest that attitudes, values and priorities change with ageing, yet social policies are not allowing people to have both different and valued social roles across the adult life course. Equally, advocating one way of being valued in older age does not adequately account for the diversity amongst older people, in terms of possible contributions, individual values and capabilities.

Image: The Times

Image: The Times

Are we entering a new phase of ageism?

The authors raise key questions in relation to this in order to critique current governments’ approaches to an ageing population. Governments are developing policies that are making work crucial to being a valued member of society across all adults, regardless of age. Working into older age will suit some older people, and policies should be in place to enable older people to work if they so choose. However not all older people will want to work and policies should recognise this too.

Crucially, it appears that governments’ eagerness to encourage work in later life is ignoring differences across the life course and diversity amongst older people. Is it ageist to ignore differences where there is evidence to suggest that differences exist? This one-size-fits-all approach is stifling the potential for older people to make different, and equally valued, contributions to society.

Previously, ageism was limiting what older people were allowed to do compared to the rest of the adult population. The authors raise the question of
whether we are now risking entering a new phase of ageism through heavily emphasising continuity across the adult life course. Current policy approaches are failing to embrace the positive differences that come with ageing, the diversity amongst older people and the different ways that people can contribute to society. Whereas traditional ageism denied older people choice over extending their working lives, we may now be risking a new phase of ageism by denying older people the choice of doing anything else.

Where next?

If policies to encourage work in older age are inappropriate for all older people, where can social policies go from here? The authors suggest three
key areas for development. 1) Embrace difference across the life course and diversity. 2) View the contributions of older people with a life course approach; it shouldn’t just be about what older people are doing now but what they have contributed over their adult life. 3) Crucially, governments should recognise that an ageing population is a new challenge for social policy and, rather than focus on one strategy, be open to new solutions as they arise.

Biggs and Kimberley’s article presents careful arguments for broadening the range of social policies put in place in response to an ageing population. The article encourages debate and I hope I have too, for me the key question is – do the social policies focusing on work in older age risk us entering a new phase of ageism?

*This blog post is based on the ideas raised in the following journal article: Biggs, S. and Kimberley, H. (2013) Adult Ageing and Social Policy: New Risks to Identity. Social Policy and Society, 12 (2): 287-297

 Charlotte Hamilton 

PhD Student, Social Policy Research Unit,University of York.

1) Britain’s poor now on par with Eastern Bloc

The poorest fifth of UK households are significantly worse off than the poorest fifth in other Western European countries, according to analysis of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) data published by the High Pay Centre last week.

High Pay Centre Director Deborah Hargreaves said:

 “These figures suggest we need to be more concerned about inequality and how prosperity is shared, as well as average incomes or aggregate measures like GDP. The fact that the rich are richer in the UK than many other countries hides the fact that the poor are poorer.

“Most people think our living standards in the UK are similar to economies like France and Germany, but being poor in the UK is more like being poor in the former Soviet Bloc than in Western Europe.”

The High Pay Centre analysis also notes that if the UK’s total income of around £1 trillion was divided in the same way as total incomes in Denmark or the Netherlands, 99% of UK households would be better off by around £2,700 per year.

Image: The Huffington Post

Image: The Huffington Post

 

Read more about this story here.

2) Labour announces plans to cut benefits for 18-21 year olds, replacing with means-tested training allowances

Ed Miliband announced Labour’s first plans on cuts to welfare, with a plan that would remove benefits from 100,000 18-21 year olds, replaced instead with a means-tested allowance based on whether the claimant is in training.

The move follows a YouGov poll released last week which found that 78% of the British public felt that the welfare system was unfair and failing to reward those who had contributed to it.

The move is also meant to symbolise Labour’s dedication to welfare reform, apparently tapping in to the need to reward people in a way that is closer to what they pay in. It does however, entirely ignore the fact that opportunities for young people are scarce in a far more insecure and lower-paid environment than the previous generation.

The removal of Jobseeker’s Allowance for those below skills level 3 will affect seven out of 10 young people, and save around £65m.10431489_686788578035740_8042865362329683316_n

Read more about this story here.

3) Royal College of Nurses threaten to unseat MPs who do not support a pay rise for NHS staff

Nursing leaders have pledged that they would work to unseat MPs who do not support a pay rise for NHS staff, at the next election.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has denied frontline health professionals a one percent pay rise across the board, infuriating health unions.

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Some have put forward the idea of strike action, Dr Peter Carter, the general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing has suggested that rather than risking patient care through strike action, nurses should pursue “alternative forms of industrial action” at the ballot box.

“There are many MPs on all sides of the House of Commons that have small majorities, some just a few hundred, some even as low as 30 or 40” he told RCN members. “There are about 1,000 nurses in each constituency and if we mobilise ourselves I know many of those MPs will be looking over their shoulders and wondering if they’ll be re-elected at the General Election next year.”

Power to them.

4) Don’t let them tell you that our NHS is failing or needs privatisation. It is the best healthcare system in the world.

An international panel of experts declared that the NHS is the best healthcare system in the world, rating it’s care superior to other countries who spend more. The report ranked the USA as the worst in healthcare provision.

“The United Kingdom ranks first overall, scoring highest on quality, access and efficiency,” the fund’s researchers conclude in their 30-page report. Their findings amount to a huge endorsement of the health service, especially as it spends the second-lowest amount on healthcare among the 11 – just £2,008 per head, less than half the £5,017 in the US. Only New Zealand, with £1,876, spent less.”

Health-overallj

Read more about this story here.

5) DWP caught out as over half a million sickness benefit appeals were won, but figures were hidden from the public

From ilegal:

“DWP ministers said only 9% of ESA decisions were wrong.  Our research reveals the DWP have been quoting from figures which state 151,800 appeals have succeeded.  Our evidence shows the true figure to be at least 567,634 – casting serious doubt over 43% of 1,302,200 ‘fit for work’ decisions.”

“These figures completely negate all of the DWP’s claims that it is getting the majority of its decisions right. Government ministers in conjunction with the DWP’s Press office have been telling us that a million claimants have been found fit for work whereas these figures show that in reality this is only a small part of the true story and that huge numbers have gone on to successfully appeal decisions which were wrong.

“These new figures highlight the dubious practice of using the unchallenged assessment results, which only encourage media sensationalisation, with headlines such as those appearing in the Daily Express in July 2011 stating that ‘75% on sickness benefits were faking’. The same article goes on to say that out of ‘…2.6 million on the sick, 1.9 million could work’ before receiving an endorsement from the Prime Minister with an assurance that his government was “producing a much better system where we put people through their paces and say that if you can work, you should work”.

Read more about this story here.

6) 50,000+ march in People’s Assembly demo against austerity, and BBC fails to report on it again

Thousands took to the streets in London on Saturday against austerity, with speakers including Russell Brand, Owen Jones and Christine Blower. Solidarity reigned supreme as the demonstration brought together a coalition of unions, political parties, activist groups and community leaders. The march also celebrated one year of the People’s Assembly.

The march comes ahead of a 1 million strong strike planned on 10th July for public sector workers against pay freezes – sending a clear message to government that damaging austerity will not be tolerated. And the People’s Assembly plan to stage the biggest demonstration ever seen later this year.

As with the Manchester march against the privatisation of the NHS, where 50-70,000 took to the streets, the BBC turned a blind eye to the demonstration, slipping out a small report late in the evening on their website.

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by Kam Sandhu @KamBass