Archives For unemployment

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) Record numbers of people on low-pay

A report by the Resolution Foundation has found that there are record numbers of people stuck on low pay in Britain.

After an additional 250,000 people joined the workforce last year on or around the minimum wage, there are now around 5.2m people on less than two thirds of the median hourly pay, £7.69.

Image: The Telegraph

Image: The Telegraph

The minimum wage was recently increased to £6.50 but after years of failing to keep pace with inflation, the minimum wage is rendering an amount that leaves millions in poverty.

The coalition vowed to ‘make work pay’ but the report from the Resolution Foundation suggests that the bottom-heavy jobs market will see less tax paid as lower incomes are taken out of the tax bracket, and a growing benefits bill as workers are unable to make ends meet.

“All political parties have expressed an ambition to tackle low pay, yet the proportion of low-paid workers has barely moved in the last 20 years.”

Matthew Whittaker, Resolution Foundation

Part of the increased difficulty in low pay is the increased amount of time many are spending trapped on low pay. In 2004, around 11% of the workforce were within 5p of the minimum wage for over 5 years. In 2013, this figure was 23%.

Read more about this story here.

Read our earlier interview with the Resolution Foundation here.

2) Child Poverty rising in UK because of austerity measures, says Unicef

child poverty

More than 1 in 4 children are now living in poverty, and it is only going to get worse, says charity Unicef.

The charity found the UK’s attempts at reducing poverty “disappointing” in comparison to 18 other wealthy countries who had actually cut down on the issue during the recession.

The UK was also ranked 25th out of 41 developed nations for allowing the economic crisis to affect vulnerable families.

Ahead of further austerity measures, Unicef warn that these problems will only get worse.

However, the Department for Work and Pensions has hit back at the report which compiled data from 2008 to 2012. The DWP said that the report makes ‘distorted comparisons’ due to a change in the reporting used, which switched from ONS figures to ones compiled by the DWP in the last year of the report.

A spokesperson for the DWP said (with reckless disregard to the previous story and other reports of growing child poverty):

“Our reforms are improving the lives of some of the poorest families by promoting work and helping people to lift themselves out of poverty.”

Read more about this story here.

3) Leaked memo shows continued struggle to rollout ‘Universal Credit’

A leaked memo shows that the government is still struggling to rollout the flagship Universal Credit scheme.

The memo titled ‘Ideas Please: Sinking’ was sent by a jobcentre manager to her staff in a plea for help with ways to deal with the increased workload from the new social security system.

s300_uc-logo-960-no-border_s

The memo was uncovered by Channel 4’s Dispatches and shows that in one of the centres where the scheme has been rolled out “is generating such a substantial backlog of claims, centre staff will have to work three times more than their limit to clear it.”

Read more about this story here.

4) Fracking company applies for licence in London

A new fracking company has applied for a licence to frack in London in an area that reaches from Harrow to near Downing Street in Central London.

Nick Grealy, who runs London Local Energy is outspoken in his support for the fracking industry, and says that fracking in London will make it easier to overcome the complaints about noise pollution raised in the mainly rural areas where fracking has previously been proposed. He also said:

“We want to light a fire under the debate and we want to make money as well.”

Quite.

Read more about this story here. 

5) One-man protest over ‘slave labour’

John McArthur, 59, has been staging a one man protest against slave labour, outside the charity he used to work for.

McArthur has not claimed benefits since August after refusing to participate in a six month work placement at LAMH Recycle in Motherwell. He is now struggling to pay bills and rent as a result.

Still, McArthur protests outside LAMH Recycle for two hours every weekday, handing out leaflets and informing the public of the government workfare scheme LAMH Recycle use.

Image: The Motherwell Times

Image: The Motherwell Times

McArthur used to work for the same company he protests against, and was paid the minimum wage. After falling into unemployment, the jobcentre attempted to place McArthur on a workfare placement at LAMH Recycle, which would see him work for free at his previous employer.

“He said; “It’s essentially slave labour which bypasses the minimum wage regulations.

“My trade is electronics, but I’ve been applying for every kind of job. I make around 50 applications a week, but I refuse to work for nothing.”

Mr McArthur, who is single, said it’s not the first time he’s had his benefits stopped – he went without for 18 months after pulling out of another Government programme.

Although he has a works pension, he is struggling to survive without jobseeker’s allowance. He said: “I can’t put the heating on and I’m living on 16p tins of spaghetti.”

Motherwell Times

Read more about this story here.

6) Ritzy Cinema’s Living Wage Campaigners WIN!

The owner of Ritzy Cinema in Brixton made a huge u-turn on threats to job cuts for a third of staff, instead implementing the Living Wage which staff and campaigners have been demanding.

The news that the cinema would cut jobs sparked a fightback from staff, seeing public protests and boycotts. The campaign was supported by several celebrities including Will Self, Owen Jones and Russell Brand.

Now managers have backed down and said that no one will face redundancy.

Image: citizensuk.org

Image: citizensuk.org

Cineworld managers say that there were crossed wires in communication with Picturehouse, who manage Ritzy, and these played out in the ‘public domain,’ adding they were not consulted on the measures to cut jobs.

Read more about this story here.

7) Disabled woman steals food after benefits are stopped

In a case that highlights how the poor are being criminalised for their poverty, a disabled woman in Poulton faced charges over theft from a supermarket after her benefits were stopped and she was left penniless.

Wendy Rogers, 51, plead guilty to two charges of theft from Asda, where she stole Lamb and cheese. She had no previous convictions.

Read more about this story here.

8) AltGen & Co-operatives UK offer start-up money for new co-operatives in Young Co-operator’s Prize

AltGen, a co-operative dedicated to enabling young people to create their own employment as a solution to the insecure jobs market, are offering several prizes of £2000 along with mentoring and business advice in the Young Co-operator’s Prize.

To enter or find out more, visit the website and check out their video below!

Well we were quiet last week as we all stood by to see the outcome of the Scottish Independence vote, but now we’re back with your weekly round up.

1) Scotland votes no, but this is not a return to ‘business as usual’

Scotland votes no but only just, as the split ended 55/45 in favour of remaining as part of the United Kingdom. It was an emotional time for many, especially in a country split so passionately down the middle. However, the incredible rise of the Yes campaign clearly sent shivers to some Westminster folk, with Cameron almost begging and incriminating himself in an attempt to reach out to Yes voters by saying he wouldn’t be around forever.

Still, political leaders were quick to demonstrate to Scotland the nature of Westminster promises by reneging on ‘DevoMax’ – a promise made in the eleventh hour prior to the vote, removed within hours of the result.

scotland

Still, the ’45’ remain strong with new campaigns and energy being driven into ensuring that it is not a return to ‘business as usual’, and the Scots have inspired other regions such as Manchester to campaign for devolution from Westminster HQ to make their own decisions on policies and where to place money.

We suggest this great read on the future of Scotland and the UK.

2) Claimants face spending 35 hours a week in job centre

In the latest of the unbelievable continuance of a programme of punishment and voyeuristic shaming of the unemployed, pilot schemes from October will see claimants forced to spend 35 hours a week in the job centre or face sanctions.

Claimants will have to check in at 9am and remain at the centre till 5pm.

Image: powerinaunion.co.uk

Image: powerinaunion.co.uk

If they fail to do so, they will face sanctions, with the first sanction resulting in the loss of one month’s worth of benefits, and the second sanction culminating in the withdrawal of three months’ money.

It is plain to see that this system is highly punitive and not productive. The real problems of unemployment however, such as low pay, insecure employment and so on are entirely overlooked by our government.

The Office for National Statistics released some employment figures last week:

“Comparing May to July 2014 with February to April 2014, the number of people in employment increased by 74,000 (to reach 30.61 million), the number of unemployed people fell by 146,000 (to reach 2.02 million) and the number of people not in the labour force (economically inactive) aged from 16 to 64 increased by 114,000 (to reach 8.93 million).”

Unemployment has fallen by 146,000 yet employment has only risen by 74,000 – while the government pretend that they are solving unemployment they ignore that some 72,000 people are now either economically inactive or have fallen out of the welfare system, most likely for reasons of punitive and unbearable treatment from the system. This is not solving unemployment, it is simply making the system too unbearable to go through – potentially pushing people further from work and help.

3) Mps claiming more expenses than at height of expenses scandal, 2009

Seven MPs have claimed more than a million pounds in expenses within a year.

The latest figures show Britain’s members of parliament are claiming more in total than at the height of the expenses scandal in 2009.

“The highest claimer locally for 2013-14 was North Dorset MP Robert Walter with a bill of £164,138.

“He said: “This issue was dealt with five years ago. We now have an independent standards authority and you should put any questions to them.”

“Christchurch MP Christopher Chope, who claimed £107,592, was among members who employed spouses. He hires his wife Christine at between £45,000 and £49,999 a year.”

Read more about this story and see who claimed what here.

4) Chris Grayling’s legal aid cuts ruled ‘illegal’

Secretary of State for Justice, Chris Grayling, acted illegally when trying to drive through multi-million pound cuts to the legal aid system which could see the closures of many legal aid firms, a High Court judge has ruled.

The Government has been told to halt its cost-cutting plans for legal aid payments for duty solicitors at police stations. Under the plans, the work currently carried out by 1,600 firms would be limited to 525 contracts, leading to closures and mergers of high-street legal firms attempting to make the new system pay.”

A judge ruled that Grayling had failed to fairly consult the profession with the changes.

Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling. Image: johnnyvoid.wordpress.com

Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling. Image: johnnyvoid.wordpress.com

The government says it just means that certain parts of the process will have to be repeated but they will continue to push ahead with controversial reforms. However, some campaigners believe this could delay the reforms until after the election and thus, could kill them off altogether.

“These so-called ‘reforms’ were sold in the name of austerity,” said Nicola Hill, president of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association. “They’re being railroaded through by a Justice Secretary determined to push through an ideology.

“The cuts have been nothing short of an assault on justice, compromising fair representation for people accused of a crime in police stations and courts. They threatened the principle of innocent until proven guilty and equal access to justice.”

 

Read more about this story here.

5) Labour pledge £8 minimum wage by 2020, Greens say £10

Labour have pledged to raise the minimum wage to £8 by 2020, partly through cuts to welfare.

Greens however have pledged a raise to a minimum of £10 an hour in the next parliament in a move that is thought to steal support from Labour. Further, the Greens promise that once raised to this standard the minimum wage will be linked to living costs and inflation, a notion which has been all but eroded within the last few years.

Image: Telegraph

Image: Telegraph

“Like Ukip, Bennett said the Greens were also a party that was “not offering people business as usual”. “Under our plan no one would be paid less than £10 an hour in 2020,” she said. “It is a scandal that under the coalition government the number of workers earning less than the living wage has risen by a staggering 50%. It makes a mockery of David Cameron‘s 2010 statement that a living wage is ‘an idea whose time has come’.”

“It is our policies such as making the minimum wage a living wage, a wealth tax on the top 1%, re-nationalising our railways and having a publicly owned and run NHS that are both encouraging people to join as members and vote Green in growing numbers.”

Read more about this story here.

6) NHS workers back strike action over pay by 2-1

NHS workers including nurses, therapists, medical secretaries, cooks and more have voted to back strike action over pay.

“A total of 68% voted in favour of being prepared to take part in a strikes while 32% said no. The ballot also asked if they were prepared to take part in action short of strike action and 88% agreed while 12% voted against.”

The action is against blocks to pay rises of over 60% of NHS staff and 70% of nurses over the next two years, leaving staff ‘demoralised and demotivated’ according to Dave Prentis, leader of Unison, a union with over 300,000 NHS staff.

The last action by health workers took place over 32 years ago, but Prentis feels that blocks to rises of even 1% demonstrate the government view of health workers, adding that inflation has continued increasing since 2011 whilst pay value has dropped by 12%.

Read more about this story here.

7) People’s Global Climate Change March demands action

Protestors in Sydney

Protestors in Sydney

Marches took place in more than 2,000 locations worldwide demanding action against climate change, ahead of the UN climate summit in New York next week.

New York saw the biggest demonstration with over 600,000 people taking to the streets. London saw over 40,000 take part.

“On Tuesday, the UN will host a climate summit at its headquarters in New York with 125 heads of state and government – the first such gathering since the unsuccessful climate conference in Copenhagen in 2009.

“Mr Ban hopes leaders can make progress on a universal agreement to be signed by all nations at the end of 2015.”

 

Read more about this story here.

 

The death of a young man and the following media coverage highlights fundamental problems with our society, Thomas Barlow writes.

Martin Hadfield’s death was the natural result of a society that fetishes ‘work’ above all else. As reported on the front page of the Metro on Wednesday, Martin Hadfield took his own life, demoralised by his inability to get work, at the age of 20.

Image: Mirror

Image: Mirror

This sad, sad occurrence was coloured by the way it was reported, firstly by the response of the coroner.  He suggested that Martin had reacted ‘impulsively to life’s events’, which may or may not be true, but it takes away the agency of someone who was trying to live his life exactly according to the mores enforced by the rest of society. His death was not merely an impulsive reaction to life’s events, but the inevitable result of a system that tells people their only value is in selling their bodies for money – or ‘employment’.

The unemployed are worthless, a drain on society, despite the fact that levels of unemployment are out of our control, yet we must take personal responsibility for a situation not of our own creation. Having said that, this message leads us down an even worse road – the idea of there being the ‘good’ unemployed and ‘bad’ unemployed.

“He isn’t like some people his age, happy on the dole watching Jeremy Kyle day after day.”

Peter O’Gorman, Martin’s well meaning stepfather paints Martin as a special person, who wasn’t like the other ‘bad’ unemployed youth. Undoubtedly this is a kindness meant to show the sensitivity and hard work ethic of Martin, and should be taken as such, but it speaks of a deeper prejudice against the unemployed.

Stereotypically, the unemployed watch Jeremy Kyle in their undies drinking Tennants super, before a bleary eyed blagging of the jobcentre to get their undeserved dole check. Whilst this is patently untrue about a huge amount of unemployed people, it is a quandary for the progressives in society who usually fall into the good and bad, divide and rule debate.

“People want to work,” the liberals say. “If only we had a stronger government who cared and we could create jobs (wage slavery) for all!”

So the debate falls into arguing how to create as many jobs as possible, and sometimes about how good the jobs should be, instead of admitting the fact that some of us just don’t want to ‘work’. Something which is patently true, yet we castigate right-wingers for saying it is so. Of course we are smarter than that, and our castigation of the right is not for pointing out that some people don’t want to work, it is that they disproportionately mock the poor, whilst giving the rich a free ride. In fact, thieves at the top of society are lauded as wealth creators, whilst the poor, eeking out their survival through handouts and ’graft’ are labelled scroungers.

Not only do the rich conive to avoid sharing any of their wealth through tax, they live on wealth earned off the backs of others working, whether through owning the people who work for them, owning the houses they live in, the land they get food from or through the exclusive ability of the rich to let their money make more money.

So we mock the unemployed, or we spitefully (maybe enviously) hate their laziness, or we condescendingly pity them, trying to fix something that doesn’t want to be fixed. All of this stems from our fetishisation of ‘work’ – of the idea that employment is the signifier of a worthwhile human being. Yet 70% will never make it to uni, and of those a great deal will never have an opportunity to be a wage slave with anything approaching a satisfying job.

Image: Jeffreyhill.blogspot.com

Image: Jeffreyhill.blogspot.com

 

So can we blame, mock, or worry about those who worked out, early on, that the life of ‘work’ isn’t for them?  If I knew my fate was Poundland for the majority of my life, and had no inspiration to do anything else, I may very well pull up a chair, crack open a can, and see what was on the telly midday.

Do any of us, in fact, want to ‘work’?  Does anyone want to be employed by another, bossed about, told what to do all the time, just so we can collect the means to just sustain ourselves?

Only the very lucky, the smug, or the (self) deceitful say they love their job.  ‘Work’ is something you get through to do the things you love. Even if you are one of the lucky ones who loves their job, you probably love the element of doing something rewarding, not the contract that puts you at the mercy of another.

Is unemployment a bad thing, even if we could control it?  Shouldn’t we all enjoy a bit more time to play ping pong? How many of us do jobs that are even necessary, and how much time do we devote to them that is unnecessary? How many telesales operatives, or Poundland employees does a society need?

According to the New Economics Foundation, we could maintain the standard of living we have now, and yet all of us could reduce our working hours to 21 per week.

New_Economics_Foundation_logo

When my Aunt lost her job at Tesco in her late fifties to a self service machine, it was a death knell for the family.

Instead of celebrating the end of another pointless job as a blessed machine robbed her of something as degrading as bagging and pricing food for other people, the insanity of our system made us curse the day people worked out how to scan food for themselves.

We should not be ashamed of the ‘lumpen proles’, as Marx called them, we have bigger fish to fry.

This is why I support a Universal Basic Income, it frees us all. It gives us time, a safety net, and releases us from developing jealous hatred of others.

1) Jobseekers must now take on zero hour contracts or face sanction

Jobseekers will face sanctions for three months or more if they do not take on zero hour contracts, according to a leaked letter from Employment Minister Esther McVey last week.

For the first time, claimants could be sanctioned for not applying or accepting certain zero hour contract jobs, despite growing concern that these contracts lead to insecure employment and an undue upper hand to the employer. The ONS revealed last week that 1.4 million Brits were now on zero hour contracts, a number that has more than doubled in the last year.

“The senior Tory confirmed that, under the new system, Jobcentre “coaches” would be able to “mandate to zero-hours contracts“, although they would have discretion about considering whether a role was suitable.”

Government insists the change is possible because Universal Credit will be able to track what hours were worked each week and adjust payments to suit. However, the Universal Credit system has been awash with problems and delays, and critics say this could hamper claimant chances of finding more secure work or training.

Image: The Liverpool Echo - Employment Minister Esther McVey

Image: The Liverpool Echo – Employment Minister Esther McVey

Read more about this story here.

2) In-work Housing benefit claimants rise by 60% since coalition

The number of people in-work claiming housing benefits has risen by 60% since the coalition took power in 2010.

The figures were revealed by the House of Commons Library after a request from the Labour Party, and showed “the number of Housing Benefit claimants who are in-work and struggling to keep up with their rent payments increased from 650,561 in May 2010 to 1.03 million by the end of 2013, and is continuing to rise.”

This will cost the taxpayer an extra £4.8 billion by May 2015 and demonstrates that falls in working conditions and pay are also contributing to rises in poverty, and that claimants are not restricted to the unemployed.

The rise also demonstrates the spread of extortionate rents, which people are struggling to keep up with. Yet, the rate of house building remains at it’s lowest for decades, despite the prospect of creating jobs, housing stock and affordable rent prices.

Photo: www.theguardian.co.uk

Read more about this story here.

3) Tory led company made £8m profit from Royal Mail fire sale

An investment bank which made profits of £8m in one week following the sale of the Royal Mail, was led by former Tory Chairman, Archie Norman.

Lazard, a bank which was invited to advise on the Royal Mail deal whilst also given preferential terms in the sale of under-priced Royal Mail shares, was promoted by Vince Cable as one of the firms that would form “a core of high quality investors.” Yet, one of the divisions put their shares up for sale within a few days, taking advantage of the predictable rise in price and trousering £8m in one week.

Financial News reported back in July 2013:

“Lazard, the independent investment bank, has appointed former Conservative minister and ex-Asda chief executive Archie Norman as its London chairman, as the firm works on the privatisation of the Royal Mail.”

“Norman, 59, who has been a senior adviser to Lazard since 2003, will strengthen his ties with the investment bank at a time when a string of UK Government mandates are up for grabs.”

 

Read more about this story here.

4) Britain’s rich now have more than pre-recession wealth

The Sunday Times Rich List has revealed that there are more than 100 billionaires now living in Britain, with a combined wealth of £301 billion.

This has more than tripled from a decade ago, when £700m was required to enter Britain’s top 50 wealthiest people. The entry rate is £1.7 billion now.

The UK has the highest rate of billionaires per head anywhere in the world, and London has the highest rate of any city.

Read more about this story here.

5) “I have no time for you, sir” – BBC Question Time audience member tells Farage.

 by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

By Thomas Barlow

Forced to watch television one evening, I managed to tune into a UKIP party political broadcast that was so factually false it threatened the safety of nearby property as I raged fruitlessly at the grinning moron in front of me.

I relaxed at the impending mental candy floss that is The One Show, only to be immediately disappointed.

BBC 1 had been turned into a recruitment station for the Army Reserves.

The presenters used tones that would have been more appropriate in raising money for an animal shelter to explain the Army was overstretched and need the unpaid Reserves to fill the gaps.

Now those of us who like to not be invading countries constantly to secure resources for massive corporations may be glad to hear that the Army is smaller than it has ever been, poorly paid and badly equipped.

However their work is being done by massively overpaid private sector corporations, and volunteers.

SOUND FAMILIAR?!!

It is worth noting that the Unemployed have been know as the Reserve Army of Labour for a long time.

The unemployed manage to keep wages down by their mere existence.  They can be called on in times of over-production, when more hands are needed. They can also be used to break strikes, because desperate people cross picket lines.

But now we have a situation where former public sector work goes to massively overpaid private corporations. Who then sack everyone and increase the dole queue.

Once on the dole, the unemployed are then forced into making money for massive private corporations by working for free. Until, at one point, they declare themselves self-employed, just to avoid the sanctions and the humiliation of being told unpaid  work for Poundland is ‘necessary training.’ So? Sod the lazy bastards, why should they get something for nothing?

Morally we have a repugnant situation where the Reserve Army of Labour – the unemployed, are being forced to work for no wages – or face losing the money they need to live.  (I will rage against the sanitised used of sanctions to describe this despicable act some other time).

Logically we have the moronic situation that the process is clearly not only incredibly expensive administratively and failing by every measure at actually finding people work, but is taking away jobs from paid workers and decreasing the available jobs out there.

Economically we have a very obvious failing in the system, as we take disposable income out of the hands of those who actually spend their money (unlike the super rich), therefore decreasing the amount of economic growth through the ever growing and competitive use of sanctions.

Do we want to live in a society where we do something morally repugnant, logically moronic and economically counterproductive because we think all people should be as miserable as everyone else who has to work?

********************************************************************************************************

And by the way if you believe the economy is growing, please don’t believe the hype:

Image: AAV

Image: AAV

And if you think unemployment is failing, just think about what kind of jobs they are walking into – self-employed with no protection, or zero hour contracts with no wage.

Especially if you live outside of London.

Self Managed poverty is what they’re calling the newly self employed, who make up 46% of those who have ‘new jobs.’

Part time workers are now to face sanctions as well.  Even though they have managed to get a job.

Help to Work my arse!

 

Lots of good news this week!

REGULARS – Some digested pieces to help you fight the war on the mind.

Liberty – Economics – Environment – Good News!

Liberty

We have to talk about TTIP (tee tip as I pronounce it), as it could be one of the most devastating things to happen to our democracy and freedoms since the the GATT become the WTO and allowed corporations to patent life and genes.  This is just a starter for ten.

And terrifyingly people aren’t even being allowed into the country to help their siblings live by transplanting their organs.

Economics

The economy can be a difficult thing to understand, here is a handy little diagram to help you grasp it’s deep complexities, from medium.com

Image: Medium

Image: Medium

30 organisations are fighting to keep volunteering voluntary – this is why.

China is not often where we think of when we think of civil unrest, but the strikes in China are changing things for all of us.

1.4 Million people are on zero hour contracts.

You probably know this, but benefit fraud is not really the problem it is made out to be.

Environment

This amazing map shows how many Tories have got their piggy little finger in fracking pie, and why they want to rip up the country so much (thanks to Fracking Dangerous)

fracking-government

Odd Ones

A man strips half naked to show his anger at being left with no money by the government.

Good News!

People are finally protesting Serco!

Liverpool Council show some backbone and boycott the Help To Work scheme.

Pensioners and disabled people in Sheffield start the fightback to protect free travel.

The french can create 100,000 new green jobs, why can’t we?

Stupid snarky headlines made so much better! 

Hunt Sabs and Anti Fascists join up!

A qualified well done for the Greens who are going to treble their number of MEPs.

Someone at the BBC tells the truth!

And man earns £250 worth of pints for doing a wanker sign at Farage on TV!

farage

 

1) 1.4 million Britons now on zero hour contracts

Official statistics released on Wednesday revealed there are now 1.4 million people on zero hour contracts in the UK. More than one in ten employers use these casual employment contracts, and they are mostly found in the retail, care and service sectors.The figure has increased rapidly since 2010 and has more than doubled in the last year.

Zero-Hours-Contracts

Zero hour contracts do not provide a minimum number of hours, and no holiday or sick pay which is leaving an ever growing number of people without job and financial security week to week. Defenders of the contracts say that they can be used well and work for certain jobs, however, the increase in their use is normalising these contracts in further sectors and can be used as a way of disempowering the employee and keeping wages low. We spoke to Giselle Cory from the Resolution Foundation a little while back about the issues surrounding increased use of zero hour contracts:

“Labour market flexibility is on the one hand a very good thing, and for some people zero hour contracts will be perfect, but for a lot of people we know they’re not. So for people who perhaps have responsibilities at home, young children for example, and are on zero hour contracts where they need to be available for work all the time, but don’t know what hours they’re going to get that week, it’s very difficult to manage their lives – both manage their budget but also manage their childcare and make sure they can get to work if they’re needed. For those families, when they have no option but to take these zero hour contracts, they’re left in a quite miserable and precarious position because they have no security day-to-day or week-to-week.

“[Some employers are] 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.”

Read the full interview here.

Pressure now mounts on Vince Cable to act on providing better job security during the ‘recovery.’ Cable has also commissioned his own study into the contracts, the findings of which will be published shortly.

Read more about this story here.

2) Sanctions are ‘damaging’ and have ‘no positive impact’ say Jobcentre advisers

The coalition government introduced a new benefit sanctions regime in 2012 as they believed the old system was too soft. However, 70% of Jobcentre staff that responded to a PCS survey said that sanctions “had ‘no positive impact’ in influencing jobseeker behaviour” and “three quarters had noticed an increase in the number of claimants being referred to food banks as a result of their benefits being cut.”

Image: powerinaunion.co.uk

Image: powerinaunion.co.uk

Sanctions have increased dramatically in the last two years. In statistics released a couple of weeks ago, 5 times as many people were sanctioned as found jobs, raising questions on the legitimacy of the sanctions where there are no opportunities or jobs for people.

The news also supports what was said by the 2 Jobcentre advisers we interviewed last week. You can read their accounts here.

Read more about this story here.

3) Green Party push Lib Dems into 5th place in Euro election polls

“Green Party of England and Wales ahead of the Lib Dems in the Euro election polls, and David Cameron has confirmed he will have a live TV debate with Nigel Farage and Natalie Bennett – Green Party Leader. That’ll be the first time a woman has appeared in these election debates.”

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4) UKIP have to cancel freepost address after receiving bricks and faeces

UKIP have had to cancel their freepost address after they were sent unwanted and unpleasant packages at their own expense.

After the freepost address was circled online, many took to sending bricks to the political party in order to charge them with hefty postage fees. Others sent leaflets and phone books, but after receiving blood and faeces the party decided to cancel the address.

Polls suggest that UKIP may do well in the European elections on 22nd May. To find out all you need to know about the party – check our lowdown.

In other UKIP news, Farage will once again appear on Question Time this week, prompting a petition calling on the BBC to stop giving the leader of the UKIP party disproportionate airtime. The petition says:

“Despite leading a party with no elected Members of Parliament, Nigel Farage has appeared on the BBC’s foremost political discussion programme more often than any other British politician: 14 times since 2009. This utterly disproportionate airtime runs contrary to the BBC’s duty as a public service broadcaster to provide balanced coverage.”

You can sign here.

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

Today marks one year of RealFare, and to do that we have the video from our first event Real Talks: A Job’s Worth – Employment in 2014.

A big thanks to Stef O ‘Driscoll (Inner City Theatre), Natalie Bennett (Green Party Leader), Thomas Barlow (Greater Manchester Community Union), Michael Tran (Youth Employment UK), Monsay Whitney, Jess Green, Erica Buist, Charlotte Raynsford and Hoxton Hall and John Layton for putting this together.

Real Talks aims to start a new conversation on pressing social issues. Enjoy the video.

 

1) ‘Help To Work’ comes into effect today

A new government scheme starting today will put tough new requirements on the long-term unemployed to continue receiving benefit.

‘Help To Work’ will affect those who have already completed the Work Programme and have been out of work for longer than two years. These claimants will now have to take part in community placements for 30 hours a week, which could include picking up litter or removing graffiti. They will also have to ‘sign on’ at the job centre every day, and receive at least 4 hours of intensive job search monitoring with advisers each week.

Should claimants not find work after six months, they will be re-enrolled on the programme and sanctioned if they do not comply.

Recent statistics show that only 3% of those on the Work programme have gone on to find gainful employment, which suggests problems within the government system and approach. Community placements also seem a lot like community service under threat of sanction, a worrying treatment of the unemployed like criminals and once again an attempt by the coalition to fix unemployment by fixing the unemployed.

Image: theweek.co.uk

Image: theweek.co.uk

Read more about this story here.

2) Occupy Wonga – May 1st

Occupy, DPAC and UK Uncut have joined to stage an action on May 1st against ludicrous interest rates and pay day loans. The action will form part of the Worldwide Wave of Action running from April 4th to July 4th.

The plan for the day is:

“May Day Itinerary:-

12:00 (High Noon) Assemble at Clerkenwell Green.

13:00 March sets off

2:30 Rally in Trafalgar Square in Honour of Tony Benn and Bob Crow.

As soon as the rally is finished, we march. When we arrive at the target we will occupy a space and Occupy London will hold a General Assembly on site; the assembly agenda will be confirmed on the day, by those present.

Supporting this action on the day will be:- *Occupy London *Disabled People Against The Cuts *Fuel Poverty Action *ClassWar *The Resistance Movement Of The UK”

Image: Occupy

Image: Occupy

Read more about this story here.

 3) Councils are sitting on £67m of emergency help

A Freedom of Information request obtained by the Guardian revealed that councils are sitting on £67m of the £136m given out to help with emergency appeals.

Record numbers of families are being turned down for help despite many being left penniless and hungry by benefit sanctions, welfare reforms and the bedroom tax. 4 in 10 applications are turned down for emergency help. In some places as few as one in 10 receive crisis loans.

Councils told the Guardian that they had given out less help than in the past because the public knew less about the schemes, with some failing to advertise that there was help available.

Read more about this story here.

4) Real Talks: A Job’s Worth

Real Talks’ first event went well on Thursday last week with a great discussion about current experiences, unemployment, policies and alternatives. Keep an eye on RealFare for the video and photos! Thanks to all those who attended.

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