Monday, 31 December 2012

Nudging You Off the Dole Using Head Science


Thalernomics

The State loves breaking down working class resistance and the government is no different. Its’ Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) have recently been applying head science to claimants in a trial considered “pioneering” by one liberal newsshoot. It basically involves experimenting with claimants to find the best methods of throwing them off the dole “more quickly” and has its roots in behavioural economics.

BIT, or the ‘Nudge’ Unit, was launched by the Cabinet Office in 2010 and is run by a group of dusty know-it-alls intent on finding ways for “people to make better choices for themselves” and live happily ever after in a land of, well, happily ever after. The Nudge Unit prays to their god Thaler, Richard Thaler —whose surname gives us the noun dollar— an American economist who claimed to have worked out why people make market & investment mistakes and how to not make those mistakes and therefore make more money.

Basically, Thaler and his army think people are stupid and by positive reinforcement, or ‘nudging’, people can be influenced to make better/more-positive actions/decisions. This is why Thaler’s behavioural theory has popped up in the courts of Obama and Cameron, the latter setting up the Nudge Unit that has been bouncing round the country applying Nudge Theory to anything it can get its hands on —including the unemployed.

Government likes to engineer people's lives like it's some fucking giant game of SimCity, so BIT (or the Nudge Unit) have been messing about in Jobcentres seeing if they can ‘save more money’ by fast-tracking the unemployed into work by cutting red tape and subjecting claimants to a “range of different processes”, including getting claimants to write about traumatic events for 10 or 15 minutes every month. Very fucking crafty.

Expressive writing was used by the Nudge Unit in a 3-month trial at 3 jobcentres to apparently “build psychological resilience and well being”. But, by getting claimants to express themselves via trauma, you also gain an insight into a psychological world that would otherwise remain private, no? And what better way to get them a job, any job, by being able to play on their psychology. Seems like it’s less down to building “resilience and well being” and more about suggestion and coercion; and with minimal rights, claimants are the perfect subject to try out these nu-fangled theories without too much resistance.

Behind all the big words and Government backing, Nudge Theory looks and sounds very similar to Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, which in turn begins to look and sound very similar to Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) —the latter being used by Work Programme (WP) providers, such as A4e, to 'motivate' their customers towards behavioural patterns that make the WP Provider cash.

“The results are impressive” claim the Nudge Unit, with 15%-20% of claimants more likely to be kicked off benefits and into no-jobs 13 weeks after signing on. And no fucking wonder, when a team led by doctors and lords have employed psychological coercion to get you to that happy place of work, where dignity and money abound.

What real boils the revolutionary blood is nonsense like:
"Developing new tools which seek the active commitment of jobseekers to engage in specific activities, linked to aspects of their daily routines ('commitment devices'), and offering greater stretch".
Erm, you mean finding new ways to pin down a claimant using otherwise private information? A4e have been at these sorts of 'commitment devices' for years, recently culminating in something called Total Person:
"If you are living in deprivation, with multiple problems preventing you from playing a full part in society, what you need is power, options and advice to solve your own problems. You need a single person who understands you, your family, and the place you grew up; sticks with you in the long term; treats you like a human, not a number; and backs you to build a different future for yourself. We call this approach Total Person."
People get scam emails less sickening than this. Yet, the Government is pouring massive amounts of money into the gullets of these programmes —the impeachment, in some form or another, of the welfare recipient always being the end result.

The objective of Nudge, NLP, Total Person, whatever went before —and used in this way— is to invade the psychology of the individual and open it out to the disciplinary engineering of the government. At the same time, the individual is given ‘technologies of the self’ to do the same job —ultimately, we end up being attacked from within and without; and that makes it all the more important that we fuck the ruling classes & their methods right up!

This is a class war against us, a global proletariat in and out of work, who are barely managing to eke out a living during a new epoch of accumulation that's being touted as Austerity. So, these kinds of behavioural devices used to discipline and manage the workforce must be recognised, ridiculed, and finally killed by fire along with the State.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

The Court Fines You Workfare!




In October, Conservative toff John Glen stood up in the ‘Commons’ and presented a bill calling for the introduction of forced labour for those who weren’t able to pay court fines.

During the motion, Glen hovered around the ideas of justice and fairness; and of the total outstanding fines ‘owed’ to the magistrate as being “too much” —although Glen thinks “[t]his is not so much an issue of lost monies, but more about how to deliver justice to society.” Eh?

Is it about money? Is it about justice? Glen isn’t arsed, because his real sights are set on the unemployed:
“To my mind, there are two clear cases where unpaid work orders could be a preferable means of payment: first, where the deduction of a fine from benefits would risk serious implications for the well-being of the defendant or their household, or where a deduction from a benefits order request is refused because the benefit cannot statutorily be reduced; and secondly, the small number of cases where the defendants wish to accelerate the payment to preserve their income, especially if they are relying on benefits.”
If you were around in 1662, you would've heard a similar presentation being made by Sir William Petty, who suggests "the substitution of compulsory labour for all penalties, 'which will increase labour and public wealth'".

It’s doubtful whether Glen loses sleep over the “well-being of the defendant”; and it’s a massive assumption that defendants, or anyone, would want to “accelerate” themselves into forced labour.

The Courts Act 2003 already forces people to work off their poverty fines, although a pilot scheme operated throughout 2004-2009 found “unpaid work orders” were only applicable to a small number of people. Glen, though, thinks its time to “look-again” at unpaid work orders and wants to fire-up another pilot…but with a twist. Rather than the probation service supervising the pilot, Glen wants Local Authorities and charities to take on the role:
“Many charities would be willing to supervise an individual if that meant they could benefit from a number of hours of work that are of real benefit to a local community.”
Hang on a second. Charities. Unpaid labour. Now where have we heard that before?

With the recent explosion —and subsequent, ongoing implosion— of workfare charities, Con’ Glen provides another piece of the Conservative’s ideological attack on the unemployed by potentially suckering charities into taking charge of another part of an historical network of social discipline and exploitation. At either end of claimant survival lies a charity waving the workfare stick. Nowhere in the presentation of this bill was there mention of other strata of people who might have to endure unpaid labour as a result of unpayable fines: Glen when straight for those claiming benefits.

If Glen has his way, claimants already threatened with DWP-workfare, who find themselves in-front of the magistrate, could also be looking at MoJ-workfare.

These are fucked-up times. Just this week we had some bonehead in the Commons trying to introduce income management for claimants by-way-of welfare cash cards; and then earlier in the year Con Glen is trying to expand, encourage and normalise forced labour as a punishment for the unemployed upended by the Ministry of Justice. 

Every Body is being dragged into the net of exploitation —a hydra of modern accumulation leaving no part of the fabric of society unturned as it readjusts and restructures itself post -crisis. And this attack on our welfare is merely a smaller part of a class assault that’s trans-national in scale. All struggles are now inter-woven and collectively we need to start kicking the living shit out of exploiters going about their daily routine as if it’s business as usual. 

Sunday, 16 December 2012

War, Welfare and the National Health Service

Beveridge? No Thanks.


Excerpt from The Breakdown of Welfare (Anarchy in Action by Colin Ward, 1973)

“The connection between welfare and warfare is in fact very close. Until late in the nineteenth century the state conducted its wars with professional soldiers and mercenaries, but the scale and scope of wars forced states to pay more and more attention to the physical quality of recruits, whether volunteers or conscripts, and the discovery that so large a proportion of the eligible cannon-fodder was physically unfit (a discovery it has made afresh with every war of the last hundred years) led the state to take measures for improving the physical health of the nation. Richard Titmuss remarks in his essay on War and Social Policy that 'It was the South African War, not one of the notable wars in human history to change the affairs of men, that touched off the personal health movement which eventually led to the National Health Service in 1948.’”

“With the extension of warfare to the civilian population, the need to maintain morale by the formulation of 'peace aims' and the general feeling of guilt over past social injustices and of resolution to do better in future which war engenders, the concern over physical health extended to a wider field of social well-being. The 'wartime trends towards universalising public provision for certain basic needs', as Titmuss says, 'mean in effect that a social system must be so organised as to enable all citizens (and not only soldiers) to learn what to make of their lives in peacetime. In this context, the Education Act of 1944 becomes intelligible; so does the Beveridge Report of 1942 and the National Insurance, Family Allowances and National Service Acts. All these measures of social policy were in part an expression of the needs of war-time strategy to fuse and unify the conditions of life of civilians and non-civilians alike."

"His sardonic conclusion is that 'The aims and content of social policy, both in peace and war, are thus determined at least to a substantial extent - by how far the co-operation of the masses is essential to the successful prosecution of war.'”

Saturday, 1 December 2012

International Day of Persons with Disabilities Trashed by the ConDem Workfare Clan





Monday 3rd of December is International Persons with Disabilities Day[i], organised by the United Nations Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (SCRPD). By decree of the Department for Work & Pensions[ii], this is the day sick and disabled people in the UK will face the possibility of forced unpaid labour (workfare) or lose their entitlement to benefits.[iii]

The virulent web of workfare spat out of successive governments’ spin-machines reaches ever-more disturbing heights that plunge human beings into an ever-more precarious existence.

As Capitalism restructures its ailing skeleton, it is sweeping up everyone who can be exploited in its path; squeezing out every last bit of labour from our already shackled torsos; and vilifying anyone who dares to access welfare, in order for welfare’s scarcely social objective to collapse.

Underneath the collapse, Capitalism is consuming the infrastructure of welfare and transforming it into private venture. Government looks on with a greedy smile as its ideology is fulfilled, along with its coffers, ears closed to our voices sinking in a poverty shed by the richest classes.

On Monday 3rd of December we should be retaliating against this no-ones government and sending a clear message that we’re not gonna’ be fucked with. That’s what International Day of Persons with Disabilities should be about, and not some drab UN convention-celebration[iv] that, along with all the other conventions on our ‘rights’, mocks us as human beings.

Communication blockade Esther McVey, Minister for Disabled People, for doing fuck all to prevent the introduction of workfare for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) claimants: 
https://www.facebook.com/events/464840233562166/


[i] http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?id=1597
[ii] http://www.dwp.gov.uk/newsroom/press-releases/2012/nov-2012/dwp131-12.shtml
[iii] http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/nov/30/sick-disabled-work-benefits-programme
[iv] http://www.un.org/disabilities/convention/conventionfull.shtml

Friday, 30 November 2012

The Return of the Workhouse


Kingsway House, Salisbury

 (The picture above is Kingsway House in Salisbury. Once a former Workhouse, it is now owned by the Spectrum Signpost Housing Association who are a member of the Give Us A Chance consortium).


In an August article[i] on the looming introduction of the Bedroom Tax[ii], Inside Housing interviewed Tory ratbag and Chief Executive of Liverpool Mutual Homes (LMH) Steve Coffey on “innovative proposals to reduce the impact of benefit reform on its residents.”

The proposal offers tenants hit by the Bedroom Tax a deal to make up the shortfall in their rent by working for LMH doing odd jobs such as “litter picking” on LMH estates. Tenants would also be shunted into training (work) programmes with local charities to secure a roof over their heads.

Coffey coats the proposed workhouse scheme with a voluntary varnish, but how voluntary is voluntary when it is conditional? Well, it’s not voluntary, at all, when the threat of eviction forces tenants into the scheme.

Coffey has been in the news lately over false accusations made against staff to get them arrested.[iii] The 3 shop stewards —callously sacked along with 10 others in 2011[iv]— accused of assault by Coffey were finally acquitted in November, when the Judge threw out the case brought against them by Coffey & LMH. So, its no surprise the slimy shitbag would have no qualms transporting tenants back to the days of the workhouse, under the pretence of a “something for something” deal.

With 56% of people on the Work Programme in social housing[v], Housing Associations (HAs) have been sniffing ‘round the Government’s failing Work Programme since its introduction in 2011, trying to find a way to tap into the lucrative contracts the DWP has been throwing at its toff pals. Bromford Housing Group is one of the landlords who’ve secured contracts to swell the profits of Work Programme provider esg[vi]. Bromford Group even released a Work Programme guide for HAs that includes,

“…assisting and tracking customers who have found work. This can help them [prime contractors] claim significant sustainability payments. You already have an ‘on the sofa’ relationship with your customers. Many of which will be on the Work Programme whether you know about it or not.”

Bastards.

Another racket, the Give Us A Chance[vii] consortium, consisting of 23 members including LMH and Spectrum Signpost Housing Association, have been plotting with prime contractors to squeeze every last penny out of their unemployed tenants by cajoling them onto the Work Programme if they aren’t already on it.

Bastards times two.

When the Tories called for a return to Victorian values, they fucking meant it. Landlords, whether they’re branded social or not, putting tenants-to-work for rent taken away by attacks on welfare; or adding conditionality to tenancies based on attending training or work programmes mimics the workhouse ideology (sans conditions) of what were known as spikes.

Coffey & LMH’s “embryonic” plans could be (or already have been) picked up by landlords out to make an easy pound off the backs of the unemployed, as Landlords try to embed themselves in the Work Programme supply chain. Uptake by Housing Associations has been slow, but with the impending Bedroom Tax and cut in Council Tax support it could provide an opportunity for landlords to escalate the exploitation of their tenants.

Conversely, the introduction of the Bedroom Tax is an opportunity for us to fight and organise.

In Ireland, a grassroots community-led campaign against a €100 Household & Water Tax has met fierce resistance from working class people. The mass non-payment campaign has seen households working together & supporting each other when refusing to register or pay the tax. Statistics released by the No Household Tax Campaign show that 750,000 families (52%) have boycotted the tax.

We have until April 1st 2013 to organise against the Bedroom Tax, so we must act quickly, and in the process we can stop landlords’ exploitation of tenants.

For those of you who are unsure, this is class war!

---

On 12th January 2013 Liverpool Claimants Network is calling a mass meeting to organise resistance to the Bedroom Tax and Welfare cuts in general.

Defend Your Home Against the Bedroom Tax – Mass Meeting – Liverpool -12th January Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/405969726139041/
.


[i] http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/tenancies/bedroom-tax-offer-for-training-tenants/6523169.article
[ii] http://antiworkfare.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/defend-your-home-against-bedroom-tax.html
[iii] http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-news/local-news/2012/11/28/liverpool-mutual-homes-boss-steve-coffey-under-pressure-to-resign-over-court-case-100252-32319667/
[iv] http://truth-reason-liberty.blogspot.co.uk/2011/08/sacked-liverpool-mutual-homes-workers.html
[v] http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/tenancies/struggling-to-get-work/6520833.article
[vi] http://www.esggroup.co.uk/
[vii] http://www.giveusachance.co.uk

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Week of Action Against Workfare



Lets drive some more nails into the Not-Working Programme coffin. Join Boycott Workfare from the 8th of December in naming & shaming workfare profiteers as part of a Week of Action Against Workfare. Actions have already been announced in Birmingham, Brighton, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool and London.

Birmingham
Workfare’s Christmas Bonus For The Bosses:
https://www.facebook.com/events/364371483654547/

Brighton
Superdrug Steals Christmas:
https://www.facebook.com/events/119557471537196/


Dundee:
Name & Shame: The Dundee Workfare Providers Tour
https://www.facebook.com/events/113882218773754/

Edinburgh
Say No! To Unpaid Labour:
https://www.facebook.com/events/557921877567802/

Glasgow
Anti-Workfare Picket Against Superdrug:
https://www.facebook.com/events/436389796422231/

Leeds
The Leeds Tour of Workfare:
https://www.facebook.com/events/422628911135677/

Liverpool
Combat Workfare
https://www.facebook.com/events/535148439846906/


London
North London Solidarity Federation
Combat Workfare National Day of Action
https://www.facebook.com/events/481653508553648/

London
South London Solidarity Federation
END UNPAID WORK:
https://www.facebook.com/events/131332367023414


Let Boycott Workfare know your plans for the Week of Action Against Workfare so we can send a resounding message to the architects & profiteers of forced unpaid labour: https://www.facebook.com/events/552862001405891/

IF YOU EXPLOIT US, WE WILL SHUT YOU DOWN!

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Defend Your Home Against the Bedroom Tax - Mass Meeting



Defend Your Home Against the Bedroom Tax

From the 1st of April tenants of housing associations & social landlords will be hit by a possible 25% cut in their housing benefit if they under-occupy their home.

This means:

1 spare room will see a 14% reduction in housing benefit
2 spare rooms will see a 25% reduction in housing benefit[i]

660,000 tenants & their families will be affected nationwide.[ii] 12,000 tenants in Liverpool[iii] and 3,000 tenants in Knowsley[iv] will be hit by the Bedroom Tax. Additionally, 44,700 working age people and their families will see a 17.5% cut in Council Tax Support.[v]

This callous attack on working class people, both in and out of work, will purge thousands of —many longstanding— tenants, 300,000 of which are parents[vi], from their homes and neighbourhoods into low-rent ghettos —and all for what? To save £500 million? To tackle the housing ‘crisis’? Bullshit!

According to the Empty Homes Agency, there are 725,000[vii] empty homes —owned by large corporations, banks, offshore companies, local authorities, other government departments, and not by private individuals[viii] — in England: enough for 1.8m people! Yet, nearly 700,000 tenants, 2/3rds of which are disabled[ix], will be thrown into crisis by government ideology and landlord indifference.

What can we do about it?

We can fight!

In Ireland, a grassroots community-led campaign against a 100 Household & Water Tax has met fierce resistance from working class people.[x] The mass non-payment campaign has seen households working together & supporting each other when refusing to register or pay the tax. Statistics released by the No Household Tax Campaign show that 750,000 families (52%) have boycotted the tax.[xi]

Leeds Defend Council Housing[xii] offer this advice:

"It is going to be very difficult for the Council or a Housing Association to evict tenants who fall into arrears as a result of housing benefit cuts. You are likely to be judged to be unintentionally homeless and the Council will then have to re-house you. It is much cheaper to keep you in your home. So don’t panic, don’t move, just keep paying what you can afford."

We Can Organise!
We have until April 1st 2013 to organise against the Bedroom Tax, so we must act quickly. On the 24th of November Bootle Against Welfare Reforms are holding a demonstration to raise awareness about the Bedroom Tax, Council Tax cut and Benefit Cap which will displace 1000’s of people from their homes.

You can sign up to the Facebook event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/284881244964293


On 12 January 2013 Liverpool Claimants Network is calling a mass meeting to organise resistance to the Bedroom Tax, and Welfare Cuts in general.


Facebook event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/405969726139041/


Venue & Time to be confirmed.


By working together and supporting each other we can defeat the Bedroom Tax.


Invite your friends, family & community, and network it.


[i] http://liverpool.gov.uk/benefits-and-grants/housing-benefits/housing-benefit-reduction-additional-rooms/ 
[ii] http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/social-sector-housing-under-occupation-wr2011-ia.pdf
[iii] http://twitter.com/garymillar/statuses/243465719268909056
[iv] http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-news/local-news/2012/07/05/knowsley-housing-trust-warns-tenants-about-new-bedroom-tax-100252-31326087/
[v] http://liverpool.gov.uk/council/consultation/council-tax/
[vi] http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/social-sector-housing-under-occupation-wr2011-ia.pdf (p11)
[vii] http://www.emptyhomes.com/statistics-2/
[viii] http://www.squashcampaign.org/resources/frequently-asked-questions/
[ix] https://twitter.com/AbiDaviesCIH/status/258458479512133632
[x] http://nohouseholdtax.org/
[xi] http://nohouseholdtax.org/your-questions-answered/
[xii] http://www.defendcouncilhousing.org.uk/dch/resources/BedroomTax_LeedsDCHLeaflet140812.pdf

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Universal Jobmatch Not Mandatory




IMPORTANT: If you are asked to sign up to Universal Jobmatch on Monday at your Jobcentre or Work Programme Provider, it is Voluntary.
“Jobcentre Plus customers (including potential jobseekers) will not be mandated to register and create a profile.”

You do not have to create a Universal Jobmatch Account nor do you have to sign any forms relating to Universal Jobmatch.

Universal Jobmatch is a new online job posting and matching service that has been created by Monster.com for the Department for Work and Pensions. Universal Jobmatch (UJ) will allow monitoring of a claimant's Jobsearch activity, which could lead to sanctions. Also, UJ allows the sharing of your personal information with employers.

Monster.com have also been involved in several instances of personal information theft.


Whilst UJ is still voluntary —there may be plans to make it mandatory in the future—, you can opt out of the service and protect your data & privacy.

For more information on Universal Jobmatch visit: http://www.consent.me.uk/#jobmatch

UPDATE:  You could be given a Jobseeker’s Direction to register with UJ, even so you do not need to give permission (consent) for DWP to access your account.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Combat Workfare - 8th December




On the 8th December Boycott Workfare, UKUncut and North West Ant-Cuts groups begin direct action against tax dodgers and workfare profiteers.

Combat Workfare, who’ve picketed workfare providers, profiteers and ‘so-called’ charities throughout the year, have provided consistent resistance to workfare in Liverpool.

Workfare isn’t gaining support, yet it’s being forced through by an ideological attack that fits neatly into the ‘logic’ of austerity.

The government is bringing through more disciplinary measures to squeeze the last scraps of independence claimants have when searching for employment.

Welfare is being brought to its knees and people are dying.

Combat Workfare must meet the government’s attacks on the unemployed and employed on the 8th of December and make it a day of direct action.

Neither workfare nor the work programme is working!

Spread this call-out far and wide. Invite your friends list & network.

Meeting place & time + Banner making day will be announced in co-ordination with various actions in Liverpool.

Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/events/535148439846906/

Friday, 9 November 2012

Week of Action Against Workfare Charities



From Boycott Workfare:

Take action 8th December onwards

A wave of pickets and direct actions against employers using the government’s exploiting workfare schemes has pressured many charities and companies to pull out of the schemes.

But charities like British Heart Foundation, Scope and Barnardos and many companies like Poundland, Argos and Superdrug continue to exploit unemployed people through the “work-for-your-dole” schemes. That’s why Boycott Workfare network are calling A Week of Action against Workfare, focusing especially on the charities involved. Action kicks off on Saturday 8th December.

We call on all unemployed people and claimants to stand up against this exploitation – we won’t work for nothing to profit the rich! We call on all workers in jobs to resist workfare – it attacks all workers’ wages and conditions. We call on all people who care about human rights and dignity to join us. We know our anti workfare actions are part of the global resistance to the austerity being imposed everywhere.

Why are we against workfare in Charities? We know first-hand what it really means.

A long-term volunteer at British Heart Foundation told us how he and many other veteran volunteers left in disgust as BHF charity shops were swamped with unwilling conscripts. Workfare totally contradicts the voluntary ethos charities are supposed to uphold.

A claimant told us how his benefits were threatened after he left a Work Programme placement at BHF – where he was treated appallingly – and declined a placement at Barnardos. Only the intervention of Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty prevented him being left penniless.

Many charities are losing skilled volunteers – as they are being forced to instead do meaningless workfare at companies and even other charities! The unemployed lose real skill-learning opportunities to be compelled to stack shelves.

Read our blog on what’s wrong with charity workfare for more and check back as the week approaches for leaflets, and online action to take as well!

Enough is enough! If you exploit us, we will shut you down!

Update: Due to pressure from Boycott Workfare campaigners, The British Heart Foundation have begun a withdrawal from workfare, saying:
"Currently, we are moving away from involvementin the mandatory work activity programme towards schemes whichprovide longer term voluntary placements."
This is a success for campaigners and shows that pickets and direct action is making a difference in the fight against workfare. The charity is still working in "partnership with Jobcentre Plus" and therefore pressure must be placed upon them to steer clear from current and future government workfare schemes.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

The Hypocrisy of the Living Wage


Wage of the Living Dead


Apart from local government, Living Wage will never entirely escape London. It is only London Authorities, top FTSE companies and their haute suppliers that can offer what is, no-doubt from their point of view, a trivial top-up to appease slight quivers of discontent in the Capital’s labour market.

It’s easy to incorporate Living Wage into your corporate chaff when you pay your workforce above median income from the outset; and equally peasy to make slight adjustments when the cleaners starting banging on the door demanding the new base wage you forgot to tell them about.

KPMG, the company who released recent statistics on the Living Wage —and have been done for fraud, and sued countless times—, look forward

“to the day when the Living Wage brand is as widely known as the Fairtrade brand - and just as widely respected.”[1]

Brand? That’s quite telling when one of the main Living Wage Foundation partners sees Living Wage as a brand.

What’s also quite telling is the Living Wage Foundation accrediting companies, such as Deloitte[2] (owners of workfare profiteers Ingeus), who actively implement the Work Programme, the sanction regime and Mandatory Work Activity (workfare). Oversight? Unlikely.

Apologies to the campaigners who, over a decade ago, dreamt up the idea in its present form; and solidarity with recent struggles to improve waged lots from not very much to not v. much. But, Living Wage, up-ended from its grassroots, is now top-down Establishment ideology entangled in the hierarchies of party-political contest and dead-end policy:

“Just before the General Election, Citizens UK came to see me with a cleaner from the Treasury who wasn’t being paid the living wage. I thought then that if our common life was to mean anything, it should mean that this hard-working woman, who cleaned the office of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, should be paid at least the living wage.”[3]

The humility of the Labour leader is bumbling. Surely, if “our common life was to mean anything” it would mean wage parity, not wage tokenism.

The extent to which this Establishment ideology becomes doubly, hypocritically apparent is in the lauding of the co-opted Living Wage campaign by parties who continue to implement and/or support workfare, and the recent “no training no pay”[4] scandal over apprenticeships. Where is the Living Wage for these sections of the market?

In this blog’s neck of the woods, Liverpool City Council recently established the Liverpool Fairness Commission, a warm and fuzzy jumble of words championing a Living Wage in a future time:

“…where pay differentials and rewards are proportionate and reasonable to reflect work and responsibility and where everyone can receive a Living Wage.”[5]

The best Liverpool could probably manage is the adoption of a Living Wage by the City Council and a handful of ‘trusted’ suppliers. But how do you justify this to a ‘citizenry’ facing deep cuts to vital services that will, by Mayor Anderson’s own admission[6], kill people?

At the very least, Living Wage is an experiment in productivity: how much can be squeezed out of these fleshy bipeds for a few more quid? At most, “it is the right thing to do in order to help lift the working poor of London out of poverty”.[7] In reality, it’s a carrot to stick the working class with the only thing they have to give away: their labour.


[1] http://www.livingwage.org.uk/our-work (KPMG)
[2] http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?page_id=517
[3] http://www.labour.org.uk/ed-miliband-speech-on-the-living-wage
[4] http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/no-training-and-no-pay-scandal-1415514
[5] http://liverpoolfairnesscommission.com/downloads/Fairness_charter.pdf  (Principle 7)
[6] http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-news/local-news/2012/10/25/mayor-of-liverpool-promises-to-resign-if-60-000-people-want-him-to-100252-32099855/
[7] http://www.livingwage.org.uk/our-work (Trust for London)


Friday, 5 October 2012

Oct 20th: WORKFARE SHUTDOWN!



The fight back against workfare continues on Oct 20th when tens of thousands are expected to march on London against austerity. As people march for a future that works, Boycott Workfare will be taking action for a future without forced unpaid labour.

The growing resistance against exploitative government work schemes is rattling the arrogance of workfare’s architects and profiteers. Retailers have withdrawn from workfare due to pressure from campaigners; warnings of “imminent contract failures” are being made by Work Programme charities. Neither Workfare nor the Work Programme is working.

Any of us could be subjected to forced unpaid work through the government's back to work schemes, so it's in the interest of all of us that we fight back. At the end of the day, workfare is an attack on the work and welfare of the unemployed and employed. It not only provides a source of cheap labour to profit-making companies but it also undermines the pay and conditions of those already in paid work.

Join Boycott Workfare in London on Oct 20th and let’s shut down the profiteers exploiting the unemployed.

Meet 2.30pm at Oxford Circus.

Bring game face, banners, noise and fight back!
 
WORKFARE SHUTDOWN! Facebook event:  https://www.facebook.com/events/397571753647212/

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Income Management for Liverpool’s Destitute?



Liverpool City Council’s (LCC) Citizen Support Scheme (CSS) will replace Crisis Loans and Community Care grants on the 1st of April 2013. One of the scheme’s proposals is to abolish cash payments in favour of food vouchers and utility pre-pay cards. Liverpool City Council offer no clear justification for abolishing cash payments other than it being part of, what they describe as, “holistic support”.

We see it as control over the poor.

Until April 2013, Crisis Loan and Community Care grant recipients will have the autonomy to purchase the items they require from the stores they choose. The CSS will remove that autonomy and replace it with restricted, and potentially monitored, methods of payment.

The Australian government has been trialing what could be the eventual conclusion of ‘reforms’ to the UK Social Fund: Income Management for the poor. 

Income Management is a policy which "quarantines" 50 – 70 per cent of Centrelink payments onto a BasicsCard. This card can only be used to buy "priority items" at government approved stores.  

Income Management targets people in poverty with punitive measures that encourage the treatment of welfare recipients as feckless, and would fit neatly into the UKGov’s tales of fraud, criminality and disorder allegedly rampant in the districts of Blighty. Personally, we call those tales survival, but it makes no odds to the privileged-in-power intent on wiping out welfare on behalf of their Capitalist chums.

CSS is punitive, demeaning, and a potential precursor to a UK-version of Income Management; we also see similar control measures being put into place in other areas of welfare, particularly relating to disability & back-to-work welfare.

On the 3rd of October 2012, think-tank Demos released statistics from a new poll, sponsored by Mastercard, that alleges a majority “support government control of how people spend benefit payments”. No doubt this think-tank propaganda will be used to justify the creeping introduction of yet more mechanisms to roll back the social contract and pave the way for neo-liberal privatisation.

For what it’s worth, LCC is ‘consulting’ the public on its draft policy. It closes on the 9th of November.

If you're interested in combating Liverpool City Council's proposed Citizens Support Scheme, email liverpoolclaimantnetwork@gmail.com

Monday, 1 October 2012

Marks and Spencer Riding the Workfare Train




Whilst speaking with people at a recent Poundland picket, it was brought to our attention that Marks and Spencer have also been dipping into the workfare labour pool. A shopper let on to us that her son has been workfaring at M&S for nout, as part of State's fraud-ridden back-to-work schemes. This backs up recent doubts over M&S’ Marks and Start programme that allegedly ‘helps’ the homeless, lone parents, young people and the long-term unemployed back to work by teaching them how to stack shelves. Yes, the hallowed work ethic is re-installed in the marginalized by forcing them to repeat the same actions over-and-over again as part of a bus fare & butty placement. 

The M&S story was first posted by @revpaulca on twitter on the 27th September:


Marks and Spencer started publicising the creation of a 1000 new jobs at their new logistics centre in Castle Donington and their partnership with Remploy, supporting disabled people into employment. Marks and Spencer then delightfully conflated job creation with employment opportunities for the disabled, and since then have refused to respond to questions regarding how many will benefit from their 'inclusivity' programme, named Plan A.

After 4 weeks of 'pre-employment' training, "a review takes place between you and your team leader to decide if a role in the warehouse is right for you." That review sounds like a no-guarantee-of-a-job interview and that pre-employment training sounds like workfare. When pressed on this M&S responded by saying:



The 1000 jobs might be, but the workfare isn't.

M&S have also been tapping into the homeless labour market through their Ready for Work programme, run by Business in the Community, which they help to set up in 1982. And, unemployed single parents are being funneled into M&S' aisles via the Gingerbread charity.

What this all comes down to is: through various schemes, M&S have been riding the workfare train for some time now by targeting disadvantaged groups who, faced with the prospect of loss of benefit, are forced into unpaid labour. As separate pieces of a whole, these 'placements' & 'programmes' may seem 'harmless' enough, but their combination across multiple sectors and industries add up to a significant pressure that is being used to drive down wages and simultaneously normalise the exploitation of the unemployed.

Loyal customers will, understandably, be horrified to learn M&S is exploiting the unemployed, and we will do everything we can to let as many people know that their pre-packaged meals come with a forced labour price tag.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Combat Workfare Returns to Poundland




A solid group of claimants, anarchists and activists continued to pile up the pressure on workfare profiteers Poundland and Tesco this weekend, with pickets set up at city centre stores in Liverpool. By stressing the purpose of a (retailer) picket line to shoppers, we were able to effectively turn away large numbers of people heading for poverty exploiters Poundland.

The Willenhall-based discount chain had the audacity to restart their ‘voluntary’ workfare scheme the day after the High Court rejected* claims that the government’s work schemes amounted to forced labour. What Poundland, and 100’s of other retailers, fully understand is working 30 hours a week for no wage is free labour and sourcing that labour through the state-as-employer guarantees that labour to be disciplined, indirectly, by the threat of benefit sanctions. Poundland calling the scheme voluntary makes no difference to the underlying exploitation the scheme is founded on.

For those who, bizarrely, support the idea of workfare, Public Interest Lawyers, who represented Cait Reilly in the High Court, have this to say on the idea of working for your benefits:

It is paid for one specific (and obvious) purpose – to support people whilst they seek employment.  It is not remuneration for work, and even if it were it would mean that people on Back to Work schemes would be getting paid as little as £1.78 per hour, often whilst working for some of our biggest retailers.

Whilst speaking with people about Poundland, it was brought to our attention that Marks and Spencer have also been dipping into the workfare labour pool. A shopper let on to us that her son has been working at M&S unwaged, as part of the fraud-ridden government work schemes. This backs up recent doubts over M&S’ Marks and Start programme that allegedly ‘helps’ the homeless, lone parents, young people and the long-term unemployed back to work by teaching them how to stack shelves. Yes, the hallowed work ethic is re-installed in the marginalized by forcing them to repeat the same actions over-and-over again as part of a bus fare & butty placement. Loyal customers will, understandably, be horrified to learn M&S is exploiting the unemployed, and Combat Workfare will do everything it can to let as many people know that their pre-packaged meals come with a forced labour price tag.

Our second target was State favorites Tesco who, despite making noises about withdrawing from workfare programmes, maintain their exploitation of the unemployed through veiled work ‘placement’ and ‘experience’ schemes. We gave out hundreds of leaflets at both pickets, informing people of the various workfare schemes that claimants can be subjected to and, as always, there was a great response from the public.

We cannot let these companies get away with the exploitation of the unemployed and we must counter the humiliating propaganda that's accompanying the rolling out of workfare across the country. Any of us could be subjected to forced unpaid work through the government's back to work schemes, so it's in the interest of all of us that we fight back. At the end of the day, workfare is an attack on the work and welfare of the unemployed and employed. It not only provides a source of cheap labour to profit-making companies, but it also undemines the pay and conditons of those already in paid work.

More actions announced over the next few days.

*The High Court ruling on the government’s workfare schemes is to be challenged

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Combat Workfare Pickets Poundland

Compact Combat Workfare


A small, determined group of Anarchists/Activists set up outside Poundland in Liverpool, today, to keep up the pressure on a company practically flaunting their use of exploited, free labour. We targeted Poundland customers exiting and entering the store, and most were bemused to find out what Poundland have been up to under the radar. As a result of our leafleting, the customers we spoke to refused to shop at Poundland until they could be assured the low-budget exploiters had exited the Government’s macabre Workfare scheme. Poundland customer boycotts had also been buttressed by recent revelations that you can actually get better deals, for your pound, elsewhere on the high street. Shocker!

We had some excellent discussions with people about workfare, austerity and the depression/recession that is obscuring the general attack on the working classes. More Combat Workfare action against Poundland on the way: https://www.facebook.com/events/112872915532190/

Monday, 17 September 2012

Workfare Giants Training Unemployed During 'Skills for Work Week'





All this week, companies who’ve been caught out using workfare will be training the unemployed as part of a ‘skills for work week’ called Feeding Britain’s Future. This dubious racket has been set up by food and grocery experts IGD who’ve enlisted the services of supermarket giants, such as Tesco & ASDA, to give “10,000 young people access to real working environments and a feel for what it’s like in the food industry.”

Most people can tell you what it’s like working in the food industry without you having to waste a week finding out. It’s shit: shit hours, shit pay, shit benefits and shit protection. Alas, your Jobcentre Plus adviser has probably inveigled you into attending a useless “skills class” at your local supermarket on the basis that it will give you much needed experience that will encourage employers to hire you, and then potentially fire you in favour of the complimentary labour they could’ve squeezed out of you whilst you were unemployed.

That’s what basically happened at 2 Sisters Food Group  —signed up to Feeding Britain’s Future—, in the schnews recently for sacking 350 employees at their Leicestershire pie and pizza factory and then tethering 100 unemployed, to what Jobecentre Plus described as ‘pre-employment training’, at their Nottingham Pizza Factory —the pseudo-carrot being a guaranteed job interview at the end of the DWP sanction stick.

Certainly, there will be well-intentioned floor staff willing to show you a trick or two over the next few days, but the overarching absurdity of the ‘skills for work week’ is that companies who are ‘opening their doors’ to teach you about “responsibilities and expectations in the workplace”, and give you the “chance to work” in their stores, would very much like to obtain your labour power, your ability to work, for as close to zero as they can get it. When it comes to the food-industry’s ‘responsibilities and expectations’ they can be reduced, as with any other industry, to the simple requirement to 'profit-from' —aided and abetted by the corridors of power that represent government.

Tesco, Asda, 2 Sisters Food Group and 100’s of other retailers have been snatching-up unpaid workers since the inception of the Condem Work Programme and its predecessor back-to-work-programme under the Labour government. Direct action against companies who use workfare has resulted in several withdrawing from the government schemes. We must keep up the pressure on the profiteers and providers who will treat us with a contempt in-built into their constitutions. Our material interests are in direct opposition to that of the companies who seek to exploit us, and it is within this struggle, against our exploitation, that we can begin to re-locate the notion of what work should be, and not some suffocating illusion imposed on us by the state & business.

Feeding Britain's Future runs from the 17th - 21st September. You can view their website at http://www.feedingbritainsfuture.com and their twitter is @fbf_uk