Tag Archives: slave labour

Extremists, terrorism, and racism

One of the nastiest and most thought-provoking ads the pro-life movement in the US ever ran was of a very pretty little girl, aged about six, in a red dress, nappy hair with a pink ribbon. She stares out of the poster with a solemn, thoughtful expression. The caption: The Most Dangerous Place For An African-American Is In The Womb.

Three of the tropes the prolife movement favour come together in that advert:

  1. that a pregnant woman and her fetus are each other’s enemies – or at least, that you can’t support a pregnant woman if you want to show support for the fetus she’s carrying
  2. that abortion is dangerous
  3. that the right to choose abortion is a particular threat to African-Americans

Ask an American prolifer and they will tell you that Margaret Sanger (1879 – 1966) founded Planned Parenthood with white supremacist intentions, and offer as “evidence” some highly selective quotes from Sanger’s writings and the high proportion of abortions among African-American women. The notion that Sanger founded Planned Parenthood as a kind of dead-hand conspiracy to have black woman have abortions is so absurd on the face of it that I’d always dismissed it as just one of those American things, like the belief that evolution is “just a theory” (yes, like gravity) or that the Grand Canyon was caused by Noah’s Flood. Clear nonsense believed by people whose highschool textbooks were written to avoid being provocative with science and who get current events from Fox News.
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The outside agitator wants your biscuit

At a table somewhere in Hypothetical Stories, there’s Dolly from Tunbridge Wells, who reads the Daily Mail and works 35 hours a week for £7 an hour and an evening job on top of that just to get by. And there’s Molly on ESA who’s been registered with WRAG as fit for work, even though she’s waiting on a heart operation. And there’s Polly from Wirral, who graduated from college last year and still hasn’t been able to find a job. There’s a plate with 12 biscuits on the table. Esther McVey and Chris Grayling sit down at the table. McVey picks up the plate and hands it to Chris, who takes 11 biscuits and gives a couple to Esther. And then Esther says to Dolly, “Watch out for the other two, they both want your biscuit,” and Chris nods and says “They’re SWP members – if they weren’t making such a fuss, there’d be more biscuits for everyone.”

David Cameron held a conference at the House of Commons this past Friday to tell Conservative MPs that from now on they had to prepare for the next General Election:

“Cameron told his colleagues they were in a ‘full-time campaign’ to win over the public. Continue reading

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Challenge Iain Duncan Smith

Iain Duncan Smith, today:

“The question I’d ask these bishops is, over all these years, why have they sat back and watched people being placed in houses they cannot afford? It’s not a kindness. I would like to see their concerns about ordinary people, who are working hard, paying their tax and commuting long hours, who don’t have as much money as they would otherwise because they’re paying tax for all of this. Where is the bishops’ concern for them?”

The Welfare Reform Bill will cap the total benefit – including child benefit – any family can receive in any one year to £26,000.

The IDS Chttps://edinburgheye.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=752&action=edit&message=1#post_namehallenge on Twitter

Iain Duncan Smith says (BBC, 18th January) that those who have savings of more than £16,000 would be expected to “dip into” their own money to support themselves after a year, as taxpayers needed to know that state support for those with a certain level of income was not “open-ended”. Iain Duncan Smith’s personal fortune is estimated at £1m.
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Resist the supermarkets

When supermarkets come to town, they wreck local businesses, set up a flow of money out of the community, increase traffic, and generally act like bullies who think they’re too big to fall. They make use of workfare labourers to save themselves hiring temp workers in rush periods, they override planning permission, and once they’ve shut down all the local “competition”, you can’t even boycott them, because where else can you shop?

When was the last time you read something really radical in the Guardian?

What is to be done? Oddly enough, perhaps one mad answer lies in the other Tesco-related story of the week. Just possibly – and obviously entirely unwittingly – shoplifting chef Antony Worrall Thompson has suggested an act of civil disobedience. If a critical mass of shoppers were to decide to do a Wozza for moral reasons, then the robotic scanners would become less economically viable than human checkout workers. Pilfering from Tesco would become a political act. – Marina Hyde in the Guardian

*sings* You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant

Because: You know, if one person, just one person does it they may think he’s really sick and they won’t take him. And if two people, two people do it, in harmony, they may think they’re both faggots and they won’t take either of them. And three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people walking in singin a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out. They may think it’s an organization. And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day, I said fifty people a day walking in singin a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out. And friends, they may think it’s a movement.

Except in honour of the man who inspired it all perhaps it ought to be You can get anything you want at AWT’s Restaurant.

After all, since Tesco had approved Bob Robbins, head of Tesco’s UK stores, making £47,450 by selling Tesco shares when he had insider information that their value was going to drop, you’d have to steal an awful lot of cheap cheese to even approach the kind of shady dealing that Tesco’s chief executive, Philip Clarke, says was just fine: Robbins sold 50,000 shares for £202,250 just 3 days before they dropped so substantially in value, for “necessary family expenditure”, and haven’t we all had Christmases like that?

Carole Cadwalladr in the Observer:

It’s probably not a good idea to break the law and helping yourself to items from Tesco’s deli counter isn’t to be recommended. But when the chief operating officer sells his shares eight days before last week’s profits warning, netting himself £200,000, isn’t that a bit obvious and offensive too? The company has defended Bob Robbins’s actions. Of course. But there are some who say pocketing £200,000 is a greater offence than taking a tub of reduced-for-quick-sale coleslaw. That Phil Clarke’s multimillion pound bonus somewhat overshadows the price of a packet of cheese.

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What is Christianity, anyway?

Tesco share price dropped by 15% today. Tesco blames the recession – not enough shoppers over Christmas to make up for the “Big Price Drop” they were advertising from September onwards.

Of course much of the “Big Price Drop” was misleading advertising:

In September, Tesco announced the ‘Big Price Drop’, promising savings worth £500million a year. It said this represented a change in strategy which would deliver permanently low prices to struggling families.
Asda retaliated with its own Rollback deal, claiming prices had been slashed across 3,000 essentials.
It later emerged that many of the products involved in the promotions had seen prices rise in the weeks before they were cut.
Richard Lloyd, executive director at Which?, said: ‘Supermarkets must do more to help people in tough times by offering real deals, not fake price cuts, and by making it easier to compare prices.’ – Covingtons

I haven’t bought anything from Tesco in a long time. I can’t say I never do, because sometimes there’s literally no alternative – but if I just have to walk a bit further or pay a bit more to shop somewhere else, that’s what I’ll do.

From the This is Money report: Sainsbury’s reported a 2.1 per cent increase in like-for-like sales (excluding fuel) over the Christmas shopping period (14 weeks to 7th January 2012), but analysts estimated sales would have been flat – no increase at all – if VAT was taken out of the figures. But Kantar research figures reveal that Tesco’s market share for the 12 weeks ending on Christmas Day dropped from 30.5 per cent a year ago to 30.1 per cent. (I notice this is not exactly the same time period. A lot of people do shop in the week or two after Christmas when suddenly a lot of unsold Christmas luxuries are for sale at half-price.)

Tesco is part of Grayling’s Workfare scheme:

A spokesperson for the Boycott Workfare campaign, which encourages companies not to take people on this type of unpaid work placement, said: “Huge companies making billions are profiting from people being made to work without pay while in fear of losing everything. These companies can afford to hire and pay staff yet perversely they are increasingly reliant on a workforce subsidised by taxpayers. Councils are replacing paid positions with Workfare and charities are replacing paid and voluntary vacancies with unpaid mandatory workers. Workfare as a policy doesn’t make sense in this economic climate. We want to see a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.” Ethical Consumer

Could this drop in profits be related to the Boycott Workfare campaign?

Christian Voice doesn’t think so:

The news follows a Christian Voice campaign of prayer for confusion in the Tesco boardroom, backed up by emails to directors complaining at the ‘Gay Pride’ decision and leafleting at Tesco stores. Just before Christmas a panic-stricken Tesco announced that the 2012 ‘Gay Pride’ donation would be its last. Hours later, in the face of a homosexual backlash, it had to clarify that gays and lesbians were really important and promise that it would support its homosexual contact group ‘Out at Tesco’ in other ways in 2013, which only made matters worse.

A few weeks after the news broke that Tesco was making use of people living on £53 a week as free labour, even the pittance per week paid by the taxpayer, Francis Phillips wrote in the Catholic Herald that she was concerned that Tesco was throwing

its enormous weight behind a marginal group (but which also has a determined and sinister political agenda) that does not in the least reflect the huge majority of its customers – why?

She didn’t mean the Tory party, though. She meant lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. People who are transgendered, especially, are more likely to be stuck in long-term unemployment (ref Gires – PDF) and vulnerable to workfare. But workfare doesn’t seem to intrinsically bother Phillips. She’s being a Christian. Poverty isn’t what bothers her. Or unfair treatment of people who already have so little. She’s worried about how “Western civilisation was crumbling before our eyes” because of the Gay Agenda.

Remind me. What is this “Christianity” thing anyway?

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Slave labour is inefficient

One of the most consistent complaints that slave overseers make about their unpaid labourers is that they are lazy and inefficient workers. This is usually put down to a failing in the character of the slave. Sometimes it is argued that if the business making use of the slaves is itself efficient and well-run, the slave labour will be efficient and profitable. Specific examples of this argument have been refuted.

Workfare is not (yet) slave labour. Chris Grayling is right to argue that if someone has been on the dole for 12 months, then it can only help to have 8 weeks of work experience.

The scheme is designed to get young, unemployed people into the workplace for up to eight weeks of work experience. One of the young people you interview says: “I was basically doing what a normal member of staff does”, but the placements are not long enough to be a replacement for permanent staff. However, they are long enough for a jobseeker to impress an employer and, at the very least, to leave with a good reference and some practical experience.

Grayling goes on to adjure “let’s not be snobbish about this – plenty of people have started on the bottom rung and climbed their way to the top”.
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Chris Grayling recommends slave labour

Chris Grayling MPChris Grayling, Conservative MP for Epsom and Ewell, is rather proud of the thousands of young people obliged to be shelf-stackers in Poundland and Tesco for no pay, in order to retain their JSA benefit:

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) says that if jobseekers “express an interest” in an offer of work experience they must continue to work without pay, after a one-week cooling-off period or face having their benefits docked.

Young people have told the Guardian that they are doing up to 30 hours a week of unpaid labour and have to be available from 9am to 10pm.

In three such cases jobseekers also claim they were not told about the week’s cooling-off period, and that once they showed a willingness to take part in the scheme they were told by their case manager they would be stripped of their £53- a-week jobseekers allowance (JSA) if they backed out. Guardian, 15th November 2011

All you have to do is say “yes, I’m interested in work experience” – as who wouldn’t be? – and then you’re stacking shelves in a superstore, at no cost to the superstore, with the threat that if you don’t comply, your benefit gets docked.

Some figures to be considered.

£53 per week is what a young person on JSA has to live on. Even paid at the apprentice rate, a person working for 35 hours a week ought to be paid £91 – and 8 weeks shelfstacking is not rightly an apprenticeship for anything. A jobseeker over 20, should legally be paid £212.80 for their week’s work.

But Tesco and Poundland and the other companies taking advantage of Chris Grayling’s workfare don’t have to pay that; they get these workers for free, and they aren’t allowed to withdraw their labour or they lose even the £53 they have to live on.

Chris Grayling is MP and Minister for Employment. Contact details here. His basic salary is £134,565 per year: over twelve times what those jobseekers working in superstores ought to get paid on minimum wage, and close to 50 times what they actually do get.

But that’s not all. Chris Grayling also has access to the most extensive and unsupervised expenses scheme.

Within weeks of first being elected in 2001, he bought a flat in a six-storey block for £127,000. In 2002, he set up an unusual arrangement with the Parliamentary Fees Office, claiming £625 a month for mortgages on two separate properties, both the main home [in Ashtead - 17 miles or an hour by train from the House of Commons] and the new flat in Pimlico. This is usually against the rules, but Mr Grayling negotiated an agreement because he was unable to obtain a 100% mortgage on the London flat that he had bought.

That “arrangement” went on for 4 years, until 2006, during which time Chris Grayling claimed per month for his mortgage more than five times the jobseeker’s allowance in 2011.

Nor was this all. In the summer of 2005, after the May general election, evidently sure of his MP expenses now for another four or five years, Chris Grayling decided to have his flat refurbished. He was already claiming £15,000 a year for his flat in Pimlico and his house in Ashstead, 17 miles apart – it would have cost the taxpayer less to pay for a day return from Ashtead into London at peak rate, every day of the month, than to pay for a second mortgage in a London flat – but he wasn’t satisfied with that. In the financial year ending March 2006, Grayling claimed £9000 for refurbishment costs for that flat. That’s over three times more than the total paid to someone on jobseeker’s allowance in an entire year. It would take someone on minimum wage 42 weeks to earn, gross pay, what Grayling claimed between June 2005 and March 2006 – for the flat which mortgage he wasn’t paying for.

£24,000 is the maximum an MP is allowed to claim for their second home per year – over eight times as much as a person on JSA gets to live on: £8,000 more a year than the national median household income in the UK. It’s a nice little bonus in itself, as the living places bought using the second home allowance are the personal property of the MP – for Chris Grayling, who owns several flats on a “buy to let” basis, it’s an excellent addition to his properties in London.

But Chris Grayling wasn’t satisfied with that: He spread the costs for the refurbishment of the Pimlico property over two financial years.

This effectively allowed him to spread the costs over two years – whereas he would have been unable to claim all the costs in the 2005-06 financial year. For example, in June 2006, Mr Grayling submitted an invoice for £3,534 for service and maintenance on his block of flats, which included a service charge of £1,148 and a “balance brought forward” of £1,956. … In July 2006, Mr Grayling submitted a claim for £2,250. The invoice from the decorator was dated July 2006, and referred to “remedial and refurbishment works July 2005”. … If the various late receipts had been submitted in the 2005-06 financial year, they would have exceeded Mr Grayling’s second home allowance for the 12-month period by over £4,700. Telegraph, 11th May 2009

£4,700 is 20 times what someone on JSA gets paid in one month. A person on minimum wage would have to work 35 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, for over two and a half years, to earn what Chris Grayling paid himself to refurbish the flat and pay the mortgage in those two financial years from 2005 to 2007.

Second homes allowance is the nicest bonus MPs get, but it’s not the only claim Chris Grayling makes. In one month in 2007, while being paid £63,291 per year – 4 times the national median wage – Grayling claimed £4700 “expenses”. That is, Grayling claimed for one month 1.7 times as much in expenses as someone on JSA gets to live on for a year. Someone on the minimum wage that Grayling denies to people who are working in Tescos for their JSA, would have to work for over five and a half years to earn Grayling’s basic annual wage.

Rayburn, who was also told by his jobcentre he would lose his benefits if he did not work without pay, said he spent almost two months stacking and cleaning shelves and sometimes doing night shifts.
“They said [my JSA] would be cut off if I didn’t do it.”
Asked if he thought he should have been paid, he said: “I reckon they should have paid me … I was basically doing what a normal member of staff does for Tesco. I had the uniform and I was in the staff canteen. I obviously got access to the food and drinks in the staff canteen … that’s what they let you do … but I got nothing else apart from that.”

In April 2011, Tesco reported full-year profits before tax of £3.54bn, up 11.3% from April 2010. In August 2010, Poundland announced expansion plans based on pre-tax profits that had gone up 130% to £19.1m. Other superstores using free labour in this way include Asda and Sainsbury’s.


Update: in February Chris Grayling claimed the only opposition to this was from Socialist Worker Party members – apparently he thinks SWP has a huge membership! – but by April he was blaming the “Polly Toynbee left”, possibly because she’s the only left-wing writer he’s ever read.


Update: Following the Panorama (Disabled or Faking It on BBC iPlayer) / Dispatches programmes tonight (30th July), I found a discussion on ConHome in 2007 about Grayling’s “tough love” ideas about welfare. Interestingly: not all the Tories who respond five years ago approve Grayling’s idea of “forcing” people into work.

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Update, 31st August:

After winning his case with the snooty people who want to get paid, Chris Grayling rolls out a new scheme:

Job-seeking graduates living in London are to be forced to work for three months unpaid in order to keep their benefits, the government has announced. That means they will be toiling for less than £1.87 per hour – even less than the pitiful wages that apprentices earn. And it gets worse. If the scheme is successful, it will be rolled out nationally.

Fresh from his department’s success crushing objections from Poundland intern Cait Reilly in court earlier this month, employment Minister Chris Grayling announced that 18- to 24-year-olds (including graduates) who have spent less than six months in employment since leaving education will now have to work for 30 hours a week for their £56-a-week jobseeker’s allowance. (That’s £1.87 an hour – we did the maths). He denied that it was “slave labour” and insisted it would help young Londoners improve their career prospects.

They will do ‘work experience placements’ in charities or social organisations – such as care homes – for 30 hours a week over 13 weeks. It is unclear how much real work these ‘placements’ will involve, but given that the idea is to banish the “something for nothing culture” that he feels is so prevalent among workless under-24s, we assume these will look very similar to proper jobs (only they will be unpaid, of course). The scheme will be tested this year in 16 London boroughs including the riot-hit areas of Croydon and Haringey. The Government then hopes to roll out the scheme across London and the rest of the UK.

Update, 4th September

Just to add injury to insult: Chris Grayling is now Justice Secretary. This is the man who thinks homophobes running a B&B should have a right to discriminate against LGBT people:

I think we need to allow people to have their own consciences,” he said. “I personally always took the view that, if you look at the case of should a Christian hotel owner have the right to exclude a gay couple from a hotel, I took the view that if it’s a question of somebody who’s doing a B&B in their own home, that individual should have the right to decide who does and who doesn’t come into their own home.”

Chris Grayling - Benefits Cheat

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