Tag Archives: workfare

Cabinet of despair

Government departments and their ministers, reshuffled

We’re in a recession heading for a depression, and George Osborne is Chancellor of the Exchequer. Osborne believes that the right thing to do when the economy is failing is to cut government spending and to make large numbers of people unemployed. Even economists who thought this theoretically might work realise it’s long since proved to be not working (Martin Wolf of the Financial Times was recommending in May that the government announce a change of plan): Nobel Prize winning economists Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz, turn out – strangely enough – to know more about the economy than a man whose main qualification for being Chancellor is that he was in the Bullingdon Club with David Cameron.

Yet Osborne is set to continue cutting till May 2015. And short of revolution, we can’t get rid of him.
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Prisoners and workfare

One3one solutions: Justice working for you – at £2 an hour or less.

Prison costs a lot of money: it’s expensive to lock someone up and keep them under guard. If we’re going to spend that kind of money on keeping people who are a danger to society out of circulation for months or years, we should be investing it sensibly and giving people opportunities to reform.

I think it’s a good thing if a prisoner who’s soon to be released from jail can do day-release work outside, get used to interacting with people outside the prison environment before they actually go out for real. I think prisoners should have options to study and get qualifications in prison. I think we should be investing money in imaginative schemes like a prison restaurant, that give prisoners a chance to learn and get work outside, in trying to make sure that once someone leaves prison, they have more options than when they went in.

But:

Andrew Neilson, from the Howard League for Penal Reform says:

“We do welcome these opportunities [for prisoners to work] but it should be on the same basis as anyone else in the community. We don’t want the issue of prisoners on day release being employed becoming one that divides people and effectively people are turned against those prisoners because they’re seen to be taking people’s jobs. That’s not what should be happening.”

He’s talking about a situation that’s come up with a company called BecomingGreen Continue reading

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Filed under About Food, Corruption, Justice, Poverty, Sustainable Politics

Waked after long sleep

Article 22: Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

I have the Opening Ceremony, Isles of Wonder, open in the corner of my screen at this moment – the industrialists have just arrived on Glastonbury Tor, and Isambard Kingdom Brunel is about to speak Caliban’s speech from The Tempest. Thanks to BBC iPlayer and the licence fee, I can watch any part of it I wish, from now til 12th January 2013. And I would never have thought that this would actually be something I would want to do.

As SharedPast summarises it

My expectations of the London Olympics’ opening ceremony were so low that, I suppose, I would have been impressed if it had featured Boris as Boudicca, driving a chariot over the prostate figures of the Locog committee. (Actually, now that I think about it, that would have been fairly entertaining.)

I haven’t changed my mind about the Olympics or Dow Chemical, but Isles of Wonder is a magnificent piece of performance art. The whole Olympic ceremony impressed and delighted me – to say “beyond expectations” is meiosis: I had sat down to watch it in a negative mood about the Olympics, cross about the money, and fully expecting to spend Friday evening making bread, doing laundry, only a quarter of my attention on the TV.

Ms Mongrel wrote in Bring me my chariot of fire:

Despite my cynicism, I do want things to go well. I want the Olympics to be a success for example, and I was really pleased at the spectacle of the Opening Ceremony. Continue reading

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Filed under Benefits, Education, Human Rights, Olympics

Our constitution, July 2012: Economic rights

The previous constitutional posts have been based on a short list of things pretty much everyone agrees you should have in a functioning modern democracy. Politicians in government (or with hopes of being in government soon) may be less enthusiastic about some of the provisions, which are explicitly intended to restrict their power. But most of them are provisions that even the UK’s unwritten Constitution allows for and that even governments with a thundering huge majority will think carefully before overturning.

What follows is a series of ideas that would

“create a constitutional order that reflects a broad public commitment to a more inclusive, egalitarian, and communitarian way, and to mark Scotland out as a ‘progressive beacon’, the following additional provisions might be considered:”

1. Enhanced constitutional rights

Beginning with the most commonplace:

(a) Economic rights (minimum wage, right to collective bargaining)

Cait Reilly has received widespread ridicule from the right-wing press (and Iain Duncan Smith called her “snooty”) for saying her human rights were breached by being forced to work for her benefits in Poundland: I don’t know who first referred to this as “slave labour”, which is banned by Article Four of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but we can agree that being required to work 30 hours a week for £2.30 an hour may be illegal, but it is not literally slavery.

Articles 23-25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, however, were clearly breached:

Article 23: (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
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Filed under Benefits, Elections, Human Rights, Poverty, Scottish Constitution, Scottish Culture, Scottish Politics, Supermarkets

Something for nothing: workfare

In the past quarter, between March and May, the number of UK people out of work has fallen by 65,000 to 2.58m. The ONS says “the overall unemployment rate is now 8.1%, dropped 0.1% than the previous quarter” and though there are still over a million people aged 16 to 24 unemployed, youth unemployment also fell by 10,000.

The number of people in employment rose by 181,000 to 29.35m, the highest for almost four years.

Chris Grayling, Employment Minister MP, said: “This is an encouraging set of figures in what is still an incredibly difficult economic climate.”

I got a letter the other day. To clarify this: I don’t own a company and I’m not an employer. But for a few years I was a sole trader using a business name/website, and I still sporadically get advertising calls/letters for that business name. Mailing lists never die.

The Youth Contract – Supporting local businesses in Edinburgh

The letter was from Ingeus, who are doing their bit for the UK economy by taking fees from the government for “helping people out of unemployment”. Ingeus in the UK is now 50% owned by Deloitte, one of the “big four” accountancy firms who helpfully lend staff and donate consultancy work to government departments.

But it was founded by Therese Rein, one of the richest people in Australia, married to Kevin Rudd, Australia’s former Prime Minister. Continue reading

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Cameron at the Olympics

David Cameron goes to the official uniform distribution centre in east London to talk about the Olympics. After his talk he offers question time. One Olympics Volunteer puts up his hand and George asks him what his name is.

“Billy.”

“And what is your question, Billy?”

“I have 3 questions. First, why is your government making cuts in services that disabled people depend on and taking away Disabled Living Allowance from people who need it? Second, why are you privatising the NHS when that wasn’t in the Conservative manifesto or the coalition agreement? And third, why is your government forcing people who are very ill or have serious disabilities into workfare?”
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A day’s work for a day’s pay

Human rights: fair salaryThe Department of Work and Pensions say

“We will be contesting these cases vigorously. These schemes are not slave labour. They play an important part in giving jobseekers the skills and experience they need to find work. It is entirely reasonable to ask jobseekers to take real steps towards finding work if they are claiming benefits.”

Jamieson Wilson, 40, is a mechanic. He has been unemployed (according to the AP story) since 2008. His Job Centre decided that the entirely reasonable way of “helping” him with the skills and experience he would need was to spend six months doing 30 hours a week unpaid work … cleaning furniture.

Cait Reilly, 23, is a geology graduate who had arranged voluntary work for herself in a local museum. She had been signing on since August 2010. Her local Job Centre had not expressed any criticism of her efforts to find paid work, helpful or otherwise, but in January decided to “help” her with two weeks unpaid work, five hours a day, sweeping floors, cleaning shelves, and stacking goods for sale, at the Poundland near where she lived. Continue reading

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Fraser Nelson: Dollar a day

Fraser Nelson doesn’t know much about the UK benefits system or basic economics.

Fifteen hours ago Nelson tweeted:

Why sneer at Jubilee stewards who wanted experience needed to be security guards? My column in tomorrow’s Telegraph

Alas for his argument, the “sneering” at the 220+ “apprentices” and Work Programme clients drafted to be stewards at the Jubilee seems to have come not from John Prescott, nor indeed for anyone else concerned about these people, but from the woman who sent them there, Molly Prince:

“The staff travelling to the jubilee are completing their training and being assessed on the job for NVQ Level 2 in spectator safety after having completed all the knowledge requirements in the classroom and some previous work experience. It is essential that they are assessed in a live work environment in order to complete their chosen qualifications.

“The nature of festival and event work is such that we often travel sleeping on coaches through the night with an early morning pre-event start – it is the nature of the business … It’s hard work and not for the faint-hearted.”

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Workfare and the Big Society

Nick Clegg in April:

“From today, if you are 18-24 and out of work, you can get down to a Job Centre like this because they will be able to offer you the opportunities to either earn or learn, to either take up work, which we will part subsidise, or the expanded apprentice prospects or the increasing number of work experience placements.”

Over a hundred people spent the night of Saturday 3rd June under London Bridge. Some of them were being paid “apprenticeship wages” of £2.80 an hour, learning valuable rough sleeping skills. Many were working for free, though they’d expected to be paid. Kerry McCarthy, MP for Bristol East, says that £1.5 million was allocated for security at the Jubilee, and wants to know, among other good questions:

When Close Protection UK were awarded the stewarding contract, was this on the basis that they’d use unpaid labour (and if so, were the organisers happy with this?) Or were the organisers led to believe that the stewards would be paid, and the contract price fixed accordingly?

American blogger Atrios says (via):

Aside from the obvious “slave labor” element of this, using people like this for security by a private security is a complete scam. It’s just collecting a bunch of money from the government to pretend to provide security. Security people need to be trained, have authority, and actually give a shit to serve any legitimate purpose. The only purpose here is “take tax dollars [sic] and run.”

Possibly we have a different standard of large crowds in Britain than in America, but I have been a volunteer steward, and I’ve been at events with volunteer stewards. I didn’t watch the river pageant: it was a lovely sunny afternoon and, while I’m no monarchist, I don’t get a kick out of watching an elderly lady get rained on.* But it appears the main problem at the event was hypothermia, not security trouble.

You can see how it could have worked if the plan had been from the start to use volunteer stewards for the pageant crowds, with a one and a half million budget. Continue reading

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Why won’t people work for nothing?

Carl Cooper, 26, owns his own business – Car Smart UK in Canterbury, and had what must have seemed at the time to be a very bright idea.

It’s a real problem for a small business. You got a good idea, there’s a demand for it, you put in a lot of hours building up your business, but there are only so many hours in the day, you cannot be two places at once, you can’t talk on the phone to two different car dealerships simultaneously, you need more people. But the moment you bring new people in, the whole situation changes.

One big problem which does not occur to many people in Carl Cooper’s situation: you can be very good at running your own business but an absolutely terrible manager. But the cashflow problem is something you just can’t ignore.

Even if you just pay your new employee minimum wage, they’ve got to bring the company – that is, you! – a minimum of £4000 each quarter (allowing for 25% over the cost of their wages) just to break even. The chances are that even if you advertise for someone who can “hit the ground running”, an employee’s first few weeks will not be their most productive – they’re learning the job, learning what you expect of them. But you still need to pay them. Then if they’re telesales workers, you’ve got to rent more office space, buy the desks, get phones and phone lines and computers and all – huge expense, and their wages are really just the last straw, because you’ve got to pay them that whether they’re any good or not….

Imagine a little light-bulb coming on over Carl Cooper’s head. Continue reading

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