Last week saw the Labour Party announce its own form of workfare: the Job Guarantee. Labour, who introduced workfare and welfare reform into the UK whilst in government, now guarantees a number of things: It guarantees that yet again politicians will give billions of taxpayers’ money to subsidise big private businesses – probably the likes of failing and government contract reliant A4E, and workfare-users ASDA – helping them to drive up their profit margins. It guarantees to further undermine real job vacancies as companies replace job roles with subsidised compulsory short-term placements.
Labour, like the coalition government, also now guarantee to undermine the idea of a living wage, which just two months ago Ed Milliband appeared to champion. After all if a company can get staff forced to work for it, both provided by and subsidised by the state at minimum wage, why pay the living wage? Indeed, earlier announcements about the scheme suggest that it will include 10 hours unpaid, so will also be far below minimum wage. In addition, Labour’s ‘guarantee’ will only last for six months. With a revolving door workforce on tap, why would an employer create permanent jobs? As this campaign has revealed, workfare replaces paid employment, and undermines the wages of people already in work, who have seen their overtime and hours reduced: Debenhams is the latest to use workfare to staff its shops during the busy festive season.
With each placement lasting only six months, Labour guarantees to use its scheme to massage the unemployment figures, not giving those who finish their placements anything to go on to, but effectively resetting the clock on their long term unemployment. If you refuse to take part, then Labour guarantees harsh sanctions.
When Labour talk of training, they do not guarantee real skills training to get a job, or qualifications to gain employment in demand where there is a skills shortage. Past form suggests that what Labour guarantee as training, is shorthand for guaranteeing people sit in rooms and write up a CV at A4E or Deloitte-owned Ingeus for the hundredth time. After all it was Labour who guaranteed A4E’s first contract and Emma Harrison millions.
Some in Labour realise exactly what workfare means and are privately aghast at this policy initiative. While Labour join in promoting the idea that everyone who is unemployed is a scrounging benefits cheat, the fact is that spending on JSA is just 3% of the DWP’s budget. The majority of the social security budget is spent on pensions, and paying in-work benefits to those in work on low wages, wages made lower all the time by workfare. Yet ignoring such facts, this year one MP has promised that Labour will launch a ‘Workers not Shirkers’ campaign, guaranteeing to boost government spin which demonises those who are unemployed. Labour guarantees workfare. We guarantee to fight it.