Thursday, 9 February 2012

Exploiting the unemployed to line the pockets of big business

The following is take from the socialist issue 704

The introduction of the government's flagship welfare service the Work Programme has been criticised recently in a National Audit Office (NAO) report.

The programme was rushed through in just 12 months starting in June 2011. Disgracefully the government paid £63 million in compensation to private companies to end New Labour's Flexible New Deal contracts early. Ten of these same companies also got the lucrative new contracts with the Work Programme. Providing support to those on benefit is big business and there are many multinationals trying to get their hands on the £5 billion budget.

The government propaganda concentrates on scapegoating individuals for not getting a job. Yet unemployment is at 2.65 million and the government's slashing of jobs and services in the public sector only makes it harder to find work.

The scramble for profits skews the way the private companies provide services. The NAO report acknowledges that providers cherry-pick the easier-to-place people into work and "park" individuals who face more barriers getting back into work.

This was highlighted by PCS-commissioned research in 2006 on third sector involvement in welfare provision. This government puts the emphasis and payment on results. It is not concerned with how providers achieve the targets, as long as they get people off benefit. Also, using the current economic crisis as an excuse, it is likely that the private sector providers will demand a relaxation of the targets they signed up to.

It is often difficult for the public to raise concerns with the quality of these companies' services. Many of them also have a bad track record in the treatment of their own employees, (see article below).

The NAO report recommends that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) monitors the contracts more robustly. And it highlights some of the problems caused by privatisation. PCS members working in the DWP have a proven track record in providing the best support to help claimants back into work. So the work should be brought back in-house by staffing up jobcentres to provide good quality, individualised support for those on benefit, rather than pouring public money into the coffers of big business.

PCS will continue to campaign for our alternative to the government's attacks on the welfare state, as well as opposing all cuts.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Hard Times - but not for the 1%

The following is taken from the socialist issue 702

Defend pensions, fight the cuts in jobs and pay

As the clouds of recession grow darker, practically every section of society feels the grim effects. Apart from one group - there are few signs of recession for the super-rich!

Worldwide, they are still prospering and trying to solve the economy's problems by attacking their workers. Bosses at the industrial giant Unilever are trying to savagely cut the pensions of their workforce in Britain. But workers are fighting back with strikes.

Pickets at Unilever's Purfleet factory told Socialist Party members why they're angry at their bosses. "Unilever is the 18th richest company in the world. Chief executive Paul Polman is on £54 million in pay and share options. He has a chauffeur and claimed £75,000 in travel expenses last year."

But, as the pickets concluded: "It's us that makes them their money!" - though it's us who suffer. The government attacks public sector workers' jobs and aims to slash benefits for the sick and disabled. Pension rights are under siege. Real wages fell 4.2% over the last year.

Now, the Resolution Foundation 'thinktank' predicts that the recession's effects will be long lasting. Looking at ten million families with incomes between £12,000 to £29,000 a year, it predicts, on the basis of sluggish growth rates, that such families' earnings might not return to pre-recession levels until at least 2020. But in this land of permanent pay freeze, again the super-rich will dodge the permafrost.

Most working class, middle class and young people are not prepared to accept this gloomy future offered by capitalism in decline. The rich, the owners of industry, finance and commerce, have declared war on us. As Unilever workers and many public sector trade unionists have already done, the unions need to fight.

The capitalist system of booms and slumps looks like being mainly slump for the next decade - unless you're part of the richest 1%. If you reject this bosses' future, join the Socialist Party, help build a working class-based opposition and help lay the basis for a socialist society.