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The govt’s work programmes are pure exploitation: here’s the evidence


8:55 am - June 14th 2012

by Jon Stone    


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There’s mounting evidence the Government’s work and employment strategy is deliberately geared towards the exploitation of workers and the unemployed.

Here are eight reasons to be suspicious:

DWP’s own analysis shows forced unpaid work hurts prospects
Yesterday the Department for Work and Pensions published an impact assessment of its Mandatory Work Activity programme – its forced unpaid workfare scheme. It said it has no positive impact on employment, and is actually likely to lead to people moving from JSA to ESA, which is associated with long-term unemployment and effectively reclassifies unemployed workers as disabled.

The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) peer reviewed the study, found it to be spot-on, and concluded that it was “very difficult to see the justification for spending millions of pounds on a programme which isn’t working”. Yet it continues.

After discovering their programme is making things worse, the DWP extended it
How did the Government react to this advice? On the same day as their own damning report was published, ministers decided to expand the mandatory work programme.

Unpaid workers are replacing paid posts
Ministers have long argued that providing firms with unpaid labour would not reduce their demand for paid staff. This has always been a flimsy claim: retailers have been laying off paid staff and taking on unpaid Work Programme staff at the same time. But high profile case studies like the Jubilee Stewards unpaid labour camp cast even more doubt on these claims. The firm paid 50 “apprentice jubilee stewards” £2.80/hr, but did not pay the 30 Work Programme “intern jubilee stewards” anything. But there was no discernable difference between the two roles – the unpaid stewards, bussed in from a hundred miles away, were simply filling demand that would have otherwise been paid positions. This suggests the Work Programme is actually stopping paid work from being created.

If this was about creating jobs, job schemes that worked wouldn’t have been stopped
One of the first things the new Government did was close down the Future Jobs Fund, which created jobs: over 100,000 at at least minimum wage. More recently, the Government has closed the Remploy factories, which provided direct employment for disabled people – the very people it claims it wants to get back into work. It is now proposing to give disabled people unlimited unpaid work or cuts in their benefits.

Apprenticeships are being used as cover to pay below the minimum wage
Apprentices do not have to be paid the National Minimum Wage of £6.08/hr, but have a significantly lower rate of £2.60/hr. The Government has brought forward plans to create 100,000 new apprentices – but there has been systematic abuse of the scheme. At supermarket chain Morrisons 40% of staff are “apprentices”, and the firm alone employs 10% of the UK’s entire apprentice workforce.

The majority of the Jubilee stewards who had to sleep under a bridge were “apprentice jubilee stewards”. The heads of the apprentice scheme fell on their swords and resigned after massive criticism from MPs.

The Government is deliberately protecting employers who don’t pay their staff, despite its lawyers warning it is illegal
Internal government documents reveal the Government has deliberately adopted a strategy of promoting unpaid internships in the private sector – a policy euphemistically referred to by ministers as “Option B2” – and that this plan has stopped it from introducing measures its advisers say would help social mobility. It has done this despite the fact that the Government’s own lawyers have told it that unpaid internships break National Minimum Wage laws. Despite the tax authority HMRC now threatening bosses who don’t pay their staff with prison, BIS actively promotes these jobs on its website.

The DWP is acting like it has something to hide
When ministers go on television to explain parts of their work plan, the Department for Work and Pensions’ website has a habit of disappearing documents that explicitly contradict their public claims. This has happened several times now, and Channel 4 FactCheck has concluded that ministers have failed to explain why.

This fits with what the Government believes
The Government has a failing economy on its hands. Growth was flat-lining, now we’re in a double-dip recession. The Institute of Directors, the Confederation of British Industry and large parts of the Conservative Party’s explanation for this is that workers have too many rights.

Many Tories privately back the Beecroft Report to make it easier to fire people, and get rid of parental leave, which they say will reduce unemployment. They want to expand Britain’s already rigid anti-trade union laws. They keep bringing forward private members’ bills to scrap the minimum wage, and top advisers’ pet projects include scrapping maternity leave and consumer rights.

Apparently completely separately, the Government’s work strategy just happens to involve lots of people working for free, or for under the minimum wage, with no employment rights, and a receding welfare state. Coincidence?

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About the author
Jon is an occasional contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He blogs at The Red Rock
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Economy

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Reader comments


1. Shatterface

Ironically, I’ve been in an argument recently about the way Hayek has been characatured and here’s proof that the welfare state can – though not necessarily – become The Road to Serfdom

2. Limiting Factor

Ironically, the Tories and their corporate masters see the public as a resource to be manipulated, farmed, herded, regimented, bedazzled by ads and trashy toys, ripped off and ultimately reduced to the level of powerless peasants. The wealthy elite look at the budgets for public services and say, “All your dollahs is belong to us, cos we can haz it!”

Oh sorry, that wasn’t irony – that was a statement of factual reality.

3. Eowyn rohan

Pure baloney to suggest Labours Future Jobs Fund or New Deal achieved anything other tan waste £Billions, making #fraud rife within A4E and Working Links

Shatterface:

I don’t see how that’s an argument against having a welfare state, any more than it’s a generic argument against government doing anything at all.

Yes, welfare can be made oppressive if a government basically hostile to the poor decides to make it oppressive. So could virtually any government-led activity. For example, an oppressive government could place prohibitive tolls on roads as a means of controlling people – should we therefore get rid of all these useful publicly-funded roads to prevent this dangerous dependency on the state?

Shatterface @ 1

I’ve been in an argument recently about the way Hayek has been characatured and here’s proof that the welfare state can become The Road to Serfdom

I am seriously amazed at the contortions you people go through to attempt to prove a point. This is forced labour and forms no part of the Welfare State. Forced labour pre dates the Welfare State by a considerable margin. As of course does unemployment.

What we are seeing is not the Welfare State in action, but capitalism and the ruling classes exploiting the unemployed. This State sponsored restraint of trade. The government have effectively denied honest, working people, the opportunity to sell their labour. Thousands of people who would normally be stewards at these events were undercut by the State.

The Government of the day are using economic conditions to generate a compliant workforce to bolster its own ego and the coffers of its paymasters. The Tories have shamelessly exploited other people’s misery and have created a dangerous precedent.

Like any junkie, another fix is far easier than a cure. Unemployment should hurt government. It should shame government and damage the political Party that allows it to grow.

That is no longer the case. Government has now got a source of free labour to get it’s programme and vanity projects on the cheap. What we have is conscription into a forced labour scheme, via economic mis management. Want a beach cleaned? The State merely fucks up the economy and hey presto a long steady line of indentured servants. A street Party for the ruling classes to lord over hoi poli? Throw a couple of points on interest rate and your stewards will arrive at your doorstep.

Where is the incentive to build a recovery, when you have an endless source of free labour and the unemployed get the blame and not the government?

I read Shatterface’s post @1 as being facetious, but I suppose you never know…

7. Chaise Guevara

@ Jim and jungle

Um, wouldn’t Shatterface’s point be that the welfare state can become the “road to serfdom” when it’s used as cover for making people sources of very cheap, underpaid labour, i.e. when it’s abused for the benefit of the rich? That’s how I read it, anyway.

@3

“Pure baloney to suggest Labours Future Jobs Fund or New Deal achieved anything other tan waste £Billions, making #fraud rife within A4E and Working Links”

On the contrary, my brother went on that scheme and it gave him 6 months employment in relatively fulfilling (for minimum wage) work and an improved CV.

Contrast that with the work programme I went on which involved a private company making profit out of ‘managing’ us but basically doing fuck all to help us find work. The logic of the work programme is that they cut costs by cutting service and just take the credit (and extra payments) when the unemployed person in question finds work off their own back – for those that fail to they get sent into forced unpaid labour. Fortunately, I happened to find work before that but its not like I improved my effort because I’d been trying the whole time I was unemployed, it was just fortunate timing. The government need to realise that its a lack of jobs that’s the primary problem – the work programme just means the taxpayer pays more for a shite service and leaves the unemployment problem unresolved.

I went with figures in the article to support the Future Jobs Fund, but for what it’s worth, I went on JSA just as it was being closed, and the advisers at my local Job Centre Plus seemed very dismayed by it shutting down. Anecdotal, of course.

Chaise @7

Um, wouldn’t Shatterface’s point be that the welfare state can become the “road to serfdom” when it’s used as cover for making people sources of very cheap, underpaid labour, i.e. when it’s abused for the benefit of the rich? That’s how I read it, anyway.

Government does not need a welfare State to exploit unemployed people. The unemployed can be just as easily co-opted where no welfare state exists.

11. Dan Ashcroft

There’s already been at least one employment tribunal that found “expenses only” engagements were in breach of the National Minimum Wage act (this one http://www.bectu.org.uk/news/548 ) so why the government is pushing it is beyond me.

Well actually it’s not, they’re ideologically driven fundamentalists of the second worst kind.

12. Chaise Guevara

@ Jim

“Government does not need a welfare State to exploit unemployed people. The unemployed can be just as easily co-opted where no welfare state exists.”

Sure, but pretending to be offering welfare is one way to mask exploitation.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
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    Holy hell, if you thought for one second that some aspects of #workfare might be innocuous, read this. Read it now: http://t.co/bjBrnfAB

  121. Martin O'Neill

    Holy hell, if you thought for one second that some aspects of #workfare might be innocuous, read this. Read it now: http://t.co/bjBrnfAB

  122. Karen Evans

    Holy hell, if you thought for one second that some aspects of #workfare might be innocuous, read this. Read it now: http://t.co/bjBrnfAB

  123. Richard Truscott

    Holy hell, if you thought for one second that some aspects of #workfare might be innocuous, read this. Read it now: http://t.co/bjBrnfAB

  124. Ivan Jordan

    Surely #workprogamme fail stats today will end the exploitation http://t.co/3tQxdBYr then again, all it's really for is staffing Morrissons.





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