New #Workfare Bill is a desperate attempt to circumvent law and democracy. #BoycottWorkfare #JSA #ESA #DWP

IDS-Nazi

Yesterday the Government introduced a new workfare bill to retroactively change workfare legislation judged unlawful by the High Court, so that it has always complied with the court ruling, even though for two years it did not. Its aim? To avoid paying back the JSA money it unlawfully stopped when people were ‘sanctioned’ on its workfare schemes. That the government would try to avoid paying was expected. What no one expected was how it plans to do so.

In its arguments to justify withholding social security people are due – an average of about £500 per person, £130 million pounds in total – the DWP has stated that:

“If the Department cannot make these retrospective changes, then further reductions in benefits might be required in order to find the money to repay the sanctions”

In short, if the government is made to obey the high court’s ruling, it will inflict collective punishment on those who can least afford it by finding £130 million pounds more in new cuts from the welfare
budget. Shockingly this is supported by Labour. Yet again the poorest will be made to pay for the mistakes of the powerful.

Iain Duncan Smith wants to ride rough shod over the law to continue his reign of incompetence, arrogance and punitive policies at the DWP. In a move which can only be interpreted as a desperate attempt to circumvent law and democracy, the second reading; committee stage; and third readingare all scheduled for one day: this Tuesday. Rather than face the consequences for his failing and unlawful schemes, he wants to rob £130m from people who should never have been sanctioned to start with.

The DWP argue that:

“A retrospective transfer of public money to this group of claimants would represent poor value to the taxpayer and will not help those unemployed enter employment… It is vital that in the present context of austerity measures the public purse is protected from such claims which could cost up to £130 million…”

This means that as of today YMCA, the Salvation Army and others are not only involved in profiting from workfare, they are now involved in implementing a policy in which the government threatens the poorest with collective punishment on a vast scale. Workfare is being used as an excuse to potentially introduce £130 million of additional benefits cuts by the back door. Those involved are propping up a government policy which clearly states that it will use collective punishment by lowering benefit payments to everyone.

Those sanctioned were on placements at the likes of the Salvation Army and the YMCALet them and other workfare providers know what you think.

Take part in our week of action beginning this Monday.

Source – Boycott Workfare

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The limits of the #Workfare campaign

A court ruling deemed the government’s controversial work placement scheme unlawful. Cait Reilly, a recent geology graduate, and Jamieson Wilson, an unemployed HGV driver, took the government to court arguing that under the Department for Work and Pensions’ work placement scheme they were unlawfully forced to work for free for the retail chain Poundland. The court ruled in favour of Reilly and Wilson leading some to think that the government programme is now left in “tatters”.[1] In reality the programme is still quite safe.

If you look at the outcome more closely, you can see that the court did not have a problem with the government forcing people to do unpaid work. The Mandatory Work Scheme was deemed legal, but the court decided the scheme had been dishonest about the terms of work within it. Reilly and Wilson – and many others still on the work scheme – were not told that the work placement is voluntary or what their rights are under the scheme. In other words, the case was won due to them being misled into forced work rather than being coerced into it under the Mandatory Work Scheme. This ruling is hardly the “huge victory for ordinary people” it’s being billed as,[2] and it is inevitable that the government will rewrite the legislation in order to get around the court ruling, continuing to force unemployed people to work for free.[3]

There are two immediate things that are alarming about the events surrounding the ruling. Firstly, that it was considered a victory in the first place and secondly, the limitations of the anti-workfare campaign – not mutually exclusive, of course. Fighting to get people off forced, unpaid work is important and I don’t want to belittle the campaign for what it is trying to do. But we should remember the fundamental nature of the court ruling: it continues to support the concept of unpaid labour as long as you’ve consented to it. The vital and necessary questions we should now be asking are whether this is actually a victory, and importantly whether calling for an end to workfare is really enough.

The obvious argument in defence of those claims could be that defeating the workfare programme will build class confidence and weaken the Tory government. This could be true, but is undermined by the anti-workfare campaigns lack of building workplace and community resistance to the state or capitalism more generally. The anti-workfare campaign has never pushed its message beyond unpaid labour and has failed to raise the anti-capitalist argument that paid labour is forced just as much as unpaid labour is. Daily we are forced to work for the financial interests of others for minimum pay. With this message the campaign could hope to gain wider class solidarity by demonstrating that what is happening on the workfare programme is the most extreme expression of the exploitative relationship we workers must endure under capitalism.

Direct action has been credited for the successes of the campaign despite the campaign being willing to call a court ruling ‘the death of the workfare schemes’. This begs the question of the nature of direct action today. Increasingly direct action is being used as a militant form of protest, ironically to achieve reformist political objectives. There is nothing wrong with using methods of direct action to achieve reforms that improve our lives or help improve the lives of other working class people per se, but these reforms should not be the end in and of themselves. For anarchist communists, direct action is used in opposition to reformist and parliamentary tactics and against reformist and parliamentary objectives so that we can achieve broad, transformative economic and political objectives. Winning reforms through direct action can help build that class confidence and solidarity, but it is only useful if it has the aim of growing into a collective transformative process for society.

– Albie

[1] http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/feb/12/graduate-poundland-government-work-schemes
[2] http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=2020
[3] http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2013/02/workfare-ruled-illegal-only-narrow-terms

Source – Collective Action http://www.anarchistcommunist.org/5/post/2013/02/the-limits-of-the-workfare-campaign.html