On Tuesday 17th June 2010, members of the Industrial Workers of the World and others put on an event entitled ‘Defend Welfare’ at the Chase community centre in St. Ann’s, Nottingham. This included a film about a struggle by WEP (Work Experience Programme) workers in New York who were fighting for a basic grievance procedure because complaining about health and safety or harassment without one put them at risk of a sanction (loss of benefits). The procedure was vigourously opposed by the city authority and this was seen very much as a way of wearing down claimants and getting them to sign off and to save on the costs of providing benefits. This is a taste of things to come in Britain as ‘Welfare Reform’ continues with the threat of workfare for all claimants.
A longer report on this event can be found here:
Introduction to the event:
What is ‘Workfare’ and why is it bad news for the unemployed?
Since October 2009 those unemployed for 12 months have been placed on the “Flexible New Deal”. It means working 30 hours a week for a month just to be able to claim benefits. But in the first 3 months this year there were 2½ million unemployed people competing for just 475,000 vacancies. This is about 5 claimants to 1 job vacancy in Nottingham. Private companies have been given £500 million in handouts to make the unemployed jump through hoops and compete for non-existent jobs. The new government is going to change the name to “The Work Programme” but this is just the same thing.
It is all Workfare – working for benefits. It means working for about £1.60 an hour – less than a third of the minimum wage.
In Nottingham, Flexible New Deal training providers include Working Links. Some people will have benefited a little from the training but it’s always been more about keeping claimants busy and only putting the individual at fault for not having a job, rather than a wider social problem.