love nor money: unpaid work at tesco

Sharon Borthwick looks at the absurd ideology behind last month’s row over workfare schemes

What a joke to have a national minimum wage if you are then allowed to pay your employees nothing at all. “Stacking supermarket shelves is better than dreaming of stardom via TV’s the X Factor”, smarms Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith. For a quiet man he doesn’t half come out with a lot of shit. What of young persons more pragmatic dreams, to gain paid employment after education?

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“The idea that we should allow a bunch of extremists to get in the way of providing genuine, voluntary help for young people is just crazy” says the indignant Chris Grayling referring to the successes of left groups including Boycott Workfare and Right To Work in either getting firms to withdraw from or postpone their involvement with the government’s workfare programmes, including Mandatory Work Activity whereby claimants can have their benefits withdrawn for thirteen weeks for not working for zero wages  for eight weeks. Continue reading “love nor money: unpaid work at tesco”

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back in the DHSS

Terry Liddle looks back on a life working at the Department of Health and Social Security

Having graduated from university on to the dole and then working on a short-term Community Enterprise Programme, which I tried to organise into the NUPE union with little success, I was back signing on. One day the counter clerk at the Unemployment Benefit Office asked: “How would you like to come and work for us?” The “us” was the local DHSS office in Lewisham. After a literacy test, I started work on a Monday morning as part of the lowest grade – clerical assistant.

The work consisted of linking letters to claimants’ files which were never where they were meant to be often being buried under piles created by overworked Clerical Officers. It was boring and the pay lousy, but better than the dole! Continue reading “back in the DHSS”

workers’ control in the health-care system

Mike Levine discusses how we can go beyond the hierarchical form of the National Health Service. The author has spent most of his working life as an NHS researcher.

While the National Health Service is remarkably successful in treating ill people, it is under threat of being opened up to international free markets. Both Labour and Tory/Lib Dem parties seem hell bent on this. The problem with private health providers is that they cannot make a profit out of treating any but the richer part of society unless they are subsidised.

on life support: the NHS is under attack. what is our alternative for how healthcare should be run?

The belief that a health service based upon market systems is more likely than a publicly planned one to lead to a decent healthy life for everyone, is completely unfounded. There is no evidence for it and comparison of the NHS with, say, the USA or European countries shows that Britain spends less in terms of a proportion of GDP for a service which is both good and equally available to everyone. Continue reading “workers’ control in the health-care system”

the cuts: not just defending the ‘welfare state’

The Sheffield Commune is holding a public meeting on the afternoon of the 30th November public sector strike.

We will be discussing the capitalist state, the cuts and the communist alternative vision for how workers and service users can run public services.

The welfare state: 'ours'?

From 3:30pm on Wednesday 30th November (after the rally/demo) at the Rutland Arms, Brown Street, near the Showroom Cinema. All welcome, plenty of time for debate. Continue reading “the cuts: not just defending the ‘welfare state’”

N30: there is an alternative

On 30th November (‘N30’) the UK will see the biggest day yet of strike action by public sector workers as part of a fight against the government’s austerity plans. Over twenty unions representing 3 million public sector workers will strike over government attempts to significantly increase employee contributions while reducing employer contributions to pension schemes, raise the retirement age, and drastically reduce pension pay-outs to workers. Workers in both the public and private sectors are facing similar job cuts.

This strike, as well as the square occupations and the recent electricians’ strike over pay cuts are part of a broader struggle against austerity sweeping across the world. Continue reading “N30: there is an alternative”

opposition and the cuts

The Commune’s editorial

BBC presenters sat mouths-gaping on 26th September as City trader Alessio Rastani proudly boasted on live TV of the financial sector’s power and its disdain for the victims of the recession. He proclaimed that a crisis was a great opportunity to make a fast buck and that he dreamt of the next such meltdown. Reeking of arrogant class prejudice, here was the true face behind our rulers’ democratic and liberal mask.

That same week, Ed Miliband spoke to Labour conference, calling for a ‘new morality’ rewarding the ‘hard-working’. Yet asked by a member of the public whether he would endeavour to protect workers’ pensions, ‘Red Ed’ said he could promise nothing, since workers getting older is no longer ‘affordable’. Not only did he drive a wedge between the employed and the ‘undeserving poor’, championing harsh penalties for rioters and ‘scroungers’: he disavowed strike action as a means of standing up for workers’ living standards. Continue reading “opposition and the cuts”

giz a fightback: the ‘80s unemployed

Unemployment threatens to hit early-1980s levels: but how can the jobless stand up to the government? Terry Liddle reflects on his experience of the unemployed movement in those years

In the early 1980s there were 3 million unemployed and students were moving straight from graduation to the dole queue. No exception, I went to sign on at Spray Street dole office in Woolwich. Outside a group of people were leafleting. They were Greenwich Action Group On Unemployment (GAGOU).  As the factories which lined the river from Erith to Deptford closed down, it was set up by the newly unemployed and a community worker from Greenwich Council, shades of things to come!

GAGOU spent a lot of time on individual cases of which there were many. In this we enlisted the help of sympathetic staff at the dole office. And in turn when they were in dispute our banner would appear on their picket line. But we did not make links with local union branches, many of which would not let the unemployed join, or with the Trades Council. Continue reading “giz a fightback: the ‘80s unemployed”