There can be little doubt about the extent to which the ruling class and their political front men the Tories manipulate figures to suit their political and economic priorities. Steve Brown, an employability worker from Ashington, highlights the latest Tory shenanigans, in which the unemployment statistics have been fiddled, with real devastating effects for ordinary people.
There can be little doubt about the extent to which the ruling class and their political front men the Tories manipulate figures to suit their political and economic priorities. For example, we’ve seen recently the lies and media manipulation they engaged in to deceive the British public over the question of pit closures during and after the Miners Strike, not to mention the smoke screen they put up to hide the truth about the Hillsborough disaster.
The latest shenanigans with regard to Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) and the jobless figures, however, are on a much larger and socially engineered scale. For instance, the Tory government told us on the 22nd January this year that the number of people out of work fell by 167,000 to 2.32 million in the three months to November 2013, according to the Office for National Statistics, and that the number of people claiming JSA fell by 24,000 to 1.25 million in the December. Again on the 19th February we were told that the jobless figures came down by a further 125,000.
All good news, you would think; but given that many of the jobs created or gained are part time and low paid, there can be limited comfort for those who have found these jobs – many will most likely still be forced to continue claiming benefits in one form or another just to survive. In work benefits are ultimately an indirect boost in profits for the bosses anyway; a subsidy to the capitalists, paid for by the state, i.e. by us, via our taxes.
There is another side to this story however, for since October 2012 the DWP, through Job Centres, has been pursuing a policy of sanctions or punishments against individuals they say are flouting the rules of their job seekers agreements. A “job seekers agreement” is a contract drawn up between the Job Centre and each individual who claims JSA for more than six months (immediately if you have come straight from prison) and part of that agreement is that each person is sent to a private, payment by result, company who are supposed to help you find work or training.
Under the wing of these companies – for example, INGEUS or AVANTA in the North East – they must apply for a certain number of jobs each day or each week, or otherwise face a sanction. In addition, these “agreements” mean that job seekers must never be late for appointments, never turn down a job offer, nor leave a new job, and they must register for the new online job search website Universal Job Match and acquire an email address too. This pre-supposes of course that they have internet access via a computer – either their own, or from a friend or elsewhere – and be able to use a computer in the first place. They can resort to traditional methods of job searching of course, but this is now mostly done online in the modern era, so puts many at an immediate disadvantage.
These IT problems alone cause enough frustrations, while lateness sometimes can’t be helped for lots of personal reasons, which are too many to list here; but what is beginning to emerge is much more disturbing and is leading more and more “Job Seekers” into falling foul of the new regime. A sanction, for instance, is having your JSA stopped for a particular length of time, in some cases for up to three years if continuing “infringements” of your job seekers agreement persist, leaving you with no money to live on.
Pattern of manipulation
What is also coming to light is a new insidious tactic which is being employed against more and more people; a tactic that I have witnessed in my job as an employability worker, working with ex-offenders. What I am beginning to see is a sinister pattern of manipulation which didn’t take too long to spot. I had noticed that more and more of my offenders were complaining of being sanctioned for appointments they hadn’t been told about. The conversation would often go like:
“I’ve been sanction by the dole!”
“They asked me why I hadn’t turned up for the last appointment, and I asked, ’what appointment?’, and they said the one we wrote to you about. And I said, ’I never got no letter!’, and they said we wrote to you!”
When this happened the first time it wasn’t too surprising and could have been a genuine error; but then, it happened again, and again, and again. In fact I had six people who told me a similar story within a two week period. I then asked other members of staff if they had experienced anything similar and a pattern began to emerge. Nearly all staff said they had experienced similar levels of sanctions for failing to attend appointments through missing letters; one fellow worker stating she had 12 offenders being sanctioned for this reason.
To back this up, an article on the BBC North East news on 24th January talked about the sanctions regime in general, but specifically talked about DWP staff being put under direct pressure by managers to hit certain “targets”. “Job centre staff are under enormous pressure to implement sanctions on unemployed people,” PCS union North-East regional secretary Simon Elliot said, which goes hand-in-hand with what is occurring as described above.
Payment by results
With the private companies also operating a “payment by result” regime, staff within those organisations are also under tremendous pressure to maintain high case loads and generate payments from the most active and focussed job seekers and disregard those who are least likely to succeed as they do not bare as much “fruit”. Figures released by the government state that more than 400,000 people in England, Scotland and Wales had JSA stopped in the first nine months of the new system, and in Northumberland and Tyne and Wear the figure was almost 17,500 for the same period, and in Durham and Tees Valley it was nearly 16,000.
In some respects the maths doesn’t add up, with 400,000 being sanctioned in over a year while the government claims a fall in unemployment of only 167,000 and 125,000 respectively. But it makes you wonder where they have brought to bare these JSA sanctions in driving down the jobless figures and how willing they are to manipulate the statistics to make it seem like their system is working.
Coupled with a so called “end to recession”, the figures appear to back up the idea that we are very much on the road to recovery. The truth, however, is much more complicated than they would have us believe of course but, on the other hand, what is very easy to understand is that, even according to their own figures, there are over nine million people in the UK who are economically inactive, i.e. those who want to work but, for one reason or another, can’t.
The problem is profit
The simple truth also is that, there are millions of tons of bricks, timber and other building materials lying in stock yards up and down the country while millions of working class people with the skills and experience to build the houses we need are sitting languishing on the dole because there are no profits to be made. There are industrial plants sitting doing nothing while there are plenty of skilled operators doing nothing too, because there are no opportunities for profits.
Our streets are unkempt, filthy and dishevelled while there are thousands of young people in our communities with nothing to do because there is no money for public services. The elderly are crying out for better care services while those with the skills to help are stopped from coming to their aid because most of these services have been privatised and cut back. And for those who have jobs it’s a question of working harder, longer, and for less pay, whilst the cost of gas, electric, food and petrol rises. Meanwhile, a tiny handful of billionaires won’t invest because they can’t make a profit.
This is a system based upon the exploitation of working class people. But when the bosses are finished with you, you are cast aside like an old worn out dish cloth because you are no longer a profitable prospect. And when you are thrown onto the scrap heap, you will find yourself being sanctioned for not adhering to their strict regime – of not applying for jobs which no longer exist.
What is so pressing in this era of mass unemployment and capitalist crisis is the need to change society. The only real solution for working class people will be the transformation of the economy along socialist lines. Only by combining all these resources and labour – by removing the barrier of greed and profit – and bringing all our skills and talents together within a democratic plan of production, can we then truly and finally bring about full employment. The only way to realise this coming reality is through the socialist transformation of society. An end to capitalism will mean an end to unemployment, for an end to unemployment will mean the death knell of capitalism.