Thursday, 23 February 2012

IDS and Workfare
Ian Duncan Smith attacked John Harris for pouring scorn on his Work Programme and describing it as ‘slave labour.’ He dismissed Harris as a ‘job snob.’
Sadly, so much of this criticism, I fear, is intellectual snobbery. The implicit message behind these ill-considered attacks is that jobs in retail, such as those with supermarkets or on the High Street, are not real jobs that worthwhile people do … We all have to start somewhere: Tesco Chief Executive Sir Terry Leahy began his career scrubbing supermarket floors. I doubt I'm the only person who thinks supermarket shelf-stackers add more value to our society than many of those 'job snobs' who are busy pontificating about the Government's employment policies."
It is now barely a month since Zoe Williams wrote an article in the Guardian revealing how taxpayers were subsidising giant retailers by providing benefits for poorly paid workers.  This subsidised labour was instrumental in making vast profits for Tesco, Sainsbury et al. Since then, there has been a further commotion about the pressuring of job seekers to work for these and similar companies as ‘work experience’ with the threat of having their benefit withdrawn if they do not co-operate. Accusations of slave labour have made these companies very nervous. Demonstrations and campaigns have ratcheted up the potential harm to their sales and reputation. Several have already withdrawn from the Work Programme with many others voicing grave reservations. 
Cue a seething froth of right wing motormouths sounding off about feckless scroungers biting the hand that feeds them. 
Simultaneously there are stories about an employment company, A4e,  paying themselves vast sums at our expense. So much so that the plod are showing an interest. A Guardian article by John Harris yesterday, claimed that the boss of A4e, Emma Harrison, paid herself £8.6m last year. Her company received £180m from the public purse to get jobless people into work. She is also close to Cameron as his ‘Family Friend.’ 
A4e are part of the gravy train of ‘work consultants’ who parasatise the jobless and award themselves large amounts of public money training desperate people to jump through assorted hoops for non-existent jobs. Nice!
This situation is not going to get better for a considerable time. The abandonment of a generation of young people is a national disgrace. Many will be blighted for the rest of their lives. Our society will pay the bills in increased crime, anti-social behaviour and physical and mental health problems. To push ahead with encouraging the over 65’s to stay on at work at such a time beggars belief. 
So many of the commentariat have not got a clue when they sound off about menial work. It is several lifetimes away from their experience. It does not stop them sounding off though. Suzanne Moore, writing in the Guardian detailed the menial and worse jobs she did in a time of plenty. Easy to walk away in those days and find another one. She is less than impressed at the government.
“.right now we have an elite telling lazy scroungers to buck up. Yes, clean toilets, pick cabbages, move towns, sit in call-centre barns, smile enough to make Mary Portas types think you care. In short, deliver the service, that those who have never served, demand. Know your place.
I guess IDS knew his place at Sandhurst just as I once knew mine. Until I realised that most menial work leads to more menial work. The idea that this is the stepping stone is as much of a fantasy as The X Factor. The stepping stone is education. That's what makes you free, not work. Now the young are to pay for that and work for nothing? And all while most of our political and media class spout lousy morality tales about lousy jobs while undermining even the basic minimum wage. Please.

As the graffiti I saw the other day said: "Sorry, the lifestyle you ordered is currently out of stock." I tell you who really needs "work experience". Much of this government.” Guardian 23/2/12

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