Monday, 15 June 2015

Protesters call on Jobcentre' workers to join campaigns against benefit sanctions!

Protesters who are campaigning against the Government's unfair sanctioning regime outside a Jobcentre in Ashton-under-Lyne, are calling on Jobcentre workers to join their protest and to support their own union's opposition to the 'draconian' sanctioning regime within Jobcentre's.

Last week,  a former Public and Commercial Services Union (P.C.S) representative, John Pearson, was confronted by an angry Jobcentre worker outside Ashton Jobcentre, who rebuked him for displaying a P.C.S placard while protesting against benefit sanctions. Although the P.C.S union have called on their members to support groups campaigning against the Tory Government's sanctioning regime, the member of staff, (who we understand to be the P.C.S union rep at Ashton Jobcentre), denied any knowledge of this.

At their last conference, P.C.S delegates voted for a motion that called on P.C.S members to:

a) Support initiatives that seek to undermine and expose the draconian sanction regime that exists in Jobcentres.

b) Encourage campaign activity with local groups around the issue of sanctions.

c) Actively support staff who are targeted with disciplinary action for using their discretion when considering sanction referrals.

d) Raise the profile of the issues around the government's war on the poor.

As we recently reported, the scale and persistence of poverty in Britain, has led to many people in work, becoming increasingly reliant on in-work state benefits as welfare is being used to top-up poverty pay. Some 40% of staff who work in Jobcentres, qualify for the state benefit 'Universal Credit'.

One of the reasons for low pay, is the inability of many British workers to demand a bigger share of national wealth because their trade unions are shackled by some of the most stringent anti-union laws in the western world. These laws, or legal hurdles, are intended to make it difficult for unions to take official industrial action to obtain better terms and conditions of employment. One consequence of this, is the 'flexible labour market' - zero hours contracts, low pay, temporary jobs and more agency work.

Apart from low-pay, Britain is also plagued by low productivity and a skills shortage. UK productivity is 14-15 percentage points lower than France and 17 percentage points below the average for the rest of the G7,  in 2013. The British economy under the Tories is being built on low wages and low productivity and is heavily reliant on its financial sector.

As we head towards another referendum as to whether the UK will continue to be a member of the EEC, we should perhaps recall a speech that was made at Upminster by the Tory grandee, Sir Keith Joseph, in June 1974. In that speech, given seventeen months after the UK joined the EU in January 1973, he said:

"Compare our position today with that of our neighbours in Germany, Sweden, Holland, France. They are no more talented than we are. Yet, compared with them, we have the longest working hours, the lowest pay, and the lowest production per head. We have the highest taxes and the lowest investment. We have the least prosperity, the most poor and the lowest pensions."

It seems, that even after forty years, some things in Britain never change. We still have low pay, low productivity, long working hours compared to many other EU countries, less holidays and poorer state pensions. The only thing that as changed, is the excuses that are given by politicians for Britain's economic decline. Back in June 1974, Sir Keith, didn't blame Britain's membership of the EU or immigration for Britain's economic failure. He told his audience, that it was all the fault of the Labour Party and socialism.

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