Wednesday, 13 February 2013

On IDS's Sun outburst...

Iain Duncan Smith has lashed out at those that helped strike a blow against the government workfare systems yesterday, in the Sun

LET me be very clear — our back to work schemes are successful

No they're not, at least not the ones that people have a problem with. This is the problem with our government talking about "back to work schemes", no one has a problem with paid for training, on the job training, apprenticeships. It is the compulsory and pseudo-compulsory act of "mandatory work activity" and it's siblings that are the problem, and they aren't working.

In fact the very existence of these schemes that purely provide us, the "hard working tax payer" (see below), the means to pay for someone to work for a multi-million pound national or international company without that organisation having to pay even a fraction of what they would otherwise, may well be entrenching a cycle of poverty in to our society that is impossible to get out from.

And a gentle reminder that if everything is so successful, we need to know why unemployment isn't even going down, really.

and are not slave labour.

Legally, no they're also not. There is, however, a perfect quote for this...

"There is always a choice."
"You mean I could choose certain death?"
"A choice nevertheless, or perhaps an alternative. You see I believe in freedom. Not many people do, although they will of course protest otherwise. And no practical definition of freedom would be complete without the freedom to take the consequences. Indeed, it is the freedom upon which all the other are based."
Lord Vetinari and Moist, in "Going Postal" by Terry Pratchett


The only technicality by which compulsory (or perceived compulsory, as was the case in court) work has to be undertaken, in order to retain benefit payments, doesn't classify as "Slavery" is that no-one is actually bound to legally or otherwise to that duty. They do, if they so wish, have the choice to simply have no money.

This is a choice that means they lose their home almost certainly, won't be able to buy food, or pay bills...not unless they have some friend, relative or local foodbank willing to give them hand outs.

So, are people being forced to do this work? No. Do they really have any other choice? No.

Nobody works for free on these placements because the Government continues to pay their benefits. So nobody is working for nothing, are they?

Dangerous words here from IDS. Why? If he deems that these people are working (and there is a contract there, so note this is very close to the line) then there is a bit of legislation that should apply to them. You cannot act like these people are workers in one breath, but then deny them the rights that we are calling for...a fair wage for a day's work.

I believe IDS has let his guard slip here, this comment/attitude may be useful for those campaigning against workfare going forward.

I disagree with the part of the ruling that found against our regulations and we will appeal against that

That is his right, to spend our money on feckless legal challenges rather than just get on with the job, of course.

but crucially the court did not find that anyone’s human rights have been breached because we asked them to do a work placement in return for Jobseeker’s Allowance.

See above.

The court said our technical regulations should be clearer and we have rectified that.

So...you're not appealing them then? Or you're appealing them even though you have found a way that you can comply with the ruling, which kind of proves the ruling's point? Oh IDS...

People who are fit to work should no longer expect to receive benefits if they do not do everything they can to get a job.

Which is weird, because there are people "doing everything they can" to get a job, like those that were in court fighting their sanctions, but the system doesn't recognise that they are doing this. It also doesn't recognise that regardless of how much those people are trying to get a job, but not finding one because there are not enough jobs to go around they will be forced in to less-than-minmum-wage labour after a set period of time.

I can kind of understand, though completely disagree still, with the idea that if you objectively find someone is simply not trying to find a job that you mandate them to take work experience... forcing people to take work after 9 months simply because they've been unemployed that long in an almost-triple-dip recession? That's not about expectations around benefits and all about a government that wishes to get people off of the unemployment statistics.

To compare work experience to “slave labour” is hugely insulting to people living in oppression around the world

A strange statement, because while no-one is truly equating the rather technical definition of being in slavery with the slave trade of the past, and horrific slavery that still exists, IDS seems to think it is ok to use these faceless victims as a reason to try to silence critics of the lack of ethics in his policies.

I honestly feel this is a subject that has so many parallels (though is of a completely different and less significant scale) to the perception of the slave trade in the past, what we are existing in now is a period where some people believe this exploitation of people's situation is ok, and others believe it is not. In the past those who believed in ethical behaviour won out and slavery was abolished and the right to be free from slavery is one of our core human rights.

It is that kind of belief in being above the lowest form of human behaviour that we need to rekindle now.

and sneers at hard-working taxpayers who pay for benefits.

Ah, the old "hard-working" line! Love this one. If you earn lots of money you are a "hard worker", if you can only get a job because someone cuts the hours of an existing employee...or worse still cuts jobs only to restaff them with those on welfare-to-work schemes, then you are a "shirker". How on earth do you try and quantify how "hard" someone sitting in an office waiting for calls to come in is working compared to someone that is about to lose their job as a cleaner only for it to be reinstated as a "mandatory work activity placement" months later?

IDS doesn't have anything of worth or factual value to add here, just rhetoric that aims to drive a wedge between those who have been fortunate and entrepreneurial, and those who are less fortunate. IDS, quite frankly, doesn't care enough about people to realise what utter horseshit he is spewing when he defends these kinds of schemes.

I hope we won't have to wait too long before compassion sets in and we understand what we are doing to people, all in the search to have a dubious statistical "win" to beat the opposition with at Prime Ministers Questions.