Hardcore government liars

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19 December 2006

Blair's "work secretary", John Hutton, is known for wanting us workers to drop on the job, by his proposed increase in retirement age to 68. He is also noted for his drive to subject the disabled and long-term sick to "work-related" activities, under threat of losing their benefits.

As if this was not enough, on Monday, he launched a new attack on the jobless: he wants to end the "can work but won't work culture" and clampdown on the "hardcore jobless" - as if anyone would choose to be on the dole, given the starvation level of the JobSeekers' Allowance!

Cowing the jobless out of benefits

The truth is, that in its drive to cut social expenditure to the bare bone, this government has now decided that the nearly one million jobless it has failed to deprive of their JobSeekers' Allowance so far, are still costing too much to the Treasury. And it wants to cow an even larger number of unemployed workers into forfeiting their already derisory rights.

In Hutton's offensive against the jobless, anything goes. For instance, to back up his attacks, Hutton had the nerve to claim that 12% of today's JobSeekers' Allowance claimants have been receiving it for 6 out of the past 7 years. It is so simple: who would question what sounds like straight "unbiased" statistics? Except that, under the JSA's qualifying rules, it is simply impossible to receive this allowance for 6 out of 7 years!

Is it that Hutton does not know how the JSA works? Of course not! But this is a deliberate lie that, he hopes, will justify subjecting the jobless to more harassment and pushing more of them off the benefit register - not because they will have a job, but because they will not want to face the prospect of being treated like a fraudster.

Setting up workers against workers

But this is not the only lie in Hutton's bag of tricks. Another one, just as contemptible, is to claim, as he did, that if EU workers can manage to find jobs and have a lower rate of unemployment, then surely British workers could do the same.

This is a crass attempt at playing foreign workers against British workers. What Hutton fails to mention is that many EU workers are recruited in their countries by agencies, to fill particular jobs in large companies. They are promised good jobs and living conditions. But once in Britain, they find that wages are low and that they are herded like cattle into inadequate housing. Nor do they have much choice, given the fines they face from the agencies, should they resign their employment.

And, anyway, how many foreign workers know what benefits they are entitled to, should they find themselves out of a job? Given the on-going anti-immigrant campaign waged by the tabloids, and encouraged by this government, how many among them fear that they may face deportation should they claim their rights?

So is it any wonder that few foreign workers should register as jobless? But for hypocrites like Hutton, what really counts is not that workers are in a job, but that they do not claim benefits.

All against the job slashers!

Because if this government was serious about fighting unemployment, instead of targeting the jobless, it would work at helping them to get into jobs and target the job slashers.

One of the main obstacles for the jobless to find a job is housing. The only way for them to find a job is often to move elsewhere. Except that they cannot find affordable housing. But Labour has no plans to do anything about this: public expenditure on social housing has never been so low!

As to the job slashers, this government would have to put its own house in order. Indeed, the biggest job-slasher in the past period has been the state itself: the Civil Service, NHS and Post Office, have cut tens of thousands of jobs each. But Blair and Hutton would rather shed public jobs and cut services than increase taxes on the wealthy!

Beyond that, what has this government done to stop big companies like Peugeot, British Aerospace, Bombardier - among others - from cutting thousands of jobs? What is Hutton planning to do about the plan just announced by the Thomson package tour company to cut 2,600 jobs? Nothing, of course. Would Labour ever dream of forcing big business to cut its profits?

Yes, unemployment is a plague that needs to be defeated. But it will only be dealt with if workers - all workers, British and immigrants - join ranks together in order to force the capitalists and their politicians to use the accumulated profits of big business to provide decent employment for all.