Letters to The Guardian,
The ruling against Cait Riley and Jamieson Wilson (Unpaid work schemes ruled lawful as high court rejects Poundland case, 6 August) that the government’s workfare schemes are legal sets a dark precedent for unemployed and working people.
Whatever the courts say, workfare is a violation of human rights.
Judge Foskett said in his ruling that “characterising such a scheme as involving or being analogous to ‘slavery’ or ‘forced labour’ seems to me to be a long way from contemporary thinking”. This is of course the case if by “contemporary thinking” you mean the thinking of the 1%, of the government and big business.
Workfare isn’t just bad for the unemployed, it’s bad for all of us. There’s no incentive to take people on with existing pay, terms and conditions. This will only accelerate the race to the bottom, where we are all forced to accept worse standards to compete in the labour market. But the campaign against workfare has already won victories. Many companies have dropped out of the scheme and the government has already made a climbdown over sanctions. We achieved this without the help of the courts.
We will continue to build a mass campaign of unemployed people and trade unionists to bring these schemes down.
The economic crisis was caused by the bankers and super-rich. Yet the government now uses this as a cover to unleash a brutal austerity programme to cut our jobs and services.
We will also continue to fight for genuine solutions to the scourge of unemployment. Big business has around £800bn in its vaults. That money should be used for job creation. We call for investment in the public sector, including a programme of public works to create training and socially useful jobs that offer a living wage.
Paul Callanan Youth Fight for Jobs and Education, Bob Crow Rail Maritime and Transport union, Matt Wrack Fire Brigades Union, Steve Hedley Rail Maritime and Transport union, Billy Hayes Communication Workers Union, Gerry Morrissey Broadcast Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union