Labour welfare sanctions betrayal ~ Unite’s Len McCluskey threatens to cut purse strings



MARCH 22, 2013 8:21 AM


The fallout from Tuesday’s welfare sanctions vote – and the sizeable Labour rebellion – has rumbled on into a fourth day today. But alongside continued disquiet at the party’s position on the issue, there’s also greater clarity about why the Labour leadership were so keen to get the concessions they did – especially on an independent review of welfare sanctions.

Patrick Wintour reports in the Guardian this morning on a whistle blowing case in the DWP that reveals there are internal league tables on sanctions – which suggests that there are targets for sanctioning claimants. The Guardian piece says:

“A leaked email shows staff being warned by managers that they will be disciplined unless they increase the number of claimants referred to a tougher benefit regime.”

That’s something which has been persistently denied by Tory Ministers – but which the Labour initiated review of sanctions will now have to get to the bottom of.

Many Labour MPs – including some in the Labour leadership – were aware of the whistleblowing case before this week’s vote, which is believed to have been a factor in the decision to abstain. Certainly that’s what Liam Byrne is saying. In a press release last night, the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary said:

“This is why we took difficult decisions on the Jobseekers’ Bill to secure an independent review of sanctions. We knew there were sanctions targets and now we’ve secured an independent report to Parliament to put right a regime in Job Centres that’s running out of control.”

Whether or not this will reduce the anger many in the party feel towards Byrne and the Labour leadership remains to be seen, but the importance attached to the review of sanctions certainly makes more sense now.

Meanwhile, Labour’s biggest affiliate Unite – who came out against the party’s decision to abstain earlier this week – have written to every Labour rebel thanking them for their opposition to the bill. The text of the letter (from Len McCluskey) can be seen in full below:

“I am taking the unusual step of writing to you following the vote this Tuesday on the Jobseekers (Back to work Schemes) Bill and your decision to oppose this legislation.

Unite was more than disappointed with the decision taken by the Labour front bench to abstain, failing to oppose the government’s attempts to shore up its failing workfare scheme. Opposition to these measures ought to have been the response of our party.

Unite has consistently opposed all forms of workfare and quite simply considers it to be means of exploiting people unable to find paid employment. The fact that this government’s implementation of workfare has been challenged by the courts was something we welcomed.

On Tuesday, Parliament failed to protect the public interest against a government that had been found to be acting unlawfully and a Secretary of State that had stepped beyond his powers.

Those Labour MPs who voted against the government took the opportunity to oppose the tacit acceptance of forced labour where non-employed people are required to work for nothing but JSA payments as well as the ability of government to rewrite law simply in order to escape the jurisdiction of the courts. We cannot accept the view that Labour must be able to retain the power to sanction those who do not accept workfare.

Our members have certainly expressed their disappointment that Labour failed in its duty as an opposition to do this collectively.

Our party needs to be seen standing shoulder-to-shoulder with all those suffering from the consequences of the failed economic strategy of David Cameron and George Osborne. Unite wants to campaign for and secure a Labour government at the next election – a government that puts the values of our members above those of the already rich and powerful.

The challenge for the Labour leadership is to create an effective alternative that resonates with the British public – not confusion about where our party stands. Neither must is offer Coalition-lite policies to an electorate suffering under the real thing.

Labour is in a strong position to win the next election, it is beginning to set out a new approach which breaks with 30 years of neo-liberal economics, the policies that caused the crisis. But it will only succeed if it continues on that radical path, confronting the coalition on basic issue of social justice.

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union representing members in employment as well as the non-employed. We are committed to fighting for our members in the workplace but also in the political arena especially at a time when our members find themselves attacked from all sides by government.

It should be noted that shortly we will be holding our political fund ballot this year asking our members to reaffirm the political work of Unite.

Labour must not make this kind of mistake again.

Let me thank you personally and on behalf of our members for taking a stand on this issue and voting for our shared values of decency, fairness and justice.”

Labour List

Alex OtleyAlex Otley posted a comment in Welfare sanctions vote – the fallout continues 

‘I fail to see why an abstention was required to get concessions from the Tories. Once the Bill had been suitably timetabled it was just a matter of the government whips getting their MPs in order. Labour’s decision to abstain or oppose is of no consequence to the Bill, but makes a huge difference within the Labour Party.’


16 thoughts on “Labour welfare sanctions betrayal ~ Unite’s Len McCluskey threatens to cut purse strings

  1. jeffery davies says:

    its without doubt the little labour tory party stuck to the policy of the bigger brother ,len of unite showing he,s not proud either of this stance but also the front bench new of the sanctions debate coming up and didn’t do a thing about this bloody disaater that ids and co are causing ,you bet ed you not listening to your supporters you going the right way to be looking in throu that window again so close yet so far jeff3

  2. Boadacia! says:

    So we have the Tory SchutzStaffel (SS) and the milder Nazi New Labories to choose from and fear for all our futures, in this Fair Deal Britain, as the sick, disabled and working poor, pay dearly for the super-rich’s gambling debts!

    Anyone else wishing them all a real happy f******* Christmas?

  3. David Moynagh says:

    This cowardly decision by the labour party will cost them dearly. It is a complete betrayal of traditional labour voters and a kick in the teeth to the unemployed, sick and disabled who suffer workfare and dtaconian sanctions. I duly emailed my own MP, Russell Brown (lab) to inform him that I will never trust the labour party again and will not give them my vote. This shall now go to SNP who are more like traditional labour than the westminster labour party. The labour party have buried themselves with this.

  4. Mike Caics says:

    I very much doubt the labour party needed to engage in covert guerilla action to expose the modus operandi behind the Benefit Sanctions regime: it just sounds like more ‘retrospective’ manipulation of the truth – a truth the Labour Party seem unable and unwilling to grasp. One might have hoped that the whole issue of benefits sanctions would have been debated and thrashed out long before they ever made it into Law. Since the Coalition seem to like playing ‘dirty tricks’ – why did NONE of the labour party gather ANY intelligence about the possibility the Sanctions Regime might be abused or used as a de-facto ‘weapon’ – a deliberately targeted and incontrovertible weapon – against the “MOST VULNERABLE..”

    If the labour Party aligns itself with this evil regime, it WILL pay the price and it WILL rue the day it DARED to DISHONOUR the very people who PAID for its existence!

    WE do not forget, we do not forgo and we do not forgive.. not now.. not in the face of the fact that they ALL awarded themselves MORE EXPENSES IMMEDIATELY AFTER THEY VOTED TO CHEAT OTHERS OUT OF THEIR PITTANCE..

    Now.. Do you THINK we will have mercy on YOU WHO ABSTAINED?


    Yesterday i voted on a ballot form to re elect Len McCluskey, i’m glad i did.

    ……….but to be sold down the river by that other bastard?

    It defies belief……….

    ……….and all these excuses, “This is why we had to make difficult decisions on the Job seekers Bill”………..

    What a load of wankers!


    You are only as strong as your weakest link, never show your hand and the best form of defence is attack. They all have a bearing in what we want but sadly they dont seem to apply to the Labour party.

    We have created a daisy chain that everyone can see, that is ready to surrender….

  7. Annos says:

    ” Unite’s Len McCluskey threatens to cut purse strings”

    “threatens” and that is all Mr McCluskey will do!, McCluskey is part and parcel of the problems we have!, looks good to the weak minded, to keep them voting New Labour!.

    Mark my words, a lucrative seat in the House of Lords awaits McCluskey, a place where so many ex trade union leaders sit…Remember… Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde (Brenda Dean; former General Secretary, SOGAT).

    Come on folks, WAKE UP!!!.

  8. Sue Brock says:

    I know because, I had a friend who worked for the DWP through all its name changes, that there has always been pressure on the staff to withhold as many benefits as possible. This sort of “policy” will always affect those worst who are unable to fight for their rights such as very poorly people or the very young or those with learning disabilities. It may well be a policy which has got far worse with this govt but it was still in place under the last Labour govt. It is time we and the unions forced Labour to support all of us, claiments or not!

  9. jed goodright says:

    Just like all those labour MPs with a conscience should leave the current labour party – the unions should withdraw ther funding of labour – otherwise there will be no change in labour’s abhorence of ordinary people

  10. Humanity2012 says:

    Labour has a Duty to Provide Opposition to the Regime

    It is After All the Opposition

    Scrap MPS Expenses and Reimburse the Oppressed Jobseekers

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