A concerted public relations exercise has been launched to vilify the unemployed and attack critics of its flagship policy of forcing those on Jobseekers allowance into working for nothing or risk losing benefit.
In an interview last Sunday Sir Stuart Rose, multi millionaire ex-boss of Marks and Spencer, declared himself to be ‘baffled’ by opposition to the various forced labour schemes, and demanded that employers show some ‘backbone’ in the face of opposition from the unemployed to being used as free labour.
His message was immediately supported by employment minister, Chris Grayling, who stated that this was exactly the message he would be delivering to a meeting of businessmen he is holding tomorrow.
Last week Lib/Dem leader, Nick Clegg, weighed in with his support, stating that he had absolutely ‘no qualms’ about a young unemployed person working all night at a supermarket stacking shelves for no pay.
What has rattled the coalition and its supporters are the recent revelations about the huge profits being made out of the unemployed by the companies that benefit from free labour – subsidised by the state – and the even vaster amounts being pocketed by private companies with huge government contracts to drive the unemployed off benefit.
The scandal has crystallised around the activities of the largest firm involved in this entire industry that has grown up on the back of state-funded ‘work’ programmes, A4e and its founder Emma Harrison.
Harrison, who was appointed by Cameron as his ‘family tsar’, was forced to resign from this position last week shortly followed by her also stepping down as head of the company.
Her resignations followed the arrest of four ex-employees of the firm on suspicion of fraud, involving accusations of bumping up the number of job placements to secure government payments.
Her position was made more untenable by reports that on top of her £365,000 a year salary and the payment of a £8.6 million share dividend, she received around £1.7 million over two years for leasing out her personal property, including the stately home she lives in, to her own company for board meetings and other events.
All this, plus the ongoing court case being brought by a young university graduate whose benefit was stopped after she refused to carry on working at stacking shelves in a high street company for no pay, has caused a number of companies to take fright at the potential damage to their business image and declare they no longer wish to be involved in these schemes.
It is to stiffen the resolve of these companies that Rose and Grayling are making their call for a show of backbone, signalling that there will be no retreat by the government from the policy of forcing the unemployed to work for nothing, regardless of any fraud investigation or revelations about vast profits being made on the backs of the unemployed.
It signals that the exposure and resignation of individuals like Harrison will not divert the government from one of its main strategies for propping up a bankrupt British capitalism, that is to use the unemployed as a source of free labour to keep up the profits of failing businesses while, at the same time, being used to fill the jobs of laid-off workers and hold down the wages of those still in employment.
The common enemy of both the employed and unemployed is this coalition government and the capitalist system it serves; the working class must respond to this attack by demanding that the TUC call a general strike to bring down the government and go forward to a workers government that will guarantee employment for all at a decent wage by producing for need and not for profit.