Sharp increase in unemployment as bankers and bosses demand sick and disabled be driven into work

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YESTERDAY the latest unemployment figures were released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealing that UK unemployment had shot up by  85,000 in the December to February quarter to 1.44 million, driving the unemployment rate up to 4.2%.

The number of people employed fell by 156,000 in this quarter to 32.98 million, as firms and companies began to cut back on jobs under the impact of the UK economy continuing its dive into recession and the catastrophic effect of the interest rate increases imposed by the Bank of England to try to curb inflation.

Central to this strategy by the Bank, was the deliberate driving up of unemployment and the creation of a reserve of unemployed who could be used to hold down the wage demands of workers and their unions.

Holding wages down to below poverty levels and forcing workers to cut back on spending would, according to the Bank’s economists, bring down inflation.

The unemployed would become a weapon to use against demands for wage increases, while cuts to benefits would force them into taking on any low-paid, insecure jobs on offer.

What has caused alarm in the ranks of the bankers and bosses is that these figures also reveal a record number of the ‘economically inactive’, that is those out of work but not seeking employment.

A total of 9.4 million people aged between 16 and 62 have dropped out of the workforce with long-term sickness being the most common reason, along with youth in full-time education.

A Bank of England official told the media that the rising inactivity rate was worrying as it reduced the workforce and forced employers to pay higher wages, pushing up costs and driving inflation.

Ben Harrison, director of the Work Foundation at Lancaster University, said the UK workforce is ‘sicker and poorer’ and that it is ‘an international outlier with participation rates below pre-Covid levels’.

Harrison added: ‘As we get closer to a general election, supporting more people who are long-term sick into secure and sustained employment will be one of the central challenges of the next government.’

Workers already know that the Tories plan to drive the sick and disabled back to work when, in November, they announced welfare cuts to benefits for people unable to work through health conditions – plans to ‘save’ £4 billion from the welfare budget by tightening the ‘fit to work’ rules.

Meanwhile, Labour Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions Liz Kendall, in a speech to the Demos think-tank in March, made it clear that any Labour government would be equally determined to force workers and youth into jobs, saying they have ‘a responsibility to take up the work or training that’s on offer,’ before adding: ‘Under our changed Labour Party, if you can work there will be no option of a life on benefits.’

Both the Tories and Labour agree that the imperative to save collapsing British capitalism is to drive down wages and force the sick and disabled into accepting a life without any benefits, or being forced into jobs in the insecure gig economy.

Starving workers back into employment – either by a Tory or Labour government – to rescue the profits of the bloated bosses and bankers will never be accepted by the powerful working class.

The same cannot be said of the leadership of the TUC, whose general secretary Paul Nowak could only comment on the rise in unemployment and the increase in the numbers too sick to work by calling for a ‘fresh start with a proper plan for jobs and growth to make sure family incomes can recover and everyone feels secure at work.’

What arrant nonsense.

British capitalism is headlong into recession, drowning in debt and with its only survival plan being to drive the working class into poverty and destitution – conditions not seen since the 19th century.

The time has come for the working class to force the TUC to fight by calling an immediate general strike to bring down the Tories and bring in a workers’ government that will nationalise the banks and the major industries under the management and for the benefit of the working class under a planned socialist economy.