The findings of a survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development confirm what every worker and young person in the country already knows, that unemployment is set to rise even higher in the immediate future as private sector employers prepare to ‘push the redundancy button’.
This survey of 1,000 private sector companies found that facing a continuing slump with no end in sight, bosses are on the verge of dumping thousands of workers, especially those operating in the private sector service industries.
This was the sector that, according to all the apologists for bankrupt British capitalism, would take over from the collapsed manufacturing industries, along with the hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs massacred by the Tory-led coalition in the cause of cutting public expenditure to bail out the banks.
With figures released in January showing that unemployment had jumped by 118,000 to 2.69 million out of work, making unemployment higher than it has been since 1996, it is quite clear that all talk of the economy ‘bottoming out’ and employment levels going up, as the CBI is constantly begging us to believe, is so much eyewash.
The most pernicious of lies being spread by bourgeois politicians is that of the existence of a ‘dependency culture’ where jobs exist but the working class, and especially working class youth, are too lazy to take up these mythical jobs.
What the unemployed are increasingly facing is being forced to work for nothing or lose their benefits.
Under the government’s misnamed ‘work experience’ schemes hundreds of thousands of predominantly young people are being forced to work for no pay for charities and private companies for up to 30 hours a week for an eight week period.
If they pull out of the scheme they face losing their benefits and the prospect of being forced to beg on the streets.
These schemes are not the only ones that the government has in its arsenal of weapons to force the unemployed to work for nothing.
There exists a whole number of similar schemes forced on the unemployed, including mandatory work activity, sector-based work academies, and community action programmes.
All these schemes have in common the fact that they can force people on jobseekers allowance to take unpaid work for up to six months as a condition of receiving their benefit.
Last week a legal firm, Public Interest Lawyers, issued letters to 15 major companies making them aware that it had initiated legal proceedings against the Department of Work and Pensions challenging the legality of these schemes citing the ‘forced labour’ provisions of the Human Rights Act.
That the coalition government, and by implication the Labour party leadership who are fully in accord on the question of forcing people off benefit, should stand accused under legal provisions introduced to stop human trafficking and the type of slavery associated with gangmasters exploiting desperate workers from impoverished countries, is not just an indictment but a call to arms for the entire trade union movement.
This policy is aimed at either driving people off benefit, or to provide an unpaid labour force for the benefit of the profits of the increasingly desperate private businesses, while at the same time operating as a reserve army to beat down the pay and conditions of workers still in employment.
Workers must demand that their unions respond to this joint attack on the employed and unemployed through the organisation of a general strike that will bring down this coalition and go forward to a workers government that will guarantee full employment through the nationalisation of the banks and industry, and production not for the profit of a few but for the needs of all.