Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith yesterday revealed plans to force unemployed benefit claimants into slave labour.
TUC senior policy officer Richard Exell said the policy would be ‘very unfair to unemployed people, especially long-term unemployed people’.
On Radio 4’s World This Weekend, he said: ‘The reason we have got such high unemployment isn’t because of a problem with the work ethic, it is because there aren’t enough jobs for people to do.
‘We have got 2.5 million unemployed people and fewer than half a million job vacancies.
‘Unemployed people are the victims here, not the villains.’
Interviewed about plans for four-week placements, doing council and other jobs, Duncan Smith told the Telegraph newspaper: ‘The message will go across; play ball or it’s going to be difficult.
Duncan Smith will announce the plan as part of his ‘Welfare Reform’ White Paper on Thursday.
Claimants who do not ‘accept’ the placements or fail to complete them, will have their Jobseekers’ Allowance of £64.30 a week stopped for three months or more.
Duncan Smith indicated that the unemployed will be put to work for a mix of private companies, councils, charities and other voluntary groups – at a time when councils are planning half a million sackings.
The plan is part of a wider scheme to scrap benefits in favour of a means-tested ‘universal credit’.
Deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman told the Andrew Marr Show yesterday that ‘without jobs welfare reform won’t work…’
She added: ‘I mean at the moment there are five people chasing every vacancy, and simply making the long-term unemployed worse off…’
Marr interjected: ‘But there has to be some kind of push, doesn’t there?’
Harman agreed: ‘Absolutely.’
Marr added: ‘I mean your government would have done the same.’
Harman said: ‘Absolutely, and you know we did say a guarantee of a job or training place or voluntary work, that’s right.
‘But I think for example with Housing Benefit where they’re saying to somebody who’s looked for a job for a year and can’t find a job, your reward for not being able to find a job is to cut your Housing Benefit by ten per cent and make you worse off, we think that’s unfair.’
Asked will Labour fight the proposals, Harman said: ‘Well we’ll have to see what he says on Thursday, but as far as the Housing Benefit issues are concerned, we’re having a vote against them on Tuesday. We all think there should be reform, but this is unfair.’