Labour Attacks Youth, Workers, Sick And Immigrants

Migrant workers marching against their super-exploitation by the employers and the government
Migrant workers marching against their super-exploitation by the employers and the government

Yesterday the government launched major attacks on workers and immigrants.

Ministers announced plans to strip unemployed people of their benefits, force long term sick and injured people back into work, make doctors issue well notes instead of sick notes, and to charge non-EU immigrants for healthcare and education

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith delivered a Citizenship Green Paper in the House of Commons based on the Australian points system.

It states that newly arrived immigrants will have to pass a period of ‘probationary citizenship’.

Smith said migrants from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) will not be eligible for benefits until they have passed their ‘probationary phase’ and are full citizens.

She said they will be ‘encouraged’ to ‘move on’ through a system that leads to citizenship.

Migrants would find their route to citizenship and full access to benefits accelerated if they can prove they are ‘active’ citizens, by doing charity work, taking part in local community schemes, and cooperating with the authorities.

Anyone breaking the law would find the process far harder, or would be barred completely from becoming a UK citizen.

Smith said: ‘The rights and benefits of citizenship will be available to those who we consider can demonstrate a commitment to our shared values and a willingness to contribute to our community.’

She said it is expected ‘that all who live here should learn our language, play by the rules, obey the law and contribute to the economy.’

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Johnson was addressing the British Heart Foundation where he called for measures to force sick and injured people back into work, calling on GPs to issue ‘well notes’ instead of sick notes.

The GMB trade union reacted angrily to this, saying: ‘In the UK labour market able bodied and fully fit workers get jobs ahead of those who are disabled and those not fully fit.’

GMB General Secretary Paul Kenny said: ‘Various government ministers keep coming back to the issue of numbers claiming incapacity benefit.

‘The unpalatable truth is that the problem lies with the lack of demand from employers for disabled workers.

‘Why do ministers think GMB put up such a fight to stop the government sacking 2,000 disabled Remploy workers as they agreed to close 28 factories?

‘Most of these Remploy workers will never work again.’

Public sector union UNISON General Secretary, Dave Prentis commented: ‘It is a sad fact that 75 per cent of ambulance staff retire at 54 due to the physical and mental demands of the job.

‘Nurses, cleaners, cooks refuse collectors and homecare workers are some of the many staff plagued by back injuries in the pubic sector.

‘We want employers to adopt a rehabilitative approach, rather than taking punitive action.

‘It is good practice to work with employees to give them sufficient time to recover, and to allow a phased return to work if they need it.

‘It is unacceptable for people to be forced back into work and into a spiral of declining health.

‘Staff shortages pile on the pressure for those left behind and many staff are unable to return to work.’

Vanessa Stanislas, chief executive of the Disability Alliance added: ‘To suggest that GPs could make recommendations about their patients being able to do some work is asking them to do the work of occupational therapists. We would be very concerned about that.’

The British Medical Association said: ‘GPs are required to provide facts (not opinions) and do not take decisions on who gets benefits.’

Dr Peter Holden, BMA’s GP’s Committee said: ‘GPs should not be there to police the system.’

Work and Pensions Secretary Purnell reiterated measures to force disabled people onto cheap labour schemes.

Saying: ‘we want a system where inactive benefits are the exception rather than the rule’, he announced that ‘everyone who is long term unemployed, claiming JSA (Job Seekers Allowance) and participating in flexible New Deal will be expected to take active steps to return to work, which will include undertaking work-related activity in return for their dole.’

He claimed: ‘there is a small group who refuse to take up the opportunities available.

‘For them, beyond the Flexible New Deal, we will be looking at how we can develop a strict sanctions regime including either cuts in benefits or an option of permanent work for their benefits.’