Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Stop the sanctions solidarity with boycott workfare.

In the last few days Boycott workfare who can be found on twitter @ boycott workfare and their brilliant website at Were set upon by Youth Fight for Jobs a front organisation for the Socialist party with a vicious piece ripping into them calling them all sorts and not really coming up with any real way to fight sanctions for the unemployed all apart from yes you guessed it the good old ever present call for a 24 hour general strike which lets be honest is not going to happen anytime soon in reality. The article in question which was put out yesterday on the Youth Fight for jobs website written by PCS deputy General secretary John McNally it would seem and Socialist party member was this "So it's not a moral argument, it's a political question" - err, okay, yeah. Who ever disputed that? In the piece the socialist party claim that "Labour used to draw certain lines in the sand which the Tories and big business couldn't cross" –this is Stupid and wrong from history we only look back at labours time in government and in opposition even back to the YTS scheme labour did not oppose this back then either. But these sanctions can and must be challenged and taken on. The socialist party and the PCS leadership use the saem arguments labour councils do to not fight the cuts and this is quite ironic seeing as the socialist party urge labour councils to not pass on the cuts and to instead to stand-up and fight. Well why can’t the PCS and SP members in the PCS do the same and stand in solidarity with claimants and given solidarity to the working class, the same class they claim to want to represent. The boycott workfare piece is below: Current welfare policies and reforms represent an unprecedented attack on claimants and on the welfare state itself. Conditionality, workfare and the huge rise in sanctions are driving claimants further into poverty and destitution. At the same time a vicious campaign of hatred driven by the media and political classes has stigmatised those on benefits and poisoned public debate. Workfare forces claimants to work without wages under the threat of sanctions. Those on workfare are exempted from legislation that protects the rights of people at work and denied access to union membership and representation. Sick and disabled people claiming ESA can now be forced onto workfare. Workfare drives down wages and conditions for all workers and it is in all our interests to end it completely. Between 2009 and 2011 the number of sanctions handed out to claimants tripled to reach over half a million. In January this year 85,000 people were sanctioned, suggesting that the number of sanctions could reach one million this year. People are now having benefits withdrawn for up to three years (including for failure to participate in workfare). As the PCS have said this increase in the number and severity of sanctions is purely a political decision. As conditionality and sanctions have increased and become more severe so the range of claimants subject to them has been extended. Sick and disabled people found “fit for work” by the hated Work Capability Assessment are now subject to this regime as are single parents with young children. Plans for in-work conditionality will see sanctions applied to part time workers and the self employed. The introduction of Universal Job match and a requirement for claimants to spend 35 hour each week on job search or workfare will inevitably lead to more sanctions and is intended to do so. Plans to make hardship payments a recoverable loan will force those who are sanctioned into debt. Housing benefit is increasingly being suspended where people are sanctioned. This systematic removal of welfare support is causing sharp increases in homelessness and the use of food banks. Boycott Workfare welcome the fact that the PCS have spoken out against workfare and the huge rise in sanctions. We also understand that the primary role of the PCS is to represent their members including around 84,000 staff in the DWP. It should be obvious that there is a tension here where the PCS are campaigning against policies that their own members are required to implement. But there is also the possibility that the PCS could take concerted action to defend the welfare state in the interests of both claimants and their members. Government policies cannot be implemented without workers to implement them. At meetings with the PCS we have raised the possibility of action being taken. Sadly the PCS have been dismissive of our suggestions and they have been met with arguments for inaction. PCS leadership has argued that anti-strike laws prevent action being taken in solidarity with claimants. But the interests of claimants and PCS members are intertwined and these policies directly impact on the working conditions of PCS members. Increased aggravation between PCS members and claimants put both at risk. And under Universal Credit many DWP staff will themselves face conditionality and sanctions. The right of workers to withhold their labour is fundamental. Laws which undermine this right do not comply with international obligations and should be challenged. Without those prepared to take risks and challenge injustice we would not have unions or a welfare state. This is not about blaming those PCS members tasked with implementing unjust policies. We know that the blame lies elsewhere. This is about the role that unions could and should take in building solidarity between workers and claimants and in empowering workers to take action. If the PCS are sincere about campaigning for social security justice then they should refuse to cooperate with the implementation of unjust policies. Words are not enough. Boycott Workfare therefore calls on the PCS to take action to protect welfare provision and to frustrate the imposition of policies designed to undermine it. Boycott Workfare would like to thank those PCS branches who have signed our pledge and those members who have taken part in our actions. We are grateful to members of the PCS in the Civil Service Rank and File Network who put forward a motion to this year’s PCS conference. We urge all PCS members to call for proper debate and practical action on challenging sanctions With thanks to Boycott workfare, The Civil Service-rank-and-file Network

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