• We want a professional service from well trained and dedicated staff. MPs give themselves 40% pay rises ‘to attract the right sort of people’ surely pay increases above the rate of inflation would help keep experienced staff in the job centres.
• Job cuts will lead to long waits and a poorer service. Some of us have been waiting 3 months for a claim to be sorted out. It can take over 6 months to appeal against a decision.
• We want to talk to real people not phone up some outsourced call centre on the other side of the country or world.
Not Far Enough
However the action does not go far enough. To understand why it is important to realise the role of the Job Centres.
They are not there to help and support people on low income or those looking for work. Their only purpose is to help employers – they provide a source of cheap and willing labour. All the incentives – after school clubs, extra ‘help’ for people on Incapacity Benefit, New Deal… are just to push people into the labour market. This allows employers to pay lower wages with worse conditions – they do not have to attract staff because people are forced into the jobs.
So the staff at the Job Centre are working to enforce a regime which creates the worsening conditions that they are striking about!
We are constantly told that there is not enough money to pay pensioners, to build hospitals or provide decent education but this is the biggest lies told to the British people. The cost of Trident (£75 billion) would pay for over a thousand new hospitals but even this does not really represent the real problem.
The UK is amazingly wealthy. The problem is that most of the wealth is in the hands of a few. Over 50% of the UK’s wealth is owned by the top 5% of the population . The top 50% of the population own 99% of the wealth leaving the other 1% of the wealth to be distributed amongst the rest of us.
Benefit System For The Rich
The state sponsored benefit system is not for the poor but the rich. Rupert Murdoch, owner of The Sun, pays no tax despite his papers constant rants about ‘dole scroungers’. What government would commit political suicide by plugging the loopholes that he uses? Companies such as Tesco’s reap in massive profits while the tax payer has to subsidise poverty wages through tax credits.
A local example is when Chapelfield shopping centre was built there was a danger that there would not be enough shop workers. This could lead to the ‘nightmare scenario’ that shops may have to pay more than the minimum wage to attract workers. Don’t worry said the Council and Job Centre. They instigated a massive plan to recruit single parents and the unemployed to fill the vacancies to keep the wages down and company profits up – all paid for by the tax payer.
We cannot trust people such as Blair to protect us from the greed of the employers. We can only do this by taking action ourselves – the national health system, benefit system and all the small amounts of benefits that we get were not given to us by benign leaders but fought for by collective action of ordinary people.
We can win! For example the Coalition of Immokalee Workers which consists of mainly immigrant farm workers in the US have recently taken on Taco Bell and McDonalds to win massive pay increases and won. They are now after Burger King.
Strikes such as the one taken today can win short term gains which will benefit both the workers and users of their services. However, if we are to gain back ground the struggle has to be seen in a wider context with collective action beyond union and workplace boundaries.