And for those without a job ... The Work Programme

Workfare - the idea that claimants should work for their benefits now that capitalist economic crisis and corporate moves to exploit Far Eastern cheap labour has thrown them on the dole - was imported from America by the last Labour Government [the so-called Flexible New Deal]. Naturally, the ConDems have picked up this nasty anti-claimant baton and have refined it as the Work Programme, pledging to throw £5 billion at the corporate vultures waiting to feed on our misfortune.

So, at a time of 2.6 million officially unemployed (with a further 2.4 million out of work but not showing on registered statistics) and the Office of National Statistics showing one vacancy for every 10 jobseekers, the unemployed, the so-called jobshy, are going to be ‘retrained’ and ‘job-prepared’. This is a lie One third of all contracts have gone to A4E and Ingeus Deloitte (the latter’s UK chief executive was up until recently a Director of the DWP!). Basically, charities will provide free volunteers to work with press-ganged claimants while big corporates cream off taxpayers money (£5 billion, remember) for executives and shareholders.

The Context

Keep in mind the context of these moves: the vast majority of us are unemployed involuntarily; many of us find ourselves with the wrong skills in the wrong place thanks to the machinations of the rich and powerful (we can all see that there is plenty of work needing to be done in housing, infrastructure, welfare, production etc but capitalism can’t make profit out of such socially necessary work); the housing market makes it difficult for us to move; some of us are too ill to work (the 2010 Labour Force Survey found the unemployed three times more likely to suffer depression than the rest of the population).

Despite all the hot air, The Work Programme has nothing to do with helping us into meaningful work, or helping us ‘back into society’. Its aims are to cut the welfare budget, an attack on the social wage, and to attack actual wages, providing cheap disciplined labour. Providers have been given a ‘black box’ contract – no mandated requirement to do specific things whilst ‘training’: they are free to do whatever they think necessary.

The programme applies to people on JSA, IS, and IB who have been unemployed for six months, though some can be ‘fast tracked’, and sanctions, beginning at loss of all benefit for two weeks, progressing to 6 months, can be applied for ‘non-compliance’.

Further Benefit Cuts to Come

And to supplement the attacks of the Work Programme, the government have added the Mandatory Work Activity programme.

Now claimants, within days of signing on , can:

  • Be forced to work 30 hours per week for 4 weeks for their benefits – which means at £2.25 per hour.
  • The 30 hours can cover 7 days a week, so they can be made to work weekends.
  • Face up to 4 such ‘activities’ per year.
  • Be sent to work unrelated to the claimant’s work goals, or their past experience or qualifications.
  • Be ‘sanctioned’ (ie lose all benefits) for an initial period of 13 weeks, rising to 6 months, for ‘non-compliance’ (eg lateness)
  • Be able to appeal this only within a 5 day period (unlike the old 30 day system).

The decision to refer to an ‘activity’ will be at the discretion of the DWP adviser - who we now know, thanks to a Guardian investigation, is subject to targets that have to be met. The pretence that any of this is anything to do with training or support has been stripped away.

Claimants will have no right to withdraw their labour and no right to the National Minimum Wage.

Some may have read the article in the recent Guardian telling us that young claimants are being made to work for Tesco or Poundland etc, for nothing. (See )

At a time when education and training is under threat, and housing benefit, working tax credit, and other public services and benefits are being cut, this is a double pronged attack by the state on our conditions:

  1. It’s an attack on ALL wages, creating a pool of ultra cheap labour with no right to industrial action.
  2. An attack on already savaged benefits as ‘sanctions’ will rocket. We have to fight back as one class.

For more information see

It’s a Fact:

In the USA the richest 1 percent now receive almost 24 percent of national income, up from almost 9 percent in 1976.

The richest 1,000 people in the UK possess £395.8 bn - equivalent to one- third of the national debt. In the UK more than 1 in 5 16-24 year olds are without work. Spain has the highest youth unemployment rate in the euro zone with 43.5% of the under-25s out of work.

According to Bain & Company’s latest global luxury market research the global luxury goods sales in 2011 will grow 10 percent to 191 billion euros. About 25,000 people die every day of hunger or hunger-related causes, according to the United Nations. It is children who die most often. Yet there is plenty of food in the world for everyone. Twenty per cent of the 55million mortgage holders in the US are behind with payments.


This article is a real shocker. I find it difficult to believe it's actually happening. This may be part of the problem. Does the working class know the extent to which it is being beaten down, screwed and humiliated? Obviously individuals know, and suffer, but it's only when ALL the facts are brought together, as in this piece, that the full extent of the horrors of this corrupt decadent society are exposed. It's a sort of hidden totalitarianism of the worst sort. We're getting near the Orwellian vision of 1984, and all in the name of Freedom and Democracy. Ha Ha! Oh what joy capitalism brings to the world! What would we all do without it? (Be nice to try though!)

Agree Charlie that the continuing attacks are a nightmare for millions of workers and will only get worse, both nightmare as well as attacks. When will workers as a class wake from this nightmare it's difficult to judge. While its true that many workers are both angry and frustrated with these attacks the problemis that while the beleif in reformism is being eroded there is still not an alternative which workers can beleive in. It's our task in whatever small way to bring to workers attention that communism is the only viable alternative to capitalist barbarism. However small our steps may be enough small steps can dramtically alter the balance of class forces in our favour.

It seems like the nightmare in Kazakhstan is even worse than the one in western Europe Dave, for there the ruling bourgeoisie has started murdering rebellious workers in a sickening massacre. I wonder how deep and how bad exploitation has to get before even the most reluctant of workers feel they've had enough? This is what appears to have happened in Kazakhstan. You are right to say small steps could tilt the balance of class forces in our direction. One such step could be the unifying of the perilously small forces of revolutionaries. This gets talked about a lot. But nothing happens. After all, the alternative to unity may be "suicide". Who wants that? Better to die fighting the bourgeoisie as in Kazakhstan.

Aurora (en)

Aurora is the broadsheet of the ICT for the interventions amongst the working class. It is published and distributed in several countries and languages. So far it has been distributed in UK, France, Italy, Canada, USA, Colombia.