Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally


BREAKING: I think I just agreed with Polly Toynbee

I wrote a few days ago about the Government’s Workfare scheme, where I condemned the work-shy (naturally) but thought it was out of order for rich corporates to take advantage of the scheme to pay workers nothing!

The Guardian’s Polly Toynbee writes:

“Workfare is transparently unfair to most people, substituting slave labour for big companies. Michael Heseltine’s scheme that was dubbed workfare had three vitally different ingredients. He paid jobseeker’s allowance recipients extra for working, he ensured the work was for charities or community projects – no risk of job substitution – and the job market was rising. Iain Duncan Smith and Chris Grayling breached all those, absurdly calling objectors “job snobs”. The protesters gave them the bloody nose they deserve.” [my highlighting]

I am the biggest fan of Iain Duncan Smith’s Welfare Reform but Chris Grayling should have a word with Michael Heseltine on how not to feather the nests of the big corporates at the expense of the taxpayer. Large companies push the money to the top as it is, the directors do not deserve to be rewarded for it by the Government providing free labour at the bottom. Only positions in charities or the voluntary sector should be used as part of the Workfare scheme to encourage the work-shy to get back to work.

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Let’s be careful with Workfare

I’m all in favour of the work-shy being forced to work in charities or other voluntary sector bodies to get their Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA) but what I am not in favour of is large corporates taking advantage of the Government Workfare scheme to get in people to work in their stores for free. There is either a vacancy or not. If there is a vacancy, advertise it and employ the person at the advertised rate. If there isn’t a vacancy, then you won’t need that person to come in and stack shelves overnight. Will you?

As I’ve written before, despite being a believer in capitalism and the free market I side with Wilberforce when it comes to slave labour. Employing a man or woman in a charity shop to get their JSA is one thing but helping to increase the profits of a FTSE 100 company without being rewarded by that company is out of order.

So, I must disagree on this occasion with employment minister Chris Grayling, for the reasons stated above, who I usually very much admire, when he said last week that those who criticised the Government’s Workfare policy were “job snobs”.

But before my Left-wing friends get excited again, I am very much with Paul Staines of the Guido Fawkes parish when he points out we are all had to start somewhere, and, apart from the trust fund babies like Cameron and Osborne, that was at the bottom. We worked for a pittance but with one eye on the opportunity to build a career in the future with far higher rewards. I worked for Hewlett Packard for a year back in 1999 doing a job for very little money because I was on a student placement during my university degree. It was the same job my colleagues who worked in a permanent position were doing for twice if not three times as much as I made. Some might argue that’s not fair but that is life: I had not got my degree yet and was therefore being paid commensurate to my qualifications. But when I got my degree I got paid more: that’s how it works. But I still got money for my efforts (unlike the poor chap stacking shelves in Tesco for nothing) even if it was hardly enough to live on.

Despite what the Labour party say, there are in fact tens of thousands of private sector vacancies across the UK at the moment. But most of them are being filled by immigrants because they are seen as too lowly by the British unemployed. This is why you hear nothing but foreign accents serving you in our food and drink outlets up and down the land. This is a real problem caused by a cushy benefits system where you can currently get more benefits than you can earn working and an open-borders policy since 2007 (I wonder who was in power then?) which Conservative Home Secretary Theresa May is now having to sort out.

Once we have dealt with this twin problem we might start to see the return of a British strong work ethic, which will bring growth back to our economy that benefits us all. But let’s do this without providing free labour to the wealthy corporates.