Tag Archives: punish

National Insurance punishment for the poor would mean Johnson lied YET AGAIN

Liar, liar, liar: I know this image was created in relation to Johnson’s Covid-19 policy but it now applies equally to his apparent plan for National Insurance.

We’re hearing that Boris Johnson’s Tory government is planning a National Insurance rise to pay for improved social care.

The Daily Torygraph reckons a one per cent increase is being demanded by Johnson’s office at Downing Street, while the Treasury – Rishi Sunak’s mob – wants a bigger increase of 1.25 per cent.

And The Times says Sajid Javid at the Department of Health and Social Care wants two per cent (although apparently he has denied this, saying he wants a lower figure).

The BBC reckons

For someone on average earnings of £29,536 a year, a 1% increase in national insurance would cost them £199.68 annually.

Most of us aren’t on that kind of pay packet because the national average is grossly inflated by the amount taken by people in the top 10 per cent, but it would still be a huge hike for those on £15-16k – and money that they can’t afford to lose.

Why should we pay any extra at all? Johnson promised in his 2019 election manifesto that there would be no National Insurance increases during this Parliament.

Hear the proof for yourself, from Johnson’s own lips:

The very first thing that occurred to This Writer when I heard about the plan was that Johnson has given so much money in Covid-related contracts to his Tory friends and doners – in return for nothing useful, remember – that he feels justified in saying there is no cash for this.

The corruption in such an act should be obvious to even the most blinkered working-class Tory.

Furthermore (or alternatively; there’s very little difference), this will be another opportunity for him to push working people into poverty. Those of us who receive Universal Credit are to lose £1,000 a year when the weekly £20 uplift is stripped away and now Johnson is targeting those of us who earn enough that we have to pay National Insurance – which also includes people on UC.

Richard Murphy puts it very well on his Tax Research UK site:

In the article, he states,

Rishi Sunak wishes that people should be punished for wanting more NHS spending.

He explains:

NIC is a deeply regressive tax. As the government’s own table of rates, allowances and reliefs makes clear, the tax targets those on lower pay. The charge starts on income below the income tax threshold. It is cut drastically on income above £50,268 a year. It is, therefore a deeply unfair tax already.

But worse are the exemptions from the tax. The retired, however well off they might be, do not pay it.

NIC is not paid at all on unearned income, whether from interest, dividends, rents, trusts or other sources.

And those with the means to manipulate their income – as many self-employed people with their own companies have been able to do – can avoid large parts of their NIC liability.

So, this is a tax on those in paid employment above all else.

This means that this is a tax on those most likely to be least able to afford a tax increase in this country.

Murphy makes very good points that the government doesn’t need to raise NI – firstly because it can just create the money (as it did with all the cash used to pay for the Covid contracts), and secondly because the economic multiplier effect of ensuring that people have proper care and their relatives aren’t distracted by trying to provide it means that the cost – and possibly more – is paid back into the Treasury in an increased tax take.

He adds that Sunak is not proposing an increase affecting the rich because he assumes they have all opted into (inferior) private health care, although there is no evidence to support this.

Read the article for the full details.

His final point is perhaps the most damning of all: by increasing the tax demand on poor and working people, Sunak will cause more stress that harms their health, thereby increasing the strain on our already-overstretched National Health Service.

Sunak knows this and wants it, because it will increase dissatisfaction with the NHS and – he hopes – increase demand for full privatisation (even though that will make the health of the vast majority of the UK population even worse).

Worse still for this policy is the apparent lack of any strategy to use the extra money on improvements in the social care system. It seems the money will simply go into the bank accounts of the private companies that own (we can’t say “run”) social care homes:

And of course people are asking the obvious questions of the prime minister who told us the massive savings we would make from ceasing to pay huge amounts into the European Union could be put to use over here:

What happened to all that money? Where is it?

So we see that Johnson is again making a liar of himself, Sunak is planning to use that lie to punish poor and working people, and the social care system won’t even enjoy any improvement.

It’s another typical Tory cock-up and they don’t care because it only hurts poor people.

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/


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Redwood warns business leaders: You no longer have a right to free speech over Brexit

John Redwood: To him, Brexit is about YOU doing what you’re told. So much for taking back our freedom.

How kind of John Redwood to give us all a glimpse of the kind of despotism Tories want to inflict on us all – by trying to inflict it on business bosses first.

He has told company executives that they will pay a “very dear economic and financial price” if they dare to criticise the decision to leave the European Union.

So I’d like to encourage the same bosses to do the exact opposite – starting by exposing Redwood as the windbag he is.

As for the rest of us – let’s ask prime minister Theresa May the question posed on Twitter by Professor Ian Donald: “How is it acceptable for one of your MPs to threaten people with losing their jobs if they are pro-EU? Do you ignore the appalling behaviour of back benchers too?”

We know, now, that Leave only won with the help of vote-rigging internet companies, so people like Redwood have absolutely no business trying to bully anyone.

Let’s all look into ways we can do to him what he’s threatening to do to us.

John Redwood has vowed to punish businesses who speak out in favour of Britain remaining in the European Union.

Mr Redwood, one the most senior Tory Eurosceptics, said companies who did not stay silent on the country’s EU membership would pay a “very dear economic and financial price”.

Chief executives who decide to take a corporate position on the issue could lose their jobs while those campaigning against membership would ensure there were financial consequences, Mr Redwood warned.

The former Welsh secretary demanded firms “keep out” of the debate and “beware” not to “meddle in politics”.

Mr Redwood told a fringe event about Britain’s place in the EU that “the only answer for all concerned is for big business to keep out and not express a corporate view”.

Source: Businesses that speak out for Britain’s EU membership will be punished, vows John Redwood – Telegraph


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The mentally ill are bearing the brunt of benefit sanctions in Wales

A poster against benefits sanctions in Salford.

People with mental health problems in Wales are being punished for their conditions by benefit sanctions – or the threat of them, according to research by a group of Christian churches.

Two-thirds of those who are sanctioned in Wales are unfit for work because of mental health problems – more than in the rest of the UK. It is likely that the sanctions add to the worry and stress which already cause terrible difficulty for these people.

The information is revealed in the Welsh Data Supplement to the report Time to Rethink Benefit Sanctions, which will be launched in the churches’ tent at the National Eisteddfod in Meifod on Wednesday (August 5), starting at 1pm. The event will hear the stories of some of those who have suffered from sanctions.

In his Preface to the report, the Most Revd Dr Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales, states: “The results are shocking: large numbers of people, particularly those judged unfit for work due to mental health problems, are being punished … by the withholding of their income.”

Chair of Synod Cymru of the Methodist Church, Revd Jennifer Hurd, added, “Over a third of those who are told they may be sanctioned in fact find their sanction is cancelled because of a bureaucratic error. But in the meantime, they will have suffered additional unnecessary stress and anxiety, waiting to find out if their support is to be cut off.”

Moderator of the United Reformed Church in Wales, Revd Simon Walkling, said, “This is a shocking report, and confirms what churches find in their work on the ground with food banks, debt counselling services and other projects helping those in need in their communities. That is why our churches have said that in Wales, as in the rest of the UK, it is time to rethink benefit sanctions.”

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DWP employees: Do the right thing – because Iain Duncan Smith never will

zIDSmurderer

The effect of Iain Duncan Smith’s ‘welfare reforms’ should, by now, be plain for all to see: Increased poverty – including child poverty, the torture of starvation for people who have been sanctioned off of benefit and cannot afford food, hopelessness, despair, suicide.

We saw the signs as long ago as 2012, when the man we call RTU (Return To Unit) and SNLR (Services No Longer Required) launched his famous rant on the subject against Owen Jones.

This blog reported it at the time: “Irately wagging his finger in Mr Jones’s general direction, he barked: ‘We’ve heard a lot from you. I didn’t hear you screaming about two and a half million people who were parked, nobody saw them, for over 10 years, not working, no hope, no aspiration. We are changing their lives; I’m proud of doing that. Getting them off-benefit is what we’re going to do.'”

Establishment figures like David Dimbleby, it seems, wanted us to take this at face value – that the Secretary-in-a-State was going to put people to work (whether they liked it or not).

Now we know that wasn’t what he meant.

He meant he was going to force people off benefit by perverting the system in the worst way possible. He was going to order his staff to find any slight excuse to inflict benefit sanctions on society’s most vulnerable.

As we read today, “Unlike benefit delays, where in theory claimants can receive backdated payments to cover the period when they were without income, sanctions left already vulnerable recipients struggling with a massive hole in their finances which they had often filled with expensive credit, trapping them in a cycle of debt.”

Iain Duncan Smith has encouraged his staff to sanction people using “unjust, potentially fraudulent reasons”.

He has inflicted torture on the innocent, in contravention of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

His benefit assessors practice “chequebook euthanasia” – when claimants say they have suicidal thoughts, they are asked why they have not yet killed themselves.

And sometimes he just condemns people to die in the cold. Note that Job Centre staff – like Nazi soldiers – use the so-called ‘Nuremberg defence’ for their actions; they were “only following orders”.

Take this comparison to its logical conclusion and Iain Duncan Smith may be compared with Hitler; the unemployed, sick and disabled are his Jews, Romanies, sick and disabled; and the whole of the UK is his extermination camp.

But a general election is coming and the Conservatives are not expected to win. Will Iain Duncan Smith take Hitler’s way out?

Fat chance!

He’ll probably try to cover his tracks, too.

So let us appeal to all DWP personnel: Here’s your chance to get something worthwhile from the last five years!

It is time to start copying information. Iain Duncan Smith will want to cover up all his dirty little secrets and it is likely that his shredder will be working day and night if he thinks someone else might discover any inconvenient truths.

If there are any inconvenient truths, then as servants of the country – rather than servants of the Conservatives or the Secretary of State – it is your duty to collect this evidence, preserve it and bring it forward after he has been ousted.

Nobody can order you to do this. Undoubtedly you will be discouraged from doing it; there are likely to be rules that say you must not, invoking the same national interest that Yr Obdt Srvt is invoking here.

This is a matter for your conscience.

Do you think Iain Duncan Smith and his associates should be allowed to go unpunished for the harm they have caused?

Do what you think is right.

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Coalition government condemned over sanctions regime that tortures children

A poster against benefits sanctions in Salford.

Around 100,000 children were affected by benefit sanctions between the beginning of April 2013 and the end of March 2014, according to a new report.

In the same period, nearly seven million weeks’ worth of sanctions were handed out to benefit claimants.

The data, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, will feature in this evening’s episode of Channel 4’s Dispatches, entitled Britain’s Benefits Crackdown.

The report – Time to Rethink Benefit Sanctions – is published today by the Baptist Union of Great Britain, Church Action on Poverty, the Church in Wales, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church. It contains new data on the severity and length of sanctions under ‘welfare reform’, and on how sanctions affect vulnerable groups such as children and those with mental health problems.

It features the stories of people like James [not his real name] who have had their benefits sanctioned: “During the first three weeks of my sanction I continued to look for work as I was required to.

“By the fourth week, however, I was exhausted, unwell and no longer had it in me. I was not eating as I had no food and was losing a lot of weight. I told the Jobcentre I was unwell through not eating, but was sanctioned for another three months for not looking for work properly,” he added.

According to The Void, Job Centres are being awarded special 'sheriff stars' for meeting sanction targets (that's right - the sanction targets that the DWP keeps insisting don't exist, even after being presented with the proof). Link: http://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/2014/12/21/sandra-gives-the-game-away-jobcentres-given-sheriffs-stars-for-hitting-benefit-sanction-targets/

According to The Void, Job Centres are being awarded special ‘sheriff stars’ for meeting sanction targets (that’s right – the sanction targets that the DWP keeps insisting don’t exist, even after being presented with the proof). Link: http://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/2014/12/21/sandra-gives-the-game-away-jobcentres-given-sheriffs-stars-for-hitting-benefit-sanction-targets/

“Those who already have the most difficult lives are those most likely to be sanctioned,” said Paul Morrison, public issues policy adviser for the Methodist Church and one of the authors of the report. “Sanctions impact disproportionately on young people, care leavers, homeless people, single parents, the mentally ill and those with long term illness. This system causes problems for the very people that most need help.

“But sanctions don’t just have a financial impact. The people we’ve spoken to have told us of the shame, demoralisation and loss of self-worth caused by this system. As Christians we believe that everyone is loved, valued and made in the image of God, and we have a responsibility to challenge any structure or system that undermines that dignity.”

The Churches are calling for a full and independent review of the regime and for urgent reform of the hardship payments system to avoid the deliberate imposition of hunger.

This is worth highlighting – these churches consider the government to be deliberately forcing hunger on people. Doesn’t that run against Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as enshrined in the UK’s Human Rights Act? Human rights campaigning organisation Liberty says this is the case, with this web page quoting a case study that includes “food and drink deprivation”.

In the meantime, they are urging the Government to suspend all sanctions against families with children and those suffering from mental health problems. Most importantly, they say, there needs to be a change of culture, from one of enforcement and punishment to one of assistance and support.

“If you commit a crime, no criminal court in the UK is allowed to make you go hungry as a punishment,” added Niall Cooper, Director of Church Action on Poverty. “But if you’re late for an appointment at the Jobcentre, they can remove all your income and leave you unable to feed yourself or your family for weeks at a time.

Most people in this country would be shocked if they knew that far from providing a safety net, the benefit sanctions policy is currently making thousands of people destitute. This policy must be reviewed urgently.”

The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, said: “The findings of this report are disturbing. It exposes a system that is harsh in the extreme, penalising the most vulnerable of claimants by the withdrawal of benefits for weeks at a time. Most worryingly, it appears from DWP guidance, quoted in the report, that deprivation and hunger are knowingly being used as a punishment for quite trivial breaches of benefit conditions. Employers would not be allowed to stop someone’s wages for a month the first time they were 10 minutes late for an appointment, but this is the kind of sanction that is being imposed on some of the most vulnerable people in our society, including those with mental and physical health problems.

Here is the DWP’s own guidance to Job Centre officials on the subject. Judge for yourself:

150121dmg-sanctions

The Archbishop continued: “We are concerned that the problem may be even worse in Wales, recognising the higher levels of poverty in this country. No Welsh data, however, is included in the report because despite submitting a Freedom of Information request to the DWP three months ago, we are still waiting for a reply. There is supposed to be a 20-day turnaround period for Freedom of Information requests. We are pursuing this.”

It is clear that the DWP is in breach of the Human Rights Act and is subjecting benefit claimants to torture as punishment for late attendance at appointments.

This report by the churches is to be welcomed. Now, what can they do to punish the government for torturing its own citizens?

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Labour pledges to tackle child abuse

Fighting child abuse: Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper.

Fighting child abuse: Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper.

Labour has announced its new policies to deal with child abuse, including tougher powers for the police to stop abusers and a new child protection delivery unit to work across Government and drive progress in preventing abuse and exploitation.

According to Labour, these new measures are being announced alongside new data showing that police forces are struggling to keep up with the big increase in cases coming forward at the same time as they face major staffing cuts.

Although there has been a big increase in child protection conferences (organised when a child is considered to be at significant risk of harm), in many areas police are attending only a small proportion and the number of cases where the police do not attend is rising rapidly.

Some forces are warning that a quarter of their local resources are needed for child exploitation, even though their budget has been cut by 25 per cent.

Overall child abuse offences reported to the police have increased by 33 per cent, but the police are getting fewer prosecutions – child abuse prosecutions are down by 13 per cent.

There are long delays in dealing with online child abuse, with some forces reporting year-long delays in getting computer checks done, while less than 1,000 of the reported 20-30,000 NCA cases under Operation Notarise have been fully investigated, one year later.

Research from the NSPCC suggests more than half a million children are abused each year, but police forces are overwhelmed, according to Labour.

The Government is failing to get to grips with the growth in online child abuse.

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper says a revolution is needed in the approach to dealing with child abuse, with more support for children and adult survivors, stronger prevention measures including compulsory sex and relationship education to teach about respect and consent, stronger partnership working and requirements on professionals to report abuse, and stronger powers for the police to stop abusers.

She is also warning that 1,000 officers should not be cut from policing next year, as resources for child protection are badly needed.

Labour’s proposed tougher powers to stop abusers are as follows:

·         A Labour Government will bring in new stronger police to allow the police to prevent an adult from contacting or communicating with a child if there is evidence of abuse, sexual exploitation or grooming.
·         The new measure is part of a wider package of reforms to focus efforts on preventing abuse, putting in place stronger deterrents and making it easier to bring criminal sanctions against abusers.
·         Labour will strengthen the law so that Child Abduction Warning Notices or Sexual Risk Orders can be used in all cases when the police are concerned a child may be at risk of sexual exploitation – with tough criminal sanctions if a suspected abuser attempts to make contact with them again.
·         Currently Child Abduction Warning Notices have no criminal sanction for a breach – meaning abusers are getting away with it. Sexual Risk Orders require evidence of an “act of a sexual nature” having taken place – meaning the child has already been abused. Labour’s changes will make it easier for police to prevent contact between children and suspected abusers and to pursue criminal proceedings if this is ignored.
·         Professor Jay’s report into Rotherham CSE found that though abduction notices were used, there was no criminal justice sanction involved and no abusers brought to justice: “Operation Czar, begun in 2009, led to the issuing of abduction notices, but no convictions. Operation Chard in 2011 led to abduction notices and 11 arrests but no convictions.”
·         These new powers would also send a powerful message to the authorities that interventions are available and victims should not be criminalised. In one shocking case uncovered by Professor Jay in her report into Rotherham CSE, an 11 year old child was identified at risk of child sexual exploitation, but no action was taken. A month later, she was found in a derelict house with another child, and a number of men. She was arrested for being drunk and disorderly. None of the men were arrested.
·         Labour will be voting to establish this tougher new regime through Child Abduction Warning Notices and Orders today in an amendment to the Serious Crime Bill – led by Sarah Champion MP and the Labour frontbench.
·         But the Shadow Home Secretary will make clear today, if Conservative and Liberal Democrats oppose this move, a Labour Government will introduce it as early as possible after the election.

In addition, Labour is proposing a new Child Protection Unit in the heart of Government:

·         A Labour Government will set up a new Child protection unit to improve standards in all agencies involved in keeping children safe and bringing those who abuse children to justice. The new Unit will put prevention, earlier intervention, stronger deterrence, and a firm pursuit of offenders at the heart of child protection.
·         The Unit will be jointly run by the Home Office and Department for Education, but will work across Government to promote a more joined-up approach between Departments and to encourage more collaboration and information-sharing at a local level between police and other agencies.

Local collaboration will play an important part:

·         Police forces are struggling to keep up with the scale of the problem. Labour is publishing new FOI analysis, and separate reporting from HMIC, showing huge increases in demand for police attendance at child protection meetings. These are intended to bring together representatives from all local agencies involved in protecting a child, if it is felt there is significant risk of harm to that child.
·         This analysis shows more conferences are going ahead without police officers, with some forces attending fewer meetings year on year, and others forces not recording any information about their attendance.
·         This raises serious concerns about how effective child protection conferences are and the capacity within police forces to fully respond when risks to children are raised.
·         It comes on top of evidence from individual forces suggesting that in some areas 25 per cent of neighbourhood policing resources are now allocated towards the prevention of child sexual exploitation, that the cost of child protection investigations to forces has gone up substantially at a time when budgets have been heavily cut, and that there are long delays in pursuing online abuse cases.

Labour says it is important to recognise the scale of online child abuse:

·         Just as people turned a blind eye to child abuse in care homes, in the BBC and the NHS or child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, Rochdale and Oxfordshire, Labour says we are now turning a blind eye to online child abuse
·         Reports suggest the National Crime Agency has details of between 20,000 – 30,000 people who have accessed child abuse images, and has investigated fewer than 1,000.
·         There are long delays in passing on intelligence on online child abusers to local police forces. In the case of Myles Bradbury, a paediatrician from Cambridge, the delay of more than a year meant children were placed at unnecessary risk.
·         The government is still withholding important information on the scale of online abuse cases reported to the police and NCA, and the extent of delays in investigating them, both nationally and locally. Labour has called on the Home Secretary to publish details.

That is a lot to take on board in one sitting. At first sight it seems that a great deal of work has gone into these policies. But are they right?

Your opinions are invited.

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Who will ‘Help to Work’ really help?

140428IDSshrug

The government’s latest draconian measure – to drive people who have been living off the state for more than three years into all the nonexistent jobs that ministers insist are waiting for them – was launched today. (Monday)

Help to Work forces jobseekers to sign on every day, commit to six months of voluntary work, or sign up to a training scheme (the last two effectively removing them from the government’s unemployment figures without getting them a job) – or face having their Jobseeker’s Allowance docked for increasing lengths of time.

It’s clearly a scam to fiddle the joblessness statistics but, dear reader, you’re intelligent enough to have worked it out before you even started reading this.

Of course, voluntary work must be offered without coercion – otherwise it’s slavery – and for this reason leading charities have already announced that they will boycott the mandatory work placement part of the scheme.

Particularly disturbing – and we should be grateful that they highlighted this – is the fact that this aspect would lead to jobseekers doing more than double the 300-hours’-maximum community work than convicted criminals, who are ordered to carry out certain tasks as punishment for their offences.

The Guardian used the government’s own data to prove that Help to Work does not increase anybody’s chances of getting a job, and is more likely to put people off signing on for the benefits to which they are entitled – a ‘punishment’ effect that the government is desperate to play down.

Esther McVey, speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme in support of the scheme, said instead that it would be particularly useful for “people who have been away from the marketplace and the workplace for long periods of time”, and specifically mentioned those suffering from mental illness.

All right then, let’s ask this:

How well would this scheme fare in trying to find a job for a man aged 60 with no academic qualifications worth mentioning (left school at 14 and has lied about further education achievements), whose working life consists of a failed Army career that lasted less than six years, followed by irregular stints selling arms, working in a property company and selling gun-related magazines, in between periods on the dole. He has been funded by the taxpayer continuously since 1992 – a total of 22 years ‘parked’ at our expense. There are concerns about his state of mind, with fears that he suffers from paranoia and delusions.

Could Help to Work really find a job for a man like this?

Let’s hope so – because, if there’s any justice, Iain Duncan Smith will be looking for a job after next year’s general election.

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Zero hours, zero benefits, zero enthusiasm. Why would anyone take a job on these terms?

The rise of zero-hours contracts: These figures from the Office for National Statistics may be showing only one-fifth of the picture, according to new research.

The rise of zero-hours contracts: These figures from the Office for National Statistics may be showing only one-fifth of the picture, according to new research.

The rise of the zero-hours contract must be deeply disturbing to all those with an interest in fair employment practices.

The arrangement is that an employee agrees to be available for work whenever required, but with no set number of hours or times of work specified. The employee is expected to be on-call at all times but is paid only for the number of hours that are actually worked.

There appears to be no pension scheme, no sickness cover, no holiday entitlement – no rights other than those laid down by health and safety regulations (which the government is trying to ditch) and the National Minimum Wage Act (also under threat from the Conservative-led government).

Also, the system is open to abuse by managers, who can use it to reward some employees (and the term is used in its loosest possible sense) with extra hours or punish others with fewer.

And how, exactly, is an employee supposed to be engaged in, and enthusiastic about, a job where they are treated as a disposable commodity, to be picked up and thrown away whenever it is expedient?

It seems possible that there is an argument in favour of zero-hours contracts – but only for employees who want to top-up another income stream; people who want occasional earnings and are flexible about when they work. The problem here is that it seems likely employers will want these people to work at times when it will be hard to meet the commitment.

For anyone else – including people who are unemployed, penniless, and need the certainty of a properly-constituted employment contract with set hours, pay and conditions, there seems to be no point in taking up such a contract at all. Yet they are proliferating across the UK.

Is the Department of Work and Pensions, through the Job Centre Plus network, forcing these conditions on jobseekers?

Such a situation might be a huge boost to employment figures, but it would also explain why average pay has fallen so drastically in recent years and the economy has failed – so abjectly – to reignite.

Today (Monday) it is being reported that more than a million UK workers are on zero-hours contracts – four times official estimates.

The BBC is reporting that 14 per cent of these could not earn a basic standard of living. If Job Centres are forcing people into these jobs, via the sanctions regime, this is scandalous. Perhaps it is permitted by law, but this would only mean that the government should have a duty to ensure that jobs which are taken under the threat of sanction are capable of providing this basic standard.

Worse still for the government is the allegation, in research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, that public sector firms – those with government contracts – are more likely to use zero-hours contracts than private companies.

This is particularly prevalent in education and healthcare.

And how is the benefits system affected by these contracts?

CIPD chief executive Peter Cheese told the BBC: “Zero-hours contracts cannot be used simply to avoid an employer’s responsibilities to its employees.” But isn’t that exactly how they are being used? Don’t the number of people saying they can’t make ends meet, and the wider state of the economy, indicate exactly that?

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis seems to have got it right when he said: “The vast majority of workers are only on these contracts because they have no choice. They may give flexibility to a few, but the balance of power favours the employers and makes it hard for workers to complain.

“The growing number of zero-hours contracts also calls into question government unemployment figures.”

Business secretary Vince Cable has ordered a review of the zero-hours contracts system, to take place over the summer. He played down fears of abuse, saying evidence was “anecdotal” and adding that “it’s important our workforce remains flexible” (in employment terms, this means all the power is with the employer, while the actual worker has to adapt to the circumstances foisted upon them).

Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham called for zero-hours contracts to be banned, back in April this year.

It seems clear that they are unsafe and open to abuse. But would an all-out ban be appropriate?

Would it not be wiser for Job Centres to continue advertising them, but with no obligation to recommend them to jobseekers (and certainly no requirement to force anyone into applying for them), and with a requirement to warn anyone considering taking up such a position about the possibility that they will not be able to survive on the pay provided?

This might go some way to redressing the balance of power with employers; without the coercive power of the government supporting these contracts, they might try more traditional (and fairer) employment models.

This is a subject worth more examination. What are your thoughts?

Ed Miliband on the Workfare Bill – we’ve heard it all before

Miliband and Byrne: They did the wrong thing, but was it for the right reasons?

Miliband and Byrne: They did the wrong thing, but was it for the right reasons?

A whole week after the crucial confidence-breaking vote on the Bill that gives Iain Duncan Smith retroactive powers to steal benefits from jobseekers, an email appears “from the office of Ed Miliband”.

Here’s what it said:

“Thank you for contacting Mr Miliband about the Jobseekers Bill and my apologies for the delay in replying.

“We know how strongly many people feel about this and that you are disappointed that Labour decided to abstain.

“Please be assured that we looked very carefully at all the points raised but in the end the vote came down to the question of whether the DWP should have any legal power whatsoever to stop benefits for people who won’t try to find work at all.

“With record levels of young people out of work, we believe young people must be offered a real choice of a real job with real wages. That’s why Labour is moving amendments to the Bill to demand a tax on bankers’ bonuses to fund over 100,000 jobs for young people with pay at the national minimum wage and training.

“Our approach is completely different to the government.

“We would guarantee everyone unemployed for over two years a properly-paid job, but we want it to apply to young people after a year. In return, we think most people would agree that people would be obliged to take up those jobs or face losing benefits.

“These powers have always existed; for example, in Labour’s Future Jobs Fund, if a young person didn’t take the offer of a job, they would have faced having benefits halted. Labour’s New Deal operated on the same principle.

“We would not support a retrospective bill driven through Parliament at lightning speed – and Labour demanded two crucial concessions, which we forced the government to make.

“First, appeal rights must be guaranteed so that others can appeal against mistakes made by the DWP. We can’t have carte blanche retrospective legalisation of sanctions.

“Second, there must be an independent review of the sanctions regime, with an urgent report and recommendations to Parliament.

“While you may not agree with the decision to abstain, we hope you can recognise that the points you and others have raised were carefully considered and the safeguards Labour have secured.

“Thank you again for taking the time to contact Mr Miliband on this important issue.”

It’s not good enough, is it?

Miliband – and Liam Byrne, Stephen Timms, and all the rest of the current Labour team – need to realise that there is a fundamental difference between what they supported and what they say they want. They should have held out for the latter.

The Coalition government’s scheme puts people to work – for employers who are perfectly capable of paying not only minimum wage but the living wage, for an indefinite period of time, to a person who used to be defined as a paid employee – for, and this is the important part, no remuneration other than their Jobseekers’ Allowance.

Contrast that with what Labour offered in the past – “in Labour’s Future Jobs Fund, if a young person didn’t take the offer of a job, they would have faced having benefits halted. Labour’s New Deal operated on the same principle” – and what Labour says it would offer in the future – “we believe young people must be offered a real choice of a real job with real wages“.

Why put up with anything less?

The concessions are paper tigers – it is understood that appeal rights were enshrined in the original legislation and we have seen no evidence that they were ever going to be dropped, while the timetable of the proposed independent review is such that the current Secretary of State for Work and Pensions may never have to act on it.

In other words, Labour let the Coalition run roughshod over the rule of law – for nothing.

Is Labour planning to betray its core supporters by siding with Iain Duncan Smith?

Faces of betrayal: Are Ed Miliband and his work and pensions spokesman Liam Byrne about to engineer the biggest betrayal of working class people in Labour Party history? If so, how do they think they will ever be able to win an election?

Faces of betrayal: Are Ed Miliband and his work and pensions spokesman Liam Byrne about to engineer the biggest betrayal of working class people in Labour Party history? If so, how do they think they will ever be able to win an election?

Last night I read a news report that, if true, shocked me to my core.

Headlined DWP seeks law change to avoid benefit repayments after Poundland ruling, the Guardian article made the following statements:

“The Department for Work and Pensions has introduced emergency legislation to reverse the outcome of a court of appeal decision and “protect the national economy” from a £130m payout to jobseekers deemed to have been unlawfully punished.

“The retroactive legislation, published on Thursday evening and expected to be rushed through parliament on Tuesday, will effectively strike down a decision by three senior judges and deny benefit claimants an average payout of between £530 and £570 each.”

It said lawyers and campaigners have branded the DWP’s move as “repugnant” and “unbelievably disgusting”, saying it undermined the rule of law. That is my belief, also.

Then came the hammer blow:

“The Guardian understands that Labour will support the fast-tracked bill with some further safeguards and that negotiations with the coalition are ongoing.”

What?

Labour, supporting a Bill by the Tories, specifically designed to oppress people who are in work or trying to find work?

This would be a betrayal of Labour’s core support and is something that, in my belief, nobody who supports the rule of law in this country should tolerate.

Allow me to put this into perspective:

The Court of Appeal ruling means that the Department for Work and Pensions, under Iain Duncan Smith’s supervision, broke the law more than 228,000 times. That is the number of jobseekers from whom they have deprived benefit, according to the figures available. IDS is a criminal a quarter of a million times over.

Not only that, but the Workfare programme, by making people work for employers who are perfectly capable of hiring people at the minimum wage or for higher amounts, is taking real jobs out of the economy – something that the Labour Party must abhore (the clue is in the title – ‘Labour’ Party).

There can be no justification for it.

The electorate will never forgive the party if Labour turns on its core voters – the poor and vulnerable – and attacks them in this way.

It is an absolute and certain path to defeat at the next election.

The only reasonable way forward is to fight tooth and nail against this evil subversion of the legislative process.

Just scan the responses to this article on the Labour Party’s Facebook page and the Guardian article’s comment column and you will see that (to the best of my ability to judge) nobody who has professed support for Labour has expressed support for this.

Not one person.

The response has been universally negative. Nobody wants Labour to do this.

Now, it could be that this is all a mistake and the Guardian article (by Shiv Malik) contains information that is wrong.

But I, and others, have been trying to get a response from the Labour leadership for nearly 24 hours now, to no avail. It seems – whatever their convictions – these MPs don’t have the courage to stand by them.

The new Bill is being rushed through Parliament and there will be a vote on Tuesday, so you may well be asking what is to be done.

The immediate thing to do is, if you are a Labour supporter and have a Labour MP – CONTACT THEM. Telephone them, email them, get to them whichever way you can. Make it clear, politely but in no uncertain terms, that supporting Iain Duncan Smith’s evil Bill is a betrayal of the people who support the party and that you will not tolerate it.

PRESSURE. It’s the only way to ensure the will of the people is heard.

Meanwhile, some of us will explore other avenues.

We’ll get to the bottom of this.

What a shame this shot in the foot had to happen just when support for David Cameron and the Coalition has been crumbling. It really is an abomination. My opinion is that those responsible should be ejected from the Labour Party altogether.