Sinking, not swimming: Under the Conservatives, more and more people are failing to pay their way.
Terrifying new information from the Trade Union Congress has shown that millions of working people are struggling to survive due to poverty.
The TUC poll suggests 20 per cent of working people – one-fifth of the more-than-30-million-strong working population – skip meals because they can’t afford the food.
One in five workers go without heating during cold weather.
One in 10 fall into rent or mortgage arrears because they can’t pay on time.
And one in five have pawned or sold belongings because they needed the money.
Asked how they would deal with an unexpected £500 bill, 30 per cent said they would be unable to pay – up from 24 per cent in 2017. Of those who said they would pay, 24 per cent said they would have to go into debt or sell something.
A quarter said they were out of cash before the end of most months, and 16 per cent said they had to cut back their spending – or stop it altogether – many times a year.
And 41 per cent said one of their biggest concerns at work was the fact that their pay was not keeping up with the cost of living.
This is damning information that knocks the stuffing out of claims that wage rises are increasing faster than the rate of inflation. Is that still true after the top 10 per cent – or even one per cent – of earners are removed from the figures? For some reason, I couldn’t find that information when I looked for it.
I remember having arguments, years ago, with people who claimed heatedly that business bosses in the UK had to keep wages depressed because otherwise they would be forced to stop trading. I wonder how many of them live in luxury mansions while their employees struggle in bed-sits, converted shipping containers or office blocks, or are forced to sleep on the streets?
None of this will change for the better under a Conservative government – especially not under one run by Boris Johnson.
I wonder how many people realise this as they plough through their daily drudgery, their only source of information coming from BBC-approved propaganda that tells them Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour is unelectable?
Do any of them even realise they are being played for fools?
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It was the most overtly political speech from an Archbishop of Canterbury for many years (although incumbent Justin Welby, and others, have often commented on individual issues before). Here’s part of it:
The Archbishop’s attack on Universal Credit and zero-hours contracts was welcomed by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, who was mentioned in Justin Welby’s speech.
Mr McDonnell said: “The Archbishop of Canterbury has set out a bold vision for a different society, one without the evils of the gig economy, the exploitation of workers and tax dodging of the multinationals.
“I welcome his speech, and the growing movement against the failures of austerity and neoliberalism. Labour will end zero hours contracts, clamp down on the tax avoiders, and ensure everyone has access to sick pay, parental leave and protections at work.”
But – oh dear – just look at the hypocrisy from the Conservative Party.
Days after Tories supported former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in his highly-political attack on the Labour Party over the anti-Semitism row that has been fabricated against it, they were lining up to condemn the Archbishop for what they said was interference in politics.
Tory MP Ben Bradley tweeted: ‘Not clear to me when or how it can possibly be appropriate for the Archbishop of Canterbury to be appearing at TUC conference or parroting Labour policy.’
He added: ‘There are a diversity of views as to what is best for the economy, but [he] only seems interested in presenting John McDonnell’s point of view.’
Mr Bradley is, of course, famous for tweeting a lie about Jeremy Corbyn that resulted in the most-publicised apology ever to appear on Twitter.
Of course there was no way the hypocrisy would go unnoticed. This is just one example of the responses:
Rabbi Sacks: "Jeremy Corbyn is an antisemite." Tories: "Listen to the holy gentleman." Archbishop of Canterbury: "Tories have increased poverty." Tories: 'Must keep religion out of politics."
Trade unionists and workers from across the UK have converged on London in their thousands to demand a “new deal” for working people.
The TUC (Trade Union Congress) says real wages are still lower than before the crash in 2008; three million workers are stuck on zero hour contracts, in agency work and in low paid self-employment; hard-working public servants haven’t had a proper pay rise for eight years; our NHS is at breaking point; and years of cuts have led to poverty, homelessness and despair for too many.
This Writer agrees with every word.
And so, it seems, do the masses.
News coverage hasn’t been that wonderful, though. As I write this, the BBC News channel is broadcasting something called Royal Wedding Singalong so you can see what the priorities are there!
But there has been some coverage. Here’s Sky News:
Workers are still £14 a week worse off than a decade ago – while rich men sit on piles of cash. March with us tomorrow to demand a new deal for the working people of Britain. #TUCNewDeaLpic.twitter.com/LqgRMAWnES
The Conservative government is apparently trying to tell us we’ve never had it so good. Wages are up by £2,000 (a year?), according to people like Iain Duncan Smith. Unfortunately, experts are telling us real-terms wages won’t reach parity with 2008 levels until 2025.
The Tories are also telling us employment is at its highest in 40 years – a meaningless statistic if the amount those people are paid is negligible – and it is.
Paul Johnson of the Institute for Fiscal Studies appeared on BBC News to say that wages are stagnant because productivity is stagnant – we aren’t producing enough to be paid more. Until this changes, the situation is unlikely to improve.
That’s as may be, but executive pay has skyrocketed under corrupt Conservative rule while workers’ pay has stagnated.
Perhaps people might feel less inclined to take part in huge marches against austerity if of these greedy fatcats stopped taking all the cash.
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Jeremy Corbyn called on trade unions to support the most vulnerable working people when he spoke at their annual congress.
Isn’t it interesting, how Tory promises – such as their claim to be ending the one-per-cent pay cap on public sector workers’ wages – seem worthwhile when first announced and then turn into the verbal equivalent of a steaming pile of horse manure when you get into the detail?
That’s certainly the case here, and prison officers are right to reject the derisory, below-inflation pay offer being flung at them by the minority Conservative government.
It is still – effectively – a pay cut! Why would anybody in their right mind accept that, when the Tories and their donors are funnelling enormous above-inflation pay rises into their offshore bank accounts, or wherever they stash the cash?
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn condemned what he called the “epidemic” of low pay in his speech to the TUC Congress.
He said: “This epidemic of low pay, which is closely tied up with insecurity at work, ruins people’s lives, leaving workers and their families locked in poverty. It damages the economy as people have less to spend. It costs us all because it means more paid in tax credits and housing benefit from the public purse and it means less tax being paid to fund public services.”
He praised unions that have tackled low-paying employers, such as Unite with SportsDirect and the Bakers’ Union with McDonald’s, whose boss is paid 1,300 times more than the lowest-paid of his staff.
Mr Corbyn said: “Theresa May could not bring herself to utter one word of condemnation of McDonald’s or SportsDirect. This from the Prime Minister who tried to rebrand the Conservatives as the ‘workers’ party’. No, I didn’t buy it either.”
And neither should the rest of us.
The Tories have a chance to make their promise matter today (September 13), when the Commons will vote on a Labour demand for the one-per-cent pay cap to be lifted and for public sector workers to be properly recompensed for the work they do.
If the organisation that wants to call itself the “Party of the Workers” can’t bring itself to support the motion – or fails to act on it if it is passed – then the UK will come one step closer to the general strike This Writer suggested earlier this week.
It won’t actually be a general strike in the sense of being called by a single person or organisation and all unionised workers striking; Mark Serwotka, leader of the PCS union, explained on the BBC’s Daily Politics yesterday that unions could simply co-ordinate individual strikes to happen on the same dates, to much the same effect.
Of course, some may question the amount of good that may be done by a strike, and it’s a fair point. But then, how much good will be done by Parliament voting us into an effective dictatorship by a minority government, as has already happened this week?
Jeremy Corbyn has backed the prison officers’ union’s decision to reject the government’s ‘pathetic’ pay rise offer.
Number 10 today announced they were to break the 1% pay cap on public sector increases, offering prison officers a 1.7% increase. Police officers will be offered a 1% increase with a further 1% bonus for the year.
The Prison Officers Association (POA) today said any below-inflation pay offer would be rejected because their officers play a “vital role in keeping society safe”.
And TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said “this below-inflation pay offer is pathetic”.
George Osborne is a liar, from a party of liars – one only has to consider the UK’s secret bombing of Syria – after Parliament voted against it – to see the truth in that.
What an amazing piece in The Guardianabout George Osborne’s call for “progressive” Labour MPs to support his entirely regressive changes to social security (the only people who call it “welfare” are Tories)!
Will people believe this pack of lies?
The article starts by saying he has urged “progressive” MPs in the Labour party to back his cuts in a major Commons vote today (Monday) on the Tories’ Welfare Reform and Work Bill.
He wants Labour MPs – but more importantly, the electorate, to think that the plan to cut child tax credits (among other measures) is what the public wants, and also builds on “mainstream Labour thinking”.
This is moonshine.
Labour believes that the profits of all our work should be shared out to ensure a decent standard of living for everybody, including those who cannot work but contribute to society in other ways. For example, if you have children, then you get child tax credits because their contribution to society has yet to be made.
Removing the tax credits and lowering the standard of living – as the Conservative chancellor’s plans would do to many people – is therefore the opposite of “mainstream Labour thinking”.
Osborne also calls on Labour to “stop blaming the public for its defeat”. This is typical Tory gaslighting. As a party, Labour has not blamed the public. The prevailing mood in the party is that Labour needs to draw the correct conclusions from the election result and create policies that acknowledge what the public wants, while fitting Labour values.
That’s real Labour values – not George Osborne’s fantasy.
You can tell that Labour isn’t doing as Osborne claims. Nowhere in the Guardian article is any factual evidence provided to show Labour has blamed the electorate for its defeat. Harriet Harman is paraphrased as having said the party needed to recognise that the electorate had sent Labour a message – which is quite the opposite.
Osborne also fails to support his claim that the majority of the electorate support his cuts. The majority of the electorate voted against the Conservative Party on May 7, with the Tories managing to gain only a 24.3 per cent share of the possible vote and a tiny 12-seat advantage in Parliament. That does not indicate majority support for the cuts programme.
The article states: “Osborne sprung a surprise in the budget by proposing cuts to the level of tax credits, but balanced these in part by a rise in the minimum wage to more than £9 an hour by 2020 for those over 25.” Notice that the tax credit cut is immediate, but the minimum wage will only rise to more than £9 per hour in five years’ time. How are people supposed to survive in the years between?
Also, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the cut in tax credits, along with the other cuts that ‘Slasher’ Osborne wants to make, will remove £12 billion from the economy – but the minimum wage rise – when it finally happens – will only add £4 billion.
So the Conservatives want Labour to support an £8 billion cut in living standards for the people who can least accommodate it.
Osborne’s argument that the responsibility for ensuring decent living standards should be rebalanced, from the state handing out subsidies towards employers providing decent wages, falls because he has no intention of making employers pay decent wages.
Osborne also writes: “Three in four people – and a majority of Labour voters – think that Britain spends too much on welfare.”
Are these the same people who think 41 per cent of the entire social security budget goes on unemployment benefits, when the actual proportion is just three per cent?
Are these the same people who think 27 per cent of the entire social security budget is claimed fraudulently, when the actual proportion is just 0.7 per cent?
Are these the people who believe George Osborne’s lies, and the lies of the Conservative Government?
In case anybody is wondering, the figures quoted above are from a TUC poll that was carried out a couple of years ago. It seems that, with the help of compliant media (such as The Guardian?) the Conservatives have succeeded in continuing to mislead the general public.
Osborne continued: “For our social contract to work, we need to retain the consent of the taxpayer, not just the welfare recipient.”
The lies keep coming: “For those that can work, I believe it is better to earn a higher income from your work than receive a higher income from welfare.” If this was true, then he would have forced the minimum wage up to a point at which people would no longer need to claim tax credits in order to receive the same amount. He didn’t; he lied.
Osborne goes on to praise interim Labour leader Harriet Harman for capitulating to the Conservatives over child tax credits. There is only one reason he would do this – to undermine support for the Labour Party by suggesting that it really is ‘Tory-Lite’. Shame on Ms Harman for allowing this to happen!
His claim, “She recognised that oppositions only advance when they … recognise that some of the arguments made by political opponents should be listened to,” would be reasonable if the argument for cutting tax credits was sound, but it isn’t – people will be worse-off in this instance. If people were to become better-off afterwards, he might have a point. As it is, it is drivel.
His very next point confirms this: “A previous Conservative opposition realised [this] 15 years ago when it accepted the case for a minimum wage.” The Conservative Party only accepted this case in 2008, under David Cameron – a Tory leader who, when campaigning unsuccessfully for the Stafford constituency seat in 1996, had said it would “send unemployment straight back up” (The Chronicle (Stafford), February 21 1996). Even now, many Tory supporters despise the minimum wage.
Osborne ended with an appeal for “moderate” Labour MPs to vote with his party.
That would be the end of any credibility Labour has remaining, as a party of Opposition.
According to The Guardian, Osborne said: “The proposals are part of a common endeavour by Labour and the Conservatives to implement difficult welfare reforms.” Again, he is trying to make the public think Labour and the Tories are the same. Labour MPs would have to be complete idiots to help him.
Some of the complete idiots in Labour who have already helped him are, according to Osborne, “New Labour work and pensions secretaries such as John Hutton, David Blunkett and James Purnell [who] all tried to reform the welfare system… Alistair Darling [who] says tax credits are ‘subsidising lower wages in a way that was never intended’ [and] Frank Field… [who] agrees the system as it stands is simply ‘not sustainable’ and the budget represents a ‘game-changer’.”
Wouldn’t social security be a little more sustainable if George Osborne spent less time obsessing about wringing more money from those who can least afford to lose it, and more time getting his extremely rich corporate friend to pay up more of the £120 billion a year they are believed to owe in unpaid taxes?
Why isn’t Labour making this point, whenever Tories like Osborne start bleating that anything is “unsustainable”?
‘Bin diving’: This is a stock shot of a man in Chelyabinsk, Russia, looking for food in rubbish bins – but it is happening here in the UK as well, and your Coalition Government will try every trick in the book to deny responsibility for it.
Two stories on Welfare Weeklyyesterday (December 9) really stood out – they express the Coalition Government’s attitude to state-funded benefits and the people receiving them so well.
It told the story of Mike from New Cross, who called LBC radio to describe how he has had to live off a tin of spaghetti a day and is forced to root through supermarket bins to survive.
“What you get covers just what you need, and you have to go to food banks,” he said.
“For these people to sit there to say oh go and get a job – I’m out there every day, looking and searching, and you know you’re trying to do it on your own, but you can’t, and it gets harder and harder.
“You’re just trying to get by. Some days I can’t eat. I don’t eat.”
New claimants will not be eligible for any financial support during the first week of their claim, and will then have to wait a further month before any benefits are paid.
The warning came in response to a cross-party inquiry into hunger and child poverty, which found that delays in benefit payments is one of primary reasons for soaring numbers of food bank users.
Clearly the Coalition Government is not bothered about the plight of people like Mike – its Universal Credit policy makes it perfectly clear that the plan is to increase the agony – for anyone who has the temerity to claim the social security for which they have been paying taxes, ever since they were old enough to be trusted with money.
And there’s another factor at play here: Blame.
Look at what Mike said: “For these people to sit there to say oh go and get a job…” Suppose he starves to death, as Mark Wood already has. What will the Coalition Government and its media puppets say? “He was another lazy man who couldn’t get up off his backside and get a job“?
Suppose more people do end up going to food banks as a result of a switchover to Universal Credit (you never know, that change might just happen) – will right-wing critics attack them in the same way a commenter on Mainly Macroattacked them? Will they be told they don’t really need the free food parcels on offer there? Will they be told they’re only going because it is free, and there is limitless demand for anything that is free? Will they be told they are just pretending to be hungry?
And what, exactly, is the ultimate purpose behind these claims?
Is it not to insure the Coalition Government against the backlash when somebody dies?
They may starve; they may commit suicide through despair. Both have already happened – here in the UK – many times since the Coalition slithered into office. Ministers don’t want you to know that they were responsible; that their policies led people to this point; that this is what they were intended to do.
Speaking ill of the dead is a better outcome for ministers than admitting they failed to provide the protection for which the people of this country pay their taxes.
If you’re one of those who thinks firefighters are not justified in their battle with the government over pensions, just copy the image above and look at it until you realise that they are.
Strikes are being held in protest at changes to pensions and the retirement age, which the Fire Brigades Union has claimed could lead to firefighters losing their jobs if they fail fitness tests in their late 50s.
Matt Wrack, general secretary of the FBU, asked in The Guardian: “How can it be remotely fair that the prime minister, already a millionaire, enjoys a far greater subsidy from his employer in absolute and proportional terms than a firefighter who is earning less than £30,000 a year? It is sickening hypocrisy.”
And TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “Once again the government is showing its contempt for public-service workers. Evidence warns that raising the normal retirement age for firefighters would lead to older fighters facing no job and no pension after years of good service.”
Still think the firefighters are wrong? Then look at the people arguing against them and ask yourself whether they belong to one of the groups that have, in recent times, committed expenses fraud, taken huge unjustified bonuses (consequently jeopardising the economy), or avoided paying huge amounts of tax – either personally or as representatives of one or several corporations.
You should be burning with rage at what our spiteful Tory-led government is planning to do to older firefighters – those who have spent most of their lives saving others.
If you are, it’s one blaze that our firefighters won’t be in a hurry to extinguish.
Additional: After this article was published, the following picture appeared on Twitter:
What do you think of people being sacked because they went on strike?
Esther McVey: Her constituents want her sacked from the government.
Wirral TUC is launching a major campaign against Government minister and Merseyside Tory MP Esther McVey, writes Liam Murphy in theLiverpool Echo.
The “Sack Esther McVey” campaign is targeting the Wirral West MP over her role in the Government’s policy on benefit sanctions.
Wirral TUC say 15,000 leaflets have been distributed across the Wirral West constituencies along with posters which have been placed in shops, houses and pubs. Now car stickers have been produced and a special Sack Esther McVey T-shirt is helping to publicise the campaign.
Alec McFadden, secretary of Wirral TUC, said: “The quality of life of working people, unemployed people and those with disabilities has greatly reduced since this Tory Liberal Coalition took power in 2010, but benefit sanctions have driven so many people in economic poverty and starvation with many now using food banks as a normal way of living.
“In the most extreme cases, people on sanctions have become desperate and this has led to some taking their own lives out of total desperation.”
A public meeting took place last week, with speakers John McDonnell MP, Wirral TUC President Ross Quinn, Wirral TUC Green Officer Clara Paillard and Liverpool Cllr Anna Rothery. McVey, nicknamed ‘McVile’ because of her attitude to benefit claimants (see Vox Political articles passim), declined to comment. Read the rest of the Liverpool Echo article here.
The pretext: These are the figures showing the estimated amount of long-term illness in the UK per year. Remember that these figures have halved in the last decade.
The Department for Work and Pensions is setting up a new “service” offering “advice” to people who are off work with an illness for more than four weeks.
No reference is made to improving people’s health.
It should also be noted that sickness absence in the UK is among the lowest in Europe, and has halved over the past decade.
The announcement was made on the BBC News website shortly after midnight. Nothing has appeared on the Government’s own website so it seems the Corporation has gone back to being Westminster’s poodle again – breaking news for the government in order to give spin doctors time to assess the reaction and then write a press release that is more acceptable to the public.
The Health and Work Service will be a privately-run operation covering England, Wales and Scotland, offering “non-compulsory” medical assessments and “treatment plans”. This is reminiscent of the way Universal Jobmatch was introduced to jobseekers as a “non-compulsory” service – which many thousands of people have been bullied and harassed into joining.
The scheme will allow employers or GPs to refer employees for a “work-focused occupational health assessment”, according to the BBC report. So this means the employee has no say in whether to go on the scheme – it is down to bosses and doctors. You are invited to consider whether this represents another great step forward in the Conservative Party’s claims to be crusading for patient choice.
The story says workers will be allowed to refuse assessment or to follow any course of action that is recommended but, again, we have the example of Universal Jobmatch.
The “assessment” is meant to identify the issues preventing an employee from returning to work and draw up a plan for them, their GP and their employer, showing how that person can be “helped” back more quickly.
One is forced to question the efficacy of such a system, if faced with illnesses or diseases that must receive medical treatment.
You don’t talk someone better – the huge number of people who have died while going through the DWP’s Employment and Support Allowance sickness denial machine has proved that.
The government has made its aim in setting up the new scheme perfectly clear, saying employers will “save money” by having fewer staff off sick – possibly saving companies up to £70 million a year in reduced sickness pay and related costs.
The DWP says people will return to work earlier. This seems like a pie-in-the-sky aspiration, as illness does not go away in accordance with a timetable. This means the Department’s other claims – that there will be a reduction in lost working days and increased economic output – are also pipe dreams.
It is far more likely that sick people will be forced back to work before they are better – leading to an increased chance that illnesses will spread among workforces, there will be more lost working days and lowered economic output.
The Trades Union Congress, while supporting schemes that could help people back into work, agreed (with me) that this one creates a danger that people will be forced back to work before they are well.
Finally, any company involved in the scheme should be aware that it is unlikely to make a profit from it. Look at the effect on other firms of involvement with DWP schemes: Welfare-to-work provider A4e has reported a pre-tax loss of £11.5 million in the year to March 31, 2013 – up from a £2.1 million loss the year before. Turnover dropped from £194 million to £167 million.
So now we can say very clearly to all private companies:
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