So soon after the Tories announced plans to set up boot camps for young unemployed people, New Labour have shown their 'me too' attitude by planning to force long-term unemployed people onto workfare (BBC News: 'Work for dole' proposals leaked). This plan seems to have been inspired by an ill-founded allegation in February by David Freud - the government's welfare officer and also an investment banker (so much for Labour being the party of the working class :-P ) - that fewer than a third of incapacity benefits are legitimate claimants.
Such a move would be hideously reactionary at the best of times. But it beggars belief that the government has the cheek to announce it now, when unemployment is rising and more and more companies are announcing job losses due to the credit crunch and economic slowdown :-(
Workfare, in whatever guise, has not helped people into secure, well paid jobs. Indeed, the low wages associated with workfare schemes, from 'work for dole' to the YTS schemes of the 1980s, encourage companies to take on low-paid workfarers with next to no employment rights - rather than taking on more full paid staff with full employment rights. Funny way to improve the job market!
At the same time, there is a pernicious development which seems to be eroding the job prospects of substantial numbers of people. After sacking a 'too fat' firefighter (BBC News: Strike ballot over 'fat' fireman) rather than re-deploying him in another job within the Grampian fire service, their assistant fire chief officer said the service's policy required crew "to be able to perform all the potential requirements of a modern firefighter". Such an argument is used to oppose the military being covered by anti-discrimination legislation (see Red Disability's article on disability discrimination in the UK armed forces). As support staff in emergency services such as Police, Fire and Ambulance services are cut back due to cost-cutting, can we see more cases of the skills and abilities necessary for all remaining employees becoming more stringently enforced - with negative implications for substantial numbers of employees, eg employees with disabilities ?
If the government genuinely want to get more people into work, they should put a stop to cost-cutting which is forcing lay-offs of staff in the public sector. And take action to stop companies closing production facilities in the UK, in order to transfer the work abroad where wages are cheaper - for example, any factories, call centres etc which are closed should be nationalised, without compensation to their fat cat owners! But this government won't attack the fat cats who give New Labour lots of money, oh no, it's much easier for them to kick those of us who have already been cast aside by their friends in the capitalist Establishment :-(
So both the Tories and New Labour are united in attacking workers, including unemployed workers. That's because both are part of the capitalist Establishment, which is united in defending and enhancing the capitalist system by increasing the exploitation of workers, as far as they can.
Yet workers can also defend ourselves, if we unite. We have seen the power of united workers in the local government workers' strikes on Wednesday and Thursday (Socialist Worker: Strikers have power to win). Yet this is only the beginning. If enough workers across the economy take strike action, the strikes can go beyond economic demands and start raising political demands. Eventually this can lead to a revolutionary situation, as detailed in Rosa Luxemburg "The Mass Strike".
As Marx said in The Communist Manifesto: "Workers of the world unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains!"