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Archive for April, 2015

Poem – Dr SeUSSKip Says.. I Do Not Like Nigel Farage!

The Mark Hurst Blog

seuss

I do not like him on a train,
Or on a bus, or an aeroplane,
Or in a car, or on a barge
I do not like Nigel Farage.

I do not like his hair or eyes
I do not like his shape or size
I do not like his pints or fags
The points he makes, his finger wags
His supporters, or his entourage
And I do not like Nigel Farage.

I do not like him in debates, or in the pub
Or with his mates
For him, my glass, I’ll never charge
As I do not like him,
That Farage.

I do not like his ruse, his mission
To schmooze his way to a Coalition
I do not like his crude ambition
I do not like the guy’s skewed vision
I don’t like his yellow and purple rosettes
Or the bellowing manifestos he sets
Like the worst excesses…

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Categories: Uncategorized

Labour manifesto is the end of social housing and the incompetent ‘sector’ doesn’t even realise

Categories: Uncategorized

Is there such a thing as a ‘good employer’?

Asking for a friend.

The concept of surplus value is well known: a product costs the employer £5 to make and sells for £10 – the ‘profit’ is the surplus value gained from the workers, not any so called hard work on behalf of the employer. And so, in order to make more profits to avoid tax on, workers’ wages, terms and conditions are driven down as far as possible.

But what about when there is no product to sell, just services to provide? Surely those employed in public service aren’t subject to the profit motive? Tell that to the consultancies being paid millions as they advise health trusts, local authorities and virtually every public office how to slash, burn and drive to ‘improve efficiency’ and meet arbitrary targets – these experts who know nothing about how and even why such services are essential, but just the value of a well presented Powerpoint and accurate spreadsheets.

Everything must now be justified in financial terms – housing associations are talking of allocating properties based on financial status not need; libraries must generate revenue streams; targets must be met.

The surplus value here is not financial, but human. As the managerialism that started creeping into public services under Thatcher and was accelerated by Labour reaches peak private sector ethos, the people who provide the services are told they must be more efficient, more innovative. They must ‘work smarter’ and do ‘more with less’.

The surplus value comes in terms of employees’ mental and physical welfare and in the huge amount of unpaid extra hours they work. In my workplace alone months’ worth of free time is given by me and my colleagues every year because it has to be if we want to do our jobs properly and well. And we do. One of my former housing colleagues would build up many extra hours on flexitime that they felt they couldn’t take as leave and so would lose those hours at the end of the month. This one person was giving their public service employer an extra week a month only to, like the rest of us, be subject to management emails warning of disciplinary procedures and capability assessments if targets we hadn’t been consulted on and new procedures that in practice impeded efficiency weren’t adhered to. In fact we can financialise this: the employers were gaining an extra £8-10k a year of free work from one person alone. Surplus value, indeed.

The reliance in public services on the goodwill of workers is massive but increasingly taken for granted – if a financial figure could be placed on it it would run into the billions. As workers in factories and shops rightly feel they are being exploited, that sentiment is growing among public sector workers. Chief execs and council leaders will blame government for the situation we find ourselves but then use the same mealy mouthed rhetoric as ministers to justify their actions. It’s all about the difficult choices.

Fear is the key. Fear of losing your job and being subjected to the whims and vagaries of an increasingly authoritarian welfare system. Transparency and truth are trotted out as being essential; whistle blowing policies are put in place but the reality is that employment contracts are nooses around our necks and the gallows loom at any sign of dissent. This is not a call for better treatment of public sector workers but for all workers – the neoliberal lie of austerity affects everyone. We are all the precariat now.

Categories: austerity, public sector

What Matt (Viscount) Ridley said on welfare reform

*dusts off blog*

Ex head of Northern Rock and Tory peer Viscount Ridley (Matt to his mates) has spraffed on welfare reforms in The Times. As you need to pay to read his nonsense it has been liberated for you. Please see below then rise up and seize everything.

Welfare reforms are working for everyone

Matt Ridley

Job creation has surged in the past five years on the back of Iain Duncan Smith’s tough-love approach to benefits
Five years ago, almost nobody expected that inflation would vanish, as tomorrow’s figures are expected to show, or that unemployment would plummet, as Friday’s numbers will confirm. Whatever else you think about this government, there is no doubt it has presided over an astonishing boom in job creation like nowhere else in the developed world.
The milestones are impressive: an average of a thousand new jobs a day over five years; unemployment down by almost half a million in a year; a jobless rate half the eurozone’s; more jobs created than in the rest of Europe put together; more people in work, more women in work, more disabled people in work than ever; the highest percentage of the population in work since records began. All this while the public sector has been shedding 300 jobs a day.
In a speech in September 2010, Ed Balls accused George Osborne of “ripping away the foundations of growth and jobs” and said that “against all the evidence, both contemporary and historical, he argues the private sector will somehow rush to fill the void left by government and consumer spending, and become the driver of jobs and growth”. (Yup, Ed, it did.)
Is it too good to be true? I’ve talked to economists who think the statistics must be misleading. The Labour party says that the sanctioning of benefit seekers for the most trivial offences, such as turning up late for interviews, has driven hundreds of thousands out of the numbers, into dead-end apprenticeships, cruel zero-hours contracts or doomed self-employment.
In a sense, they are not wrong. The government’s reforms, pushed by Iain Duncan Smith, are indeed a crucial cause of the surprising surge in employment. The reforms have indeed used tough love to push people back into the workforce and off welfare. As long as they are no worse off, this is no bad thing. Given that welfare has treated people like children and conditioned them not to take responsibility for their lives, it is a good thing.
For example, early trials found that making unemployment claimants sign contracts in which they promise to look for work (which is now universal) frightened quite a few people off the system straight away — they had been working while claiming to be unemployed. Regular re-testing of those who claim sickness benefits has brought many fit people back into the labour force, while actually increasing benefits for some of those whose conditions have deteriorated. Paying work programme providers by results, so that if they get people back into employment they get a bonus, has worked.
And yes, the threat of sanctions if claimants do not treat unemployment benefit as a wage for the full-time job of looking for work has helped. The philosophy behind these reforms has not been about cuts, IDS insists, but about reconditioning people’s attitudes so they take responsibility for their choices. Little things can make a big difference: like not having rent paid for you, but having to budget for it from your housing benefit. Most benefits are paid fortnightly but most employers pay monthly, so going from welfare to a job often brings a budgeting crisis. Universal credit is paid monthly wherever possible.
To general surprise, the welfare reforms have proved to be among the most popular things this administration has done. Four in five trade union members think the £26,000 cap on benefits is a good idea, which is why the Conservatives are planning to push it down to £23,000 if re-elected. Polls suggest that a policy of limiting benefits to two children, so you could not get rehoused by having extra children, would be wildly popular, as would a manifesto promise to withhold benefits from immigrants till they have contributed taxes for four years.
Tory candidates out canvassing tell me they are finding that welfare reform, while horrifying the metropolitan elite, is most popular in the meanest streets — where people are well aware of neighbours who play the system. It is a staggering fact that when Labour was in power and while the economy was growing, the cost of welfare rose by 50 per cent in real terms, even as immigrants poured in to work here.
The latest figures also suggest that British people from inner-city estates are increasingly competing with immigrants for low-paid jobs. We now have the smallest number of households with nobody working and a record rise in the number of people who live in social housing who are working. That feeds through to healthier lives and less crime.
Universal credit, where it is being rolled out, has had an immediate impact in making people more likely to go to interviews and more likely to take jobs. Australian, New Zealand, Canadian, German and American teams are monitoring Britain’s welfare reforms with a view to emulating them.
Another international comparison is illuminating. Switzerland has 3 per cent unemployment, Spain 23 per cent. As James Bartholomew recounts in his book The Welfare of Nations, Swiss unemployment benefit is slightly more generous than Spain’s, at least initially, but to receive it you must prove every month you are actively looking for a job. Switzerland has one of the strongest such “search requirements”.
In Spain the requirement for the unemployed to seek work is much less onerous. It is up to a public agency to find jobs for you to consider and you don’t have to accept them if they are outside your line of work or based more than 19 miles away. It is possible to take long holidays abroad while receiving unemployment benefit. There are other differences. Switzerland has no minimum wage and makes it comparatively easy to fire people, both of which make employers keener to hire unskilled young people. In Spain, the cost of hiring somebody at a salary of 1,500 euros a month is about twice as much as the employee receives after tax and social security — three times as large a “wedge” as in Switzerland.
This government’s reforms have made us less like Spain and more like Switzerland. Nor are most of the jobs created in the past five years insecure, poorly paid and part-time. Since 2010, 60 per cent of the rise in employment has come from managerial and professional jobs. In any case, shoving people into some kind of work rather than parking them on welfare has to be better for their morale and their future.