For decades our public services have come under attack from the cuts and privatisations of successive governments. Since the bankers’ crisis began, this assault has become an all-out war on the welfare state, under the guise of ‘reducing debt’.
So far the cuts have fallen heaviest on those most in need. Sick & disabled people & lone parents of young children have been forced onto the dole queue. Older people are joining them as their pensions vanish out of sight. As austerity bites, unemployment has soared, but instead of taking action the government treats the jobless as an army of unpaid labour, imposing workfare schemes which are not only an attack on the unemployed, but on all workers; threatening jobs, rights, pay and conditions.
Cuts to in-work benefits such as Housing Benefit have now started hitting working individuals and families. The introduction of Universal Credit, the abolition of Working Tax Credits, and draconian overall benefit caps will plunge many more into poverty and homelessness, with massive social consequences.
To justify itself, the government has intensified its propaganda against ‘lazy’ claimants in an attempt to make us forget the real causes of the financial crisis. But the assault on welfare has nothing to do with benefit fraud (minimal compared to tax fraud). While those in work are pitched against those out of work, vast sums of public money are being redirected towards private companies to provide inferior services, and big businesses have been rewarded with tax cuts and with free labour on workfare: this government and their millionaire friends have never had it so good!
In the face of such a comprehensive assault by those in power, it is easy to despair. Yet campaigners against workfare, including Brighton Benefits Campaign, & nationally Boycott Workfare & Solidarity Federation, have recently proved that fighting back does achieve results. Pickets, phone blockades & other actions against the businesses who use free labour have had substantial effects, because, in this period of economic crisis, business profits are vulnerable to bad publicity and consumer boycott.
The time is ripe for resistance. There is increasing anger among the victims of this austerity. The blanket imposition of the ‘bedroom tax’ (which will see many in social housing faced with a choice of pay more or move out) has started uniting groups all over the country. There is a tide of protests against the new draconian conditions imposed on sickness and disability benefits. The campaign against workfare has now attracted the attention of national media. At the same time, public sector workers and service users have been protesting against cuts to services and jobs.
Campaigns have so far have tended to concentrate on single issues, separating protesters into lobby groups & losing the broad picture. We need to see each cut as a piece of a puzzle – taken together they make up a picture of a huge, consistent attack against us all, orchestrated by the wealthiest.
We are under attack but with solidarity we can win. We all have an interest in fighting cuts. The media encourage division & a culture of blame, targeting those most in need, while the millionaires in government & their wealthy friends get away with daylight robbery. This crisis was not caused by the poor, the sick, the unemployed, immigrants, public service workers, trade unions, single parents, students, pensioners or working people, but by the greed of those who control our economy & our society purely in their own interest. Why, then, are we paying for it?
Join us in fighting back!
WEEK OF ACTION AGAINST WORKFARE
Friday 22 March
Universal Jobmatch picket & leafleting
meet 11am Jobcentre, Edward Street Brighton
to be followed by
Anti-workfare picket of Scope
one of the ‘charities’ still exploiting forced labour
Saturday 23 March
Anti-workfare picket of Poundland
meet Clock Tower 12 noon
all events organised by Brighton Benefits Campaign