Euroresiuk

Welfare and Work

I
have been reading an article by Iain Duncan-Smith which was printed in the
Guardian on Monday. He is the Secretary of
State for Work and Pensions
in the
U.K. government and has designed the new legislation intended to deal with
the so called ‘welfare-culture’. In the article he uses words that emphasise
his interest in dividing the good guys (‘hard-working families’) from the bad guy’s
(‘shirkers’). His language is aggressive; he in fact uses that same word with
pride (several times he tells the reader how proud he is), picturing himself as
a man with a mission. Marginalising vulnerable people, and turning them into
villains, is a poor way of dealing with a genuine issue.
His
assumption is that most people who receive benefits are not justified in doing
so.

Welfare has become for him and his government a dirty word rather than an
expression of social care, which is the mark of a civilised society. He assumes
that people on welfare prefer to be unemployed or badly paid, by choice. When I
last looked, following his article there were over 900 critical comments on the
Guardian’s website and in today’s edition there are seven letters which refer
to his ‘bellicose’ language and his social ignorance. In his article
Duncan-Smith says ‘nobody should be able to earn more in benefits than the
average family earns going out to work’ Agreed, writes one correspondent, but a
less divisive answer would be to increase the amount that work pays.

In
that connection I have learned from today’s Guardian, that there is something
called a ‘zero-hours’ contract which allows employers to escape, apart from the
minimum wage, all the normal conditions of employment such as holiday or sick
pay.

At the best workers can expect a monthly rota outlining their potential
earnings four weeks in advance, but can end up with zero pay at the end of the
week. They are regularly banned from taking other jobs and have no long term
guarantee of employment. The employee is expected to be on-call
and receive compensation only for hours worked.

Apparently
the care industry has shifted almost all staff to zero-hours contracts. It is
estimated that there are 300,000 care workers employed on this scheme.

Retailers
also use them; out of a staff of 23,000, Sports Direct employ 20,000 on
zero-hours contracts. According to the Office for National Statistics nearly
one in four large companies used zero-hours contracts in 2011, which is double
the number in 2004. The notorious G4S Company is amongst them. So are the
catering facilities at the Tate Art Museums. Shop staff at Buckingham Palace is
on the same scheme.

It
seems more of a scam than a scheme to me. I wonder how it fits into
Duncan-Smith’s philosophy of social justice. I presume it doesn’t.