This a quote from the BBC website from Ken Livingstone’s Radio 4 Today Programme interview on 9th November, 2010.
"It doesn't do poor and unemployed people any favours to leave them out of work,"
"If you get people into the habit of getting out of bed, doing something, having a sense of worth and if that involves getting people who are currently unemployed helping out with the elderly or clearing up an area or things like that, I think it's worth doing."
Our members currently carry out jobs such as care assistants of disabled and elderly people; these are real jobs, not community work or charity. Council estate cleaners, road sweepers and refuse collectors will be found on the books of Unite as members; they all carry out the vital work that affords us a healthier way of life – basically, all jobs are necessary and should be valued thus.
The present climate is one of high unemployment with, if government policy goes ahead, the real threat of a double-dip recession occurring. Such a situation would plunge the country into far greater difficulties; unemployment would ratchet-up, most likely, to levels unseen since Thatcher’s massive industry culls of the 80s and early 90s.
Given this scenario it isn’t helpful when we hear progressive politicians such as Ken Livingstone attacking unemployed people as though they’re in some way feckless drones.
Did the scores of thousands of finance workers now out of work design their own downfall? Are the line workers in the car plants responsible for their redundancies? And, what about the hundreds of thousands of public sector workers losing and about to lose their jobs; are they to blame for a Tory political ideology that aims to sell of the welfare state.
If we take Ken’s suggestion to its logical (or should that be illogical) conclusion we would end up with the following scenario:
Up and down the country local authorities are, and will be, making massive cuts in their adult care programmes. As a result scores of thousands of disabled and elderly people will lose vital, in many cases life depending, care packages; throwing tens of thousands of care assistants out of work. Many of these will become the ‘feckless’ jobless.
But, there’s a solution this; why not compel them to carry out ‘community work’; you know, like looking after elderly people who because of an ideologically based policy, not one based on their care needs, can no longer dress or bathe themselves, or shop or cook, or even clean themselves after using the toilet.
Yes, they can become voluntary care assistants. Problem solved. Except, how will care assistants in employment be able to compete with these battalions of ‘free’ labour? The answer is, they won’t be able to compete; and, the result will be an acceleration in the race for the bottom with T&Cs being further eroded.
As our council estates (how much longer will they be around?) become dirtier; our streets and roads cluttered with rubbish; and, the rats multiply getting fatter and fatter on a fare of uncollected rubbish, what to do?
Again, there will be a plethora of semi-skilled labour to choose from as the unemployed ranks swell with jobless estate cleaners, road sweepers and refuse collectors. Why not redeploy them on unpaid community projects; far cheaper than paying wages.
If our progressive politicians are speaking in this kind of language it’s small wonder that the ConDem coalition is riding roughshod over our public services and its workers. Come on Ken, you’re better than that. Lumping the unemployed together as some lumpen mass of feckless scroungers is the language of the morally dispossessed, the Sun and Daily Heil; of the craven capitalist who’d have the jobless starving rather than surrender a penny-piece of their taxes (actually, our taxes, as the capitalist class tend not to involve themselves in such tawdry duties as paying their share) in welfare benefits.
We must fight to save the jobs of care assistants, estate cleaners, road sweepers, refuse collectors; these are vital services carried out in order that we may live in a better society. Not devise ways of forcing unemployed people to work for their benefits; thus helping to drive down the wages and working conditions of those in employment.