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article imageOp-Ed: Boycotting workfare

By Alexander Baron     May 26, 2013 in Politics
Although the workhouse has been consigned to history, there are those who are intent on bringing it back. Fortunately, there is now fierce opposition to these insidious schemes.
One of the greatest myths of the modern age is that work is good, while idleness is not, yet it is not work but productive work that adds to the wealth of society. If that subtle distinction is lost on you, consider the following proposition. In the Twentieth Century, there were two great world wars, during which no one was unemployed. Able-bodied men were sent abroad to fight and die for their countries, while women and older men moved into plentiful factory and administrative jobs. Is it better to have a war with full employment or no war with a shortage of jobs?
One person who thought so was Eton alumnus Gilbert Frankau who came out with this gem in 1933: “A war would be a great idea” - yup, he actually said it - “Another war would give our three million unemployed ample employment.” He added “I would suggest conscription for this country. It would be immensely popular”.
He got his wish, of course.
If you can't remember World War II, much less World War I, you can remember the war on terror, because you're living through it. Does it make sense to destroy infrastructure, property and lives to make work for contractors, builders and doctors? If you answer yes to that question, the conversation is over. By the same token, does it make sense to force young people to do work that is of no value?
The Coalition Government here has hit on a new idea, that of forcing the young and unemployed into doing precisely that. Actually, the idea is not so new - remember the workhouse? And although the work is of no value to them, the companies enrolled in the scheme are laughing up their sleeves. There have been variations on this before, something called employment training, and all manner of other schemes.
Workfare, as this latest scheme is called - an idea imported from the USA - sees the young being forced, intimidated and cajoled into working for nothing with big companies. True, they are paid their benefits, but if there is a real job going, shouldn't they be paid the going rate? We have a word for compulsory work, we call it slavery.
In February this year, the Court of Appeal spiked this scheme. That hasn't prevented eight so-called pilot schemes being set up nationwide including one in London.
There is now an organised resistance to the misnamed work programme, and a website called Boycott Workfare. Among other things, the people behind it are naming and shaming companies that take part in the scheme.
Needless to say, the current shakedown has its supporters, but why should big companies employ any staff at all if they can sack them all and employ slaves in their place? If that isn't clear enough to you, wanna buy a gold brick?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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