Posts Tagged ‘work’

Don’t fear technology, it could yet set us free – if we get the politics right

18/10/2017, 10:05:50 PM

by Paul Connell

I joined Labour shortly after Thatcher’s election in ‘79 so my political education was in a period dominated by slogans and chants.

‘Maggie, Maggie, Maggie, out, out, out!’ That one worked; took 10 years, mind you.

‘The workers united will never be defeated.’ Well , that was also true; we weren’t united and we were defeated.

One I never quite got was ‘fight for the right to work.’ Work seemed an obligation, a duty, something that ate into all the other things you wanted to be doing but necessary simply to pay for all those other things. But a right? Nah.

Some people love working; they can’t wait to get in there. Good for them, but they are, I would suggest, a statistical abnormality. The best most of us can hope for is to enjoy most  of our job, to find it stimulating and challenging, to have decent colleagues and to be paid enough for a reasonable lifestyle with, perhaps, a liveable pension at the end.  At worst a job is drudgery that robs us of the time and energy that we could be using far better elsewhere. Work is, for most, a means to an end.

As driverless vehicles,  artificial intelligence and advanced robotics begin to move into areas of work long considered ‘safe’ from technology,  we are all going to have to consider our relationship to work and, together with the idea of a Universal Basic Income (UBI), replan our work ethic and how the competing rights and duties  of the labour market are managed. Traditional working class jobs in industry and manufacturing have already been exported or mechanised out of existence in the past few generations. As traditionally white-collar, middle-class jobs begin to disappear down the same gaping maw, the casualties can expect the same level of sympathy, protection from market-economics and solidarity that working class communities were accorded in the 80’s and 90’s, bugger all.

Sympathy, and particularly protectionism, is not what’s needed. Solidarity? maybe. We should, together, be grasping this opportunity. Drudgery can, at least partly, be banished. If a machine can do most of the 3 ‘D’s – that which is dull, dirty or dangerous, then let it. What will be left is what is necessary for people to do and what they enjoy doing. A new work ethic is about sharing out and rewarding essential services and purposeful leisure.


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Dan Jarvis is right. We must show the Tories are the gamblers

10/03/2016, 10:37:13 PM

by David Ward

Maybe I left my Yorkshire tea bag in too long, but on Thursday morning I had a vision. There I was at the kitchen table with the radio on, listening to Labour MPs cheering the defeat of the government on Sunday trading. Fair enough you might think, we’re winning less than Manchester United at the moment.

But then I was transported to 2020. I could hear the next Tory Prime Minister. “At this election we’ve got a choice. Do you want a stable economy, a strong future? Or do you want the danger of the unholy alliance of Jeremy Corbyn and Alex Salmond voting down the will of the country as they’ve done 20 times this parliament. It’s a risk I don’t think we can take.”

Of course it’s right that Labour opposes legislation like this that harms working people. Angela Eagle has done a fantastic job to win the vote. But you don’t have to be a genius to work out the Conservatives will fight the election on security.

If Labour are going to win we need to do two things. First, deal with our weaknesses. That means stop banging on about Trident, or admitting people with dubious backgrounds. These only give credence to Tory charges against us. As we found in 2015, if people see us or our leader as weak then tactics like the ‘tartan scare’ will work.

Second, we need to reframe the debate so the Conservatives don’t equal stability. That was the case that Dan Jarvis made on Thursday. “When you hear George Osborne say ‘long term economic plan’, what he really means is ‘short term political gain’.”


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Uncut poll reveals public blame last Labour government, not Tories, for today’s benefits bill

12/09/2013, 09:55:29 PM

by Kevin Meagher

In raw political terms, the fact that voters hold Labour accountable by a margin of ten to one for the size of the benefits bill is about as about politically toxic as it gets.

The poll finding, in our forthcoming pamphlet “Labour’s manifesto uncut: How to win in 2015 and why”, shows the scale of Labour’s real challenge, underneath its broad opinion poll lead.

Over half of those who think welfare spending is too high (54 per cent) blame Labour, with only five per cent pointing the finger at the coalition.

Meanwhile 45 per cent trust Cameron to control welfare spending and prevent it rising out of control, compared to 14 per cent who back Ed Miliband.

This gap goes to the heart of Labour’s credibility as a party of government, so narrowing it must be a strategic priority.


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The work programme: improving, but for who?

27/06/2013, 04:28:28 PM

by Bill Davies

The latest figures from the work programme show it is doing, on aggregate, better than it was. Now the programme has been running for 22 months, we are in a better position to consider whether it is achieving its main objective, to reduce unemployment and increase employment amongst all eligible claimant groups.

It is doing better than last time, particularly when you look at newer cohorts to the programme, but little better than the programme it replaced. At this stage of the flexible new deal, 13 week job outcomes as a percentage of eligible starts were 18%, and 26 week outcomes were 12%. The coalition’s work programme, introduced to dismantle the ‘fundamentally flawed’ Flexible New Deal, is at this stage achieving outcomes of 13%. Better than last time, but not brilliant. The statistical release of the department for work & pensions shows that 22 out of the 40 contracts have not met their targets for moving the largest group of job seekers allowance claimants (over 25 year olds) off benefits and into work. The target for this group was 27.5% of starters to move into work, but at this stage, the target has been narrowly missed, at 27.3%.

The most staggering figure is that employment & support allowance, the group for people moving from incapacity benefits gradually back into the labour market had a target of 16.5% of starts to job outcomes, but the actual outcome rate was 5.3%, only a third of the target.

Is the work programme assisting those regions that have the most difficult labour markets? On the basis of current performance, it is still largely reflecting them.


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Lessons for Labour from Little Rock, Arkansas

25/01/2012, 08:33:24 AM

by Jonathan Todd

The main gallery of Bill Clinton’s presidential library in Little Rock, Arkansas, which I visited last month, contains sections on the various achievements of his presidency. The first three to greet visitors are on deficit reduction, crime and welfare. Too often, these are considered right-wing issues. But Clinton counts them amongst his proudest achievements.

His autobiography recalls that he was “always somewhat amused to hear some members of the press characterise (welfare reform) as a Republican issue, as if valuing work was something only conservatives did”. Peter Watt has recently reasserted on Uncut the value that Labour places on work, not avoiding work, which should be reflected in our approach to welfare. Those who can work should be incentivised to do so; those who can’t should receive the support they need. In other words, from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

Rather than appealing to the slogans of Karl Marx, Clinton’s autobiography justifies his concern with welfare in terms of the real life experiences of Lillie Hardin. She had moved from welfare to work under a scheme introduced by Clinton as governor of Arkansas. He invited her to give evidence on her experience to a governors’ meeting in Washington and asked if she thought able-bodied people on welfare should be forced to take jobs if they were available.

“I sure do,” she replied. “Otherwise we’ll just lay around watching the soaps all day.” Then Clinton asked Hardin what was the best thing about being off welfare. Immediately, she answered, “When my boy goes to school and they ask him, ‘What does your mama do for a living’? he can give an answer”. Which Clinton claims is the best argument he has ever heard for welfare reform.


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Which is worse: work or welfare?

19/12/2010, 10:30:21 AM

by Robin Thorpe

The viability of full-employment has been debated since the industrial revolution. Ever since we began replacing human labour with machines, people have sought to create more efficiency in the workplace. Agriculture, manufacturing and construction now need fewer operatives to generate a higher yield. Individuals are increasingly employed in offices and call-centres dealing with the flow of information and money. Those without the skills or opportunities for this type of work are supported by the community as part of a philanthropic welfare state.

The Tory-Lib Dem government seems to have decided that the burden of welfare is too great and that work should be made “more attractive”. This ideological goal is to be achieved by reducing the extent of benefits available to the unemployed (whether through ill-health, redundancy or lack of skills). However, the reality is that often, although not exclusively, people would prefer to be in work, but do not have the opportunity.

At the same time as cutting benefits, the government has chosen to reduce the funding allocation of local authorities, universities, police, military and other public sector employers. These cuts will increase unemployment. The NHS is also being asked to make efficiency savings, which again will probably result in higher unemployment. And further private sector redundancies could arise in businesses that rely on public sector contracts. A by-product of high unemployment is an increase in the welfare bill. (more…)

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John Woodcock says Ed Miliband is wrong about flexible labour markets

07/07/2010, 08:59:30 AM

As this Labour leadership contest goes on, candidates are jettisoning more and more baggage from 13 years in power in the hope that it will make their leadership balloon soar higher.

Much of this is understandable and necessary. We won three elections on the bounce, but we lost what is always the more important one – the last one. And we need to learn why we lost in order to ensure that we can win the most important election of all – the next one.

But the latest sandbag offered to the wind this week – the belief in a flexible labour market – is one that should stay firmly in its place. (more…)

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