Wednesday 19 August 2015.
Dear Mr Cameron,
Ralph McTell wrote a song, released in 1983, that was inspired from a conversation with Billy Connolly who had watched an Indian Trade Union man address a party political conference with the opening line, ‘A man without a job is a stranger to the season’. The final verse is, ‘Everyone is poorer for the millions, Who keep growing, Whose season stays at Autumn, And whose only colour’s grey, Though we get by on the dole, It feeds the body, starves the soul, And stirs the bitterness that’s growing, In the ones who’ve been betrayed’.
What Ralph McTell doesn’t directly mention in the song is pay because what kind of fool would ever consider work without pay? Those who choose to do voluntary work only do so if they have other means of survival and volunteering should always be voluntary. Of course there are college and University courses which involve training placements in the subject being studied, teaching being a typical example. The point of such placements being to gain experience in ones chosen discipline, not to learn to labour for labouring’s sake.
If young people are to experience work they should also have the experience of being paid; they should be remunerated for the expenditure of their time and energy. In all your ‘hard working people’ rhetoric I hear nothing about ‘a fair days work for a fair days pay’, not one word.
You said in February that those ‘most at risk of starting a life on benefits’ will be ‘expected typically to undertake at least 30 hours’ community work a week and 10 hours’ looking for jobs’, under threat of sanctions, and ‘be paid a youth allowance’. An allowance? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, your government is destroying the fundamental link between work and pay, enforced labour but no enforced pay. You aren’t helping young people, you are penalising them, whilst surrounding your punitive regime with mealy mouthed words, deception and lies.
The latest scheme dreamed up by the Department for Work and Poverty is the ‘WE can’ campaign. Employment Minister Priti Patel says, ‘Young people tell me they can’t get a job without work experience, but they can’t get work experience without a job’. So tell her to force bloody companies to invest some of their profits in training and stop being so damned useless! The Gov.uk page boasts that the ‘WE can’ campaign is, ‘backed by 30 businesses and organisations’. I’ll just bet it is, as Lord Freud said (in his gross deceit about food banks), ‘there is an almost infinite demand for a free good’, but in this case it’s true. Youth as free labour, without obligation, what’s not to love? The wolves are at the door slavering for some young blood and free forced labour. Throw in a sanction and the little bastards might learn to be a bit more servile too, along with three weeks spent in a Boot Camp. The grey workforce of betrayed and brutalised young people! It’s pure filth!