This government is thoroughly contemptible. Its policies of facilitating the super-rich and its worshipping of private sector greed have resulted in the shameful fact that 455,000 people are on the live register.
It’s in this context that the government has announced its intention to implement a “social employment” scheme for 10,000 unemployed, with a view to expanding the scheme to affect 40,000 thereafter.
Under the scheme, participants will work 19.5 hours a week and will receive e210. Work will be in areas such as childcare, working in sports clubs and also on environmental projects such as improving forest and mountain pathways.
The fact that Minister for Social Protection, Eamon O’Cuiv, has said that an aim of the scheme is to prevent welfare fraud, gives us quite the insight into the reality of this scheme. It is not about assisting the unemployed and it’s certainly not about creating real, quality jobs. It’s a total insult to the hundreds of thousands of unemployed who have been thrown on the scrap-heap by the government and big business to suggest that they are somehow illegitimately claiming welfare and that such a scheme is needed in order to police them.
This scheme has one purpose only – to artificially lower the unemployment figures. A con to pretend that the government is creating jobs.
At the same time, the government is getting rid of 20,000 jobs in the public sector – real jobs, not the phony type envisaged in O’Cuiv’s plan. The fact that Labour and Fine Gael support the scheme illustrates that the so-called alternative government has nothing to offer the unemployed except more of the same.
As opposed to creating jobs, the scheme will undermine pre-existing jobs. Childcare workers, for example, quite correctly train to get a professional qualification. Is the government going to put dole recipients that are not trained or experienced in this area to work in community crèches? This is a typical undervaluing of childcare professionals, who are in the main low-paid women workers.
As well as undermining the already poor pay and conditions of childcare workers, it’s also quite a useful manner for the government to use and abuse unemployed people to justify cuts to community schemes as they can potentially keep some underfunded schemes open, off the back of paying only 14 euro extra a week to an unemployed person to plug a gaping hole in staff levels. This is not creating jobs. It’s a policy that goes hand in glove with the gross job-loss policy of savage cuts to public services.
Refusal to take part in the work for your dole scheme will result in you losing your benefits. Pathetically, ICTU has not even come out in opposition to this scandalous scheme. The trade union movement should be actively fighting the government’s plans by mobilising both workers and the unemployed. If the government gets away with implementing the work for your dole scheme, how long will it be before all unemployed people will be forced to do the same?
The alternative to this confidence trick would be to implement a massive programme of state investment to put thousands of unemployed construction workers and apprentices back to work, utilising their skills and talents to upgrade public hospitals, schools, build community facilities and renewable energy schemes and many other socially needed projects. Work should be shared out by shortening the working week for all to 35 hours without loss of pay. These two proposals would go along way to ending the scourge of mass unemployment.
Instead of pumping tens of billions of euro into failed and dead banks, the government should nationalise major job shedding companies and through working class control these companies could be made viable and even new jobs could be created.
We need a new major political party in this country that will pursue these type of policies that put the interests of working class people first and not the dictates of the rating agencies and the parasitic banks and speculators.