Sunday, 8 March 2009

Anne Gray on the Welfare Reform Bill

Anne Gray, who is the Green Party’s prospective Parliamentary candidate for Tottenham, was one of a dozen or more speakers at last week's meeting on welfare reform in the House of Commons. Organised by the Public and Commercial Services Union, PCS, the meeting was called to oppose the government’s Welfare Reform Bill and help people lobby their MPs to vote against it.

The Welfare Reform Bill proposes huge changes in the benefits system, including a major extension of the requirement to seek work and compulsory work-for-benefit (workfare) schemes. Income Support will be abolished and most disabled claimants gradually transferred to JSA. The conditions for getting the new benefits for disabled people who are supposed to seek work or do work-related training may include compulsory treatment for drug addiction or other medical treatment. Lone parents, even those with very young children, may be required to attend interviews, make ‘action plans’ or attend training. People who stay on JSA over two years will be placed on compulsory schemes to work for their benefit without any extra money. Alongside these changes, the government proposes to contract out some job centre services and the majority of back to work schemes to private profit-making contractors.

Here’s what Anne said to the meeting:-


The Green Party is associated with campaigning for action to stop climate change. But it’s not just about that, the Green Party is also about social justice and keeping public services public. The Welfare Reform Bill is NOT about social justice, it’s a charter for INJUSTICE. We already sent the government our criticisms of it at the Green Paper stage (see

Around 3 million redundant workers, thrown out of their jobs as an indirect result of bankers’ greed, are going to be cannon fodder for the privatised back to work contractors, who will make big profits out of the redundant workers’ misery.

The whole idea that intensive placement services are the solution to unemployment is a bad bosses’ charter anyway. It makes people compete harder with each other for the few vacancies that are left in the economy, and thus reduces labour standards. If that creates new jobs, as the neo-classical economists tell us, it’s only because some employers respond to the availability of cheaper labour. But they only do that if there is demand. Supply side economics just doesn’t work if demand for labour has collapsed. So the government’s solution to rising unemployment just won’t work now.

The Green Party offers three solutions:-

1) Green Party policy is to create new jobs. We brought out the Green New Deal jointly with the New Economics Foundation. (For further details see ( ) It’s a plan to create jobs by investment in wind power, solar power, insulation of homes and other buildings, growing more sustainable food, care services, health services, better public services generally. If the government can spend all that money on propping up the banks, why not spend it for jobs that will meet real social needs and help us combat climate change ?

2) We advocate shorter working time. Our Green MEPs have struggled vigorously in the European Parliament to end the UK’s opt out form the 48 hour week. There is a wealth of continental experience, in France, Germany, Denmark and Belgium, about how negotiated reductions in working time can create jobs, by sharing work, through subsidised short time working, extra leave and so on. We need to learn from these and do it.

3) Rather than make conditions for getting JSA tighter, as the government proposes, we should be reducing conditionality. We should be moving in the direction of a guaranteed basic income for everyone, with no conditions, no means testing. The Green Party has been advocating this for years. (See A basic income without conditions would mean people could take what part-time and temporary work they could get without losing benefit. At present, if a friend asks you to paint her bathroom, dig an allotment, clear a garden, help in the local pub on a busy night, you can’t, it’s illegal. But unemployed people need to take what they can get and build up to a proper job again gradually. There is so much money now being given out in different kinds of tax credits in addition to JSA, child allowances and the new disability benefits that the government might as well do it, wrap them all up into one benefit. In fact the Parliamentary Select Committee on Work and Pensions suggested this in its 2007 report. It proposed a Single Working Age Benefit. It would save a fortune in administrative costs. But David Freud and his colleagues didn’t listen.

The unemployed need incentives to take part time and temporary work. Our approach is an incentives approach, not a workfare approach. But it is important not to let a basic income, like tax credits, subsidise bad employers and let them get away with low wages. Rather than pulling labour standards down we need to sustain and improve wage levels, and put money into the pockets of the poorest. We need to use the purchasing power of the public sector to ensure a living wage level in all contractors’ work, like the living wage policy the Greens have pushed through in the GLA – all GLA contractors must pay at least £7.45 per hour. We should be doing this sort of thing rather than paying people like Greedy Goodwin a pension worth the JSA of 200 people.


augustg said...

I would appreciate if you could post this to the groups page as a new topic. We have had a lot of success here in the district and would like to carry that momentum to a national level. Thanks!

To:Progressive Community,
From: Matt Reichel, Green Party Candidate in the special election in Illinois's 5th District

The vacancy created by the departure of Rahm Emanuel from Illinois's 5th District has presented an excellent opportunity to implant progressive rhetoric into the debate surrounding the election process.

The Primary Election season was highlighted by the first contested Green primary for a non-presidential race in Illinois history, as I ran against Deb Gordils, Mark Frederickson and Simon Ribeiro for the privilege of being the Green Party nominee in this high profile election. All four Green candidates were invited to the vast majority of the forums and debates, and we made the most of it: in general, we received the most raucous applause and the most visible expression of interest from attendees.

I won the primary based largely on my populist Green message: I believe that now is the time to communicate to Americans that we must organize and wage political war on the banks, who have been at war against the working and middle classes for decades. From ATM fees and overdraft fees to predatory mortgages, the major corporate banks in the United States have continually preyed on the most vulnerable members of our society.

Let's fight back: First and foremost by ending the bankster bailouts and by fighting to reverse already approved bailout appropriations.

Let us also draw a clear, thick line between us progressives and Democrat Mike Quigley, the "reformer." With our country in crisis, we don't have time for reforming the machine of Chicago politics. We must organize to defeat the Machine.

We can't afford to compromise on the most pressing issues: the ongoing wars of Empire in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, the overspending on bailouts of this nation's criminal Wall Street class, and the lack of comprehensive universal single payer health care.

The Chicago Sun Times and Chicago Tribune, who together essentially coronated Quigley as our next congressman with their endorsements, are busily painting Quigley as an "outsider." However, Quigley began his political career working for machine alderman Bernie Hansen, and he has always worked squarely within the machinery of the Democratic Party. Furthermore, he lacks the courage and passion to press on the aforementioned issues: the most important ones facing this nation in a time of economic peril.

Let us get our message out there! You can help today by visiting our website, and donating and/or signing up to volunteer. We are also running group canvasses each weekend day, every Saturday and Sunday, at 2pm. Meet at the office at 1726 W. Carmen.

For more information about my stance on the issues, please visit the issues page of our website,, or contact the office directly at 773-961-8257.

I thank you for your work as activists in our community, and I look forward to continuing to work with you for the greater cause of peace and social justice.


Matt Reichel

Also, make sure to heck out the most recent youtube video:

Mike Shaughnessy said...

I'm not sure what you mean augustg?