According to the Guardian, Universal Jobmatch, the government’s beleaguered repository for fake jobs (including prostitutes, hit men, strippers and pirates) is to be axed. Specifically it will not be renewed when the contract ends – in two years. Unfortunately that does mean, I guess, that people will still be obliged (regardless of the law) to sign up to and use it. An ‘exit strategy’ is being devised, at further public expense no doubt.
Surely this means that, knowing the site is fatally flawed and on borrowed time, compelling people to use it is, at best, irresponsible. You wouldn’t be allowed to threaten people to use a medicine that you knew to be suspect enough in some fashion that you were to withdraw it. Can people issue a challenge now when given their virtual marching orders?
I’m guessing not. The same old excuse will be given: you are not doing what is deemed reasonable to find work. That amorphous excuse is pulled out anytime anyone questions what is asked of them. Not willing to use even a screwed up database like UJM? Then you are not taking reasonable steps to find work, end of discussion.
But wait, a judge in what must be a landmark case has ruled that the conditionality imposed is unreasonable.
I just went for a morning walk; past the field where the cows graze it occurred to me that we treat them better than we treat our own. Cattle have more value than humans these days. A cow gets a field to graze and all the grass it can eat; a human gets no food and a mould ridden damp infested bedsit – provided by kind generosity of his Tory overlords (literally, as is the case on James Turner Street).
Meanwhile Monster, the technocrats responsible for constructing UJM, want just under a million pounds (of public money), to remove all the bogus and broken ads from the site they built. They blame the DWP for the failure. This is also somewhat nonsensical: if your job was building websites would you deliberately build something you knew to be damaged? Surely they could have just refused and explained to the DWP why their ideas were stupid? I guess the (again public) money mattered more. Shameful, really.
The DWP still plans to install wi fi acess points in its offices so people can, presumably, use UJM there. Won’t this mean having to input personal details on external machines – i.e. computers they cannot themselves secure? The DWP will argue these machines will be safe, but how? Will they operate the way Library computers do, with a timed reboot and (supposedly) a forced logout of everything from the previous session so people cannot get to know other users’ histories and passwords. But I bet there are ways around this. Is it legal under the Data Protection Act to force claimants to use such a setup? The current ‘job points’ (which have always been at best cantankerous) don’t require a user login nor access to the user’s details. I don’t see how that will work if these new systems use UJM.
Where are the Tories when it comes to taking responsibility? IDS has pissed away more money than anyone could have ever though possible. Not one red cent that man has spent has reaped any kind of reward: Work Programme? Failure. Universal Credit? Leaking money and sinking like the Titanic. Bedroom Tax? Was only ever going to cost money either through helping people move, replacing adaptations, appeals, discretionary (albeit temporary) payments. Welfare sanctions, cuts, low pay, no pay, all of it comes with a cost. That money doesn’t come from IDS’ considerable pockets. The very epitome of Tory arrogance; he knows the value of nothing and the cost of everything. Responsibility is for the poor.
More importantly, where is the PCS? It has been said to me by a couple of people that it is unfair to criticise the union; that members are honest people trying to survive as best they can. It’s unfair to expect them to put their necks on the chopping block – particularly for the interests of claimants (i.e. people that are not members or workers as they are). I find this rather bullshit for two reasons:
Firstly the toxic climate of fear and sanctions cannot be in their interests. How can such an environment be anything other than a high pressure nightmare? Many have anonymously at least commented the workplace at the DWP has become stifling and stressful. So fighting this cause would make the place better; it would go some way to healing divisions between claimants and advisers as both are under threat from the Tory regime.
Secondly, while not all PCS members are sanction happy scumbags (anymore than all DWP staff are PCS members), some must be. How else are all these trivial sanctions, labelled by the likes of (and not only) the CAB as cruel, being enacted if not willingly? Nine out of ten appeals against these sanctions are upheld – assuming the claimant appeals (or even knows he can do so), so it’s clear the description of this regime is deserved. You might argue that those dishing out the sanctions do so because they have no choice, but even that is tenuous reasoning at best. Even if we assume it’s true, where is the PCS leadership? Why aren’t they speaking out on their members behalf? Why don’t they ballot for a strike at the very least? That would be a start.
I find this idea that people are being forced to dish these sanctions out dubious. The idea seems to be that, if they don’t issue sanctions, their jobs will be on the line, but frankly I cannot see how. These are not justified sanctions, surely the employee can make that case if an overzealous jobsworth manager calls his performance into question – and it will take some effort for that to happen, even under this government, laws still exist.
The choice, and I don’t suggest it’s easy for one minute (we are, as they say, where we are), is either: put someone into destitution and possibly even hospital or death, or maybe risk attracting the attention of your manager – even though they simply cannot fire you for not sanctioning Mr Smith for being 5 minutes late.
I think the fault lies with a supine PCS leadership. Despite what I have said about individual advisers, it is the responsibility of the union to do something here, to protect its members, thereby protecting the rest of us. I can’t really blame someone for fearing their job might be at stake if they don’t issue that sanction, but if they do issue it then they can’t really expect any respect from the rest of us. You make that choice, you must take the consequences. It’s the Tory way!