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Friday, 17 October 2014

Paradoxes of welfare reform under capitalism

By Swheatie of the KUWG — writing in a personal capacity*

An alternative to means-testing claimants?
Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC) has broadcast a 'mass call out' for the sacking of Welfare Reform Minister Lord Freud. This follows a statement Lord Freud made at a recent Tory Party conference fringe event, when he told a Tory councillor that some disabled people are "not worth the minimum wage," and that he would "have to go away and think about" how to get away with paying "some disabled people could be paid as little as £2 an hour." (Independent article Lord Freud: Tory Minister apologises after saying disabled people are 'not worth' the minimum wage includes an actual voice recording of Lord Freud saying that.)

David Cameron later apologised for the former investment banker Lord Freud's remarks, saying that they were not a true reflection on the views of the Tory Party. A Yahoo search and my long term memory bring to mind and historical record Philip Davies MP (Tory) using disabled people's potential lower productivity as an argument against the use of minimum wage legislation:
A Tory MP has sparked anger by suggesting that disabled people should work for less than the minimum wage to increase their chances of being taken on by employers [see footnote].
Philip Davies told the Commons: "If an employer is looking at two candidates, one who has got disabilities and one who hasn't, and they have got to pay them both the same rate, I invite you to guess which one the employer is more likely to take on.

"Given that some of those people with a learning disability clearly, by definition, cannot be as productive in their work as somebody who has not got a disability of that nature, then it was inevitable that, given the employer was going to have to pay them both the same, they were going to take on the person who was going to be more productive, less of a risk.

"My view is that for some people the national minimum wage may be more of a hindrance than a help.

"If those people who consider it is being a hindrance to them, and in my view that's some of the most vulnerable people in society, if they feel that for a short period of time, taking a lower rate of pay to help them get on their first rung of the jobs ladder, if they judge that that is a good thing, I don't see why we should be standing in their way."
And I note that under the original 'descriptors' for the 'Work Capability Assessment' through which I won a tribunal for Employment & Support Allowance eligibility in 2009, I scored 15 points — the full threshold amount! — for a descriptor regarding time taken to execute tasks. That factor had been a major bug bear and cause of friction between scapegoatist co-workers and me in my first waged job, as they complained that the amount of time I took to complete tasks was so slow that the section manager assigned tasks to them instead of me, and that I should be forced to take a wage cut to compensate them!

And note also that it was Labour DWP Secretary who signed off the authorisation for the 'harsher test' in 2010 before the General Election of that year to 'simplify' the 'Work Capability Assessment'. (Sheffield Forum: Even harsher new ESA Medical approved.) And so under such legislation, slower disabled workers are not protected against the potential financial abuse that they could be exposed to by being short-changed under quantitative 'piece rate' that epitomises capitalism's orientation toward only valuing people in an instrumental sense — as means of production.

What about an hourly rate that is laid out on the basis of valuing people in terms of their commitment to taking part?

Yet what does Lord Freud's talk of paying disabled people as little as £2 per hour and compensating them through Universal Credit say regarding the matter of juggling 'protecting the vulnerable' with the Tory mania for an 'overall benefit cap'?

So, maybe, yes Lord Freud should be sacked, but who is going to replace him and what will they espouse as the future for disabled people in a capitalist system under which people are only valued in terms of their quantity of output?

* The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group

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