Friday 15 April 2016

Sanctions against low income workers for the "crime" of not earning enough

It's never difficult to find examples of the shocking contempt the Tory party have for the general public, and especially for the working poor.

A particularly clear example can be seen in the way they have built extremely harsh sanctions into their (ridiculously delayed, catastrophically mismanaged and massively wasteful) Universal Credit flagship policy in order to fine working people for the "crime" of not earning enough money.


Universal Credit has been developed with a number of conditionalities on low-paid workers, especially for those in part-time work. If the DWP decide that the claimant is not earning enough through their job, they can be compelled to search for other jobs and attend interviews. Non-compliance with these rules is already being dealt with by the imposition of harsh economic sanctions.

Universal Credit claimants in low-paid jobs can be forced to skip work to attend job interviews or Jobcentre appointments at 48 hours notice. If they don't comply then they can be forced into destitution.

The vast majority of new jobs created during the Tories' so-called "recovery" are insecure low-paid part-time positions, which means that millions of workers in the kind of low-paid insecure Zero Hours contract jobs that the Tory party favour will be under threat of destitution.

The threat to jobs

One of the worst aspects of this humiliating nanny state policy of harassing low-paid workers is the way that it clearly endangers the job that they do have. If people are forced to take time off work to attend job interviews and into setting up online profiles "to draw attention to their availability", it's not beyond the realms of possibility that their boss might take offence at them searching for another job, especially if they're skipping shifts to do it.

It seems an awful lot like this policy of harassing people in low-paid jobs has the potential to cost low earners the jobs that they actually have!

Evidence-free policy

Another consideration is the fact that this policy of harassing low-paid workers with threats of destitution through economic sanctions is yet another example of vindictive evidence-free Tory policymaking. The stated objective of Tory benefits sanctions regimes is that slashing people's incomes (often for utterly trivial reasons) incentivises them to look for work. The problem is that there isn't actually any evidence to support the proposition that benefits sanctions lead to improved work outcomes.

In fact, a common sense approach to the effects of sanctions tells us that they're actually likely to lead to significantly worse job outcomes. If people are reduced to destitution (for the "crime" of being five minutes late for an appointment for example), then they're obviosly going to be less likely to be able to do things like buy smart clothes and maintain a smart appearance for job interviews, pay travel costs for getting to interviews, print CVs or afford to pay for their telephone and Internet connections to contact potential employers.

Common sense tells us that reducing people to absolute destitution is likely to lead to significantly worse job outcomes, but once again evidence-free Tory ideology trumps common sense.

Sanctioning low-paid workers is even more nonsensical. Not only do the sanctions make the task of looking for another - more highly paid - job harder, it also makes them less likely to be able to hang onto the job they already have. Employers are unlikely to look kindly upon their employees turning up in unwashed clothes and lacking in concentration because they've been cutting back on food to make ends meet. Neither are they likely to have much sympathy for "I can't come in to work tomorrow because I can't afford the bus fare".

Tory ideology

The nanny state harassment policy for low earners stinks of the age-old Tory philosophy that the way to incentivise the poor to work harder is to make them poorer (wage repression, slashed in-work benefits, sanctions), while the way to incentivise the rich to work harder is to make them richer (pay rises, tax cuts, massive bonuses).

Allowing employers to pay poverty wages, and manufacturing an "economic recovery" built on a foundation of insecure low-paid part-time jobs, then enforcing an economic sanctions regime against people who are unfortunate enough to end up in such jobs is an absolute masterclass in vindictive Tory class war politics.

The Tories are always on the side of the bosses. This is true to such an extent that rather than taking steps to encourage employers to offer stable well-paid full-time jobs, they've taken to economically sanctioning low earners for the "crime" of having the kind of crap jobs that it is Tory policy to promote in order to create the illusion of an economic recovery!


This Tory policy of harassing low-paid workers is a perfect illustration of their utter contempt for the working poor. The fact that they impose policies like this whilst trying to dress themselves up as "the workers' party" and harping on endlessly about how they're supposedly "making work pay" just goes to prove how much contempt they have for the general public too. They clearly believe that we're all gullible enough to mindlessly accept their propaganda that they care about working people, when their actual policies demonstrate beyond doubt that they don't.

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