Stand Up! Stand Up for Workers!

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Stand up for Workers! All Workers! 

Why? Because without the workers there is nothing, no wealth, no health, no education, no food – no life. For without workers we all perish. The capitalists will try to tell us it is money that makes the world go round. Well the world went round before there was money. Money as an idea developed from bartering, a way of sharing resources, and division of labour for efficiency as individuals acquired specialist skills. But in itself it is nothing.

We do the work; someone else takes the profit Think Left!

Wealth comes from human beings. It’s as simple as that. It comes from human beings engaging with nature in an intelligent and productive way in order to make all of the things we want and need. It is work that makes wealth. This is so obvious an observation that it hardly needs commenting upon. All of the classical economists understood it: Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill, as well as Karl Marx. “

What excessive wealth does do, is lead to corruption, and from that corruption potentially for one group of individuals to attempt to exert control. And that is where we are today. The money has become a parasite which has eaten away at its host. But that parasite cannot thrive without the energy which is derived from workers’ toil, without unpolluted, unmuddied water and without the shelter that is provided by those who perceive a symbiotic relationship, when the truth is this is very much all one-way.

 Britain Under Siege – Think Left

There are nearly 100 coalition MPs with connections to the financial service industries through past employment.  

The bankers talk of “growth”. What growth can there be without workers? Regardless of whether employed by the public sector or the private sector, it is the workers’ efforts on which we depend. The workers are entitled to a decent salary, and to the pensions that they have worked for and which they have contributed to.

Public and Private Workers must be united! Think Left!

“Lies about the previous government’s deficit and the need to cut public expenditure has been justification for cuts to the public sector, and the lie that fair pensions are unaffordable is similar justification in their eyes. Lies, lies and constant government propaganda which amounts to drip fed indoctrination aimed to frighten the electorate, to divide the working class into public and private sectors, each blaming the other for the country’s ills.”

It is unfair that the workers are being asked to pay for the damage caused by the greed of laisser-faire capitalism which is coming to the end of its over-long life. How can this continue? There is an attempt to convince everyone to believe that someone else is to blame.

The Trade Unionists begin the fightback Think Left

We, in Think Left, agree that the Coalition government have utilized the banking crisis to justify unnecessary cuts and a draconian process of dismantling and privatizing the Welfare State, the NHS and education, with the aim of fulfilling the ideological objective of rebalancing the economic and social relations of the UK to the detriment of the overwhelming majority of the population.

When the government came to power, it was doom and gloom apparently caused not by a world wide financial crisis, but by the British Labour Party. Now, despite the cuts to our services, our incomes and pensions, things are still gloomy we are asked to blame the Europeans.

BBC Public Sector pay capped at 1%

Chancellor George Osborne has said public sector pay rises will be capped at 1% for two years, as he lowered growth forecasts for the UK economy.

The number of public sector jobs set to be lost by 2017 has also been revised up from 400,000 to 710,000.

Borrowing and unemployment are set to be higher than forecast and spending cuts to carry on to 2017, he admitted.

The attack on the public sector is an attempt to pay for the insatiable excesses of the very, very wealthy thinking that the British public might not notice. It is an invitation to those who work in the private sector to blame someone else for their misfortunes. Many in the private sector are on poor pay, may have no pension and look for an answer. But the answer is not to blame those who work in the public sector; that is not the answer at all.

The question to ask is what is happening to the fruits of their labour – where do profits evaporate to? The secret has been kept for too long. It is time for transparency and truth about city states and tax havens. Why can someone earn money from workers who pay taxes , yet not pay taxes themselves? It is a conundrum which belies belief. It is a puzzle which defies logic. It is an unfairness which should be unlawful. It can be put right. It must be.

The Tax Haven at the Heart of the IMF  Think Left!

Five Reasons why the Public Sector are right to strike

NeoLiberalism is direct attack on Democracy and workers’ rights.

PUBLIC AND PRIVATE WORKERS – UNITE!

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The TUC  public sector strike on November 30th is , in effect, a General Strike, the biggest concerted  day of action since the General Strike in 1926.  The attack on public sector pensions follows months of pay freezes, cuts to staffing, to budgets affecting working conditions, extending working hours and adding to stress levels, with inevitable effects on the mental and physical health of workers.

Lies about the previous government’s deficit and the need to cut public expenditure has been justification for cuts to the public sector, and the lie that fair pensions are unaffordable is similar justification in their eyes. Lies, lies and constant government propaganda which amounts to drip fed indoctrination aimed to frighten the electorate, to divide the working class into public and private sectors, each blaming the other for the country’s ills.

MYTH: The private sector props up the public sector

“It is not a one-way street, but a complex relationship. Public sector workers and employers pay for the vast majority of pensions in payment through contributions.  Without an effective public sector, the private sector would be far less productive. The public sector contributes significantly to GDP and it is entirely unfair to suggest that the public sector is any way a drain on the private sector.” TUC Myths and Pensions

MYTH: Public sector workers all have comfortable pensions

“Five million employees working in the public sector qualify for pensions, including 1.3m in NHS, 1.6m in local government, 600,000 teachers, 600,000 civil servants, 200,000 in the armed forces, 150,000 police officers and 50,000 firefighters. The mean average public sector pension is £7,000 but the majority of public sector pensioners have pensions of less than £5,000. The average public service pension is around £7,800 a year, for women working in local government the average is £2,800 a year, while the median for women working in the NHS is £3,500 a year: hardly huge pensions. Saving towards an occupational pension in many cases means a person is receiving fewer welfare benefits during retirement, saving the taxpayer money.”

MYTH: Public sector  workers are lazy and inefficient

In 2010, a study found that public sector workers do an estimated 120 million hours of unpaid overtime a year – the equivalent of employing an extra 60,000 people.   They went on to claim that 46 per cent of employees in education, health and social care in the “non-profit sector” work unpaid overtime, compared with 29 per cent of their counterparts in the private sector.

MYTH: Losses to jobs in the public sector will be replaced by jobs in the private sector 

If David Cameron expected this to be the case, he has been proved wrong ( See C4 News). Job losses caused by cuts to the public sector will not be replaced. Increasingly we hear of firms making job cuts despite their profits, for example Top Shop owner Philip Green has announced further job cuts despite profits. People fear for jobs and won’t spend.

The private sector workers, are seen by many in the public sector as being on high salaries, inflated incomes with perks such as cars, private health schemes. It may be evident that some industries pay ridiculous salaries to directors and this is what springs to mind to those working in the public sector. The reality is that the profits are not fairly distributed. The toils of the workers in the private sector are not fairly rewarded. Salaries have not kept up with inflation. Demands from employers and union rights are not universal. Women in particular may face discrimination.

MYTH: All private sector workers all are paid high salaries 

Lowest and Highest Pay Top Ten Data from ASHE (Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings) for ONS, and published in the Guardian shows median salaries for 2010 and 2011, shows the highest and lowest median salaries. It is interesting data and clearly shows that many in the private sector are on very low pay.

It shows that roles which have been historically carried out by are women are particularly low-paid. It also shows that pay cuts seem to be hitting the poorest paid most. It does not show the whole picture however and there are several important pay factors that Ashe cannot show.

  1.   The data only applies to employees on company payrolls, so cannot reflect the earnings of the self-employed entrepreneurs, athletes and celebrities who between them constitute many of the country’s really top earners.
  2.  The survey only measures base pay and does not take into account additional methods of reward such as bonuses, pension payments, share options and so on.
  3. It cannot reveal the earnings of those with multiple income streams, such as legal and accounting partners, or directors of multiple companies.

This may explain why Ashe figures for directors and financial workers, although top ranked, look surprisingly low. The median full-time base pay in this category rose by 15.3% this year, partly due to a trend of shifting executive earnings away from bonuses and towards basic pay. If the sectors as a whole are compared we can see that the gap between public and private sector pay is at its highest in ten years, as Richard Murphy writes.

MYTH Private sector offers better prospects, perks and conditions for its workers. 

“It’s an inconvenient truth, (PCS Union) that the press who look for negative reporting of trade unions, in saying that they are outdated and membership is declining fail to explain the full story. In fact any declining membership is directly connected to overall job losses in that sector.  They decline to explain about the union wage premium  which refers to the degree that union wages exceed non union wages.”

The last BIS report (2010) re-affirms the importance of the union wage premium, in that:-

  • Collective agreements cover 64.5 per cent of public sector employees and 16.8 per cent of private sector employees
  • The hourly earnings of union members is reported to average £14 in 2010, 16.7 per cent more than the earnings of non-members (£12).
  • The union wage premium is much larger for employees in unionised sectors than their non-unionised counterparts.
Hourly wage rates for (unionised) public sector employees were 21.1 per cent higher among union members than non-members and 6.7 per cent higher in the (less unionised) private sector. PCS members working on Hewlett Packard central government contracts currently have an opportunity to ‘opt in’ to collective bargaining and it is no accident that the company is making opting in look as unattractive as possible. 
A member said: “I took the decision to opt-in in 2010, when my salary was £17,500. Since then I am looking at over a £1,300 consolidated pay increase on my salary with most of that increase counting towards my pension.”   
One member commented: “As a low paid HP employee ‘My choice’ has me trapped in a downwards pay spiral. For the last five years my pay has been frozen whilst my costs of living have been rising and I have to sell my benefits simply to stay afloat.”  

And so it remains true, many in the private sector are denied rights to fair pay and conditions, while in many cases massive profits are being made at the workers’ expense. All workers’ rights to be a member of a trade union and the potential benefits must be preserved. The very rich and the Tories will look after their own. So, too, workers must support each other, in unison.

MYTH Private Sector workers  have great pensions 

Private sector employees have been hit hard by the employer retreat from good pensions. But this does not justify punishing public sector workers. Two wrongs do not make a right.

The real inequality exists in the private sector, where highly paid executives receive the real gold-plated pensions. The TUC’s 2008 Pensions Watch study of 346 directors from 102 of the UK’s top companies found that they are set to earn a yearly pension of £201,7003. This is 25 times the average workplace pension that ordinary workers receive (£8,100).

Private sector schemes need to be funded because there can be no guarantee that the sponsoring employer will still be around when staff retire. Public sector employers, ie the state, will exist in perpetuity and, as in other countries such as the USA, we tend to have unfunded pensions for central government functions such as health and the armed forces but funded schemes in local government.

The study also revealed that the most senior directors of these firms had average pension funds of £5.2m, with an annual pension forecast of £333,400. In reality, most directors of the UKs largest private sector companies can look forward to retiring on a full pension at age 60, accrued on generous terms in a final salary scheme.”

WHY WE WORK

Let’s take a step aside, those of us that are lucky to be in work are motvated by a number of reasons.

  1. We need to work to live
  2. We may want to make a difference to other people’s lives
  3. We want the opportunity to use our skills
  4. We enjoy the social contact which work brings to us
  5. We want to contribute to society

Most of us go to work for all of those reasons, but , let’s face it, it is the first and foremost which gets us out of bed on wet, foggy November mornings.

THE REALITY WHICH DIVIDES SOCIETY

One thing is certain, none of us go to work in order to line the pockets of the very rich. When we pay our taxes, even if we do so grudgingly, we know – and hope that – that investment will be returned to us, if we are too ill to work, to pay our pensions when we are old, if we have children who need care, to provide homes, roads, hospitals and schools. We are not happy that people in poorly paid jobs pay taxes disproportionately compared with those on inflated salaries. In contrast, those that make profits of millions and billions from the toil of poorly paid people in the private sector pay no tax at all.Their funds are secretly  hidden in “ made up” City-States which make their own tax rules, where nobody really lives and works. Yet that money may have been made from retail workers at your local shop, or by teachers at some new Free School sponsored by some private company using assets stolen from the British people.

These are the enemy of the workers.   We call for the Public and Private workers  to unite! Support each other! Support the trade unionists who fight on, despite attempts from Margaret Thatcher, and Winston Churchill, and David Cameron to defeat them.

The Tolpuddle Martyrs went to the ends of the earth to stand up for the rights of workers. Thatcher sullied the name of Trade Unions. Let us remember what we owe to them, and support the rights of workers everywhere.

Unemployment is soaring; now at 8.3% of the work-force. There are over one million unemployed young people. Where is the sense to insist people work  well into their sixties if they feel spent and ready to enjoy a deserved retirement. Just to deny them the pension they have paid for. To save money? All this will be to the cost of the young to whom the nation must pay dole rather than pay well-earned and well-deserved pensions to the more mature population. This is absurd!  There are now the highest number of female workers out of work for twenty-three years. The increase in female unemployed is directly related to the attack on the public sector, where workers are predominantly female. Do not be fooled. It suits the Tories for unemployment levels to be high – it enables them to cut wages, to make more profits for their friends. It engenders fear – it  pitches public against private -, private against public – social friction which detracts from the real enemy , the plutocrats that have increasing power over us throughout our daily lives. Poverty will increase, hunger , homelessness and suicides. And therein is fuel for the far right, as in the nineteen thirties. It suits them to believe the workers have not noticed, that we are besotted by X factor and Big Brother. They are wrong, three quarters of the electorate in a recent Mori poll think that the government have done a poor job in keeping unemployment down.

The government  under-estimates the working -class- all of us who go to work, for that is what we are – not Class A, B or C – we are all workers.

Labour Party Policy must address:

Trade union rights for all

Inequality in the workplace and in pay

Redistribution of wealth including a modernised clause 4 and workers co-operatives

Tax Injustice

It might seem an old cliché, but it is true. The workers, united, will never be defeated. And it will be forever true. But divided, we fall. They win.

Think Left On The Public Sector Strike:

We will not cease from mental fight, nor let swords sleep in our hands. Think Left

TUC Day of Action, November 30 Think Left

The Progressive Left should support the Strikers Think Left

OTHER REFERENCES AND FURTHER READING

Richard Murphy: Why Tax Evasion matters so much 

Red Pepper Union Mythbuster

Public Sector Pensions: Myths TUC 

Pension   UNISON

PCS The inconvenient truth of trade union membership

George Osborne and Norman Lamont -Unemployment Guardian 

General Strike 1926 

Lowest Paid jobs in UK November 2011, Guardian 

Highest Paid jobs in the UK November 2011, Guardian

TAEN Experts in Age and Employment Blog

Mori Poll October 2011

Unemployment Figures October 2011

Top Shop job cuts, Daily Mirror

Poverty and Suicides

Do cuts kill? Guardian –  on suicide

Tolpuddle Martyrs

David Cameron – attack on unions, Daily Mirror

Margaret Thatcher -attack on unions -BBC 

The Miner’s next step Churchill attack on miners with troops Tonypandy

Help Fight Back Against Murdoch’s Benefit ‘Scroungers’ Hotline

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by Tom Pride

It’s time to fight back.

While the richest 1% of society are getting richer and richer, Britain’s most vulnerable citizens, the disabled, the young and the elderly are accused of being feckless scroungers who deserve to be treated no better than slaves.

It’s estimated tax evasion by top firms costs the UK Treasury as much as 20 times more than benefit fraud. But the government and its press attack-dogs owned by tax-evaders like Rupert Murdoch tell us it should be Britain’s most vulnerable who must pay for the current economic crisis, not the rich bankers who caused it.

And that’s why, in support of the government’s vicious attacks on Britain’s most vulnerable citizens, Rupert Murdoch’s Sun newspaper has declared war on what it calls lazy ‘feckless benefits claimants’ who are ‘living on taxpayers money they don’t deserve’.

But the real lazy, undeserving people living off taxpayers’ money, are the bailed-out bankers and billionaire tax-evaders who caused the economic crisis in the first place.

Isn’t it time we showed Murdoch and his feckless family of multi-billionaire tax-evaders, they cannot continue to lie, bully and manipulate the British public in this disgusting way?

That’s why we’ve launched a campaign to ‘occupy’ the Sun’s hotline. Simply by repeatedly sending as many emails as possible with the names of scrounging bankers who have used taxpayers money to pay themselves massive bonuses, the hotline can be crashed. There are millions of people like us in Britain who are fed up with Murdoch’s bullying. All you need to do is to spread the word to enough people and eventually the Sun’s hotline will be inundated with so many emails, it will be rendered useless.

Below is a sample email, feel free to use it or make up your own and send it to the Sun’s benefit scroungers hotline at this address (don’t forget to tell your friends and colleagues to do the same):

benefits@the-sun.co.uk

(Looks like our campaign may have already crashed that one, so if it doesn’t work, try this one instead:)

talkback@the-sun.co.uk

Dear Mr Murdoch,

You have asked the nation to send you examples of benefit scroungers who are wasting taxpayers’ money and willing to live on state handouts they don’t deserve while millions of hard-working Brits struggle to make ends meet.

Well we know plenty of feckless lazy people who are living on state handouts they don’t deserve.

They’re called fat-cat bankers.

Here are examples of just a few of them:

Bob Diamond – ex CEO of Barclays who refused to thank taxpayers for rescuing the banking system saying his bonuses were: ”a private matter for me and my family.”

RBS chief executive Stephen Hester who said his bonuses were ‘not the font of all evils’ even though it was paid to him with taxpayers’ money.

Eric Daniels, ex-CEO of Lloyds, who paid himself a 1.45 million pound bonus on top of his massive salary using taxpayers’ bailout money, saying he “deserved it”.

In the future, why don’t you campaign against the real scroungers, the bankers and billionaire tax evaders who were responsible for ruining the British economy, and help bring the real cheats to justice instead of bullying and picking on the most vulnerable members of our society?

Yours in disgust,

A member of the 99%

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Please help this campaign by sharing it with as many people as possible.

This was originally posted in Pride’s Purge.

We will not cease from mental fight, nor let swords sleep in our hands.

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Blake’s “Jerusalem”  

And did those feet in ancient time.
Walk upon England’s mountains green: 
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England’s pleasant pastures seen!

 
And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills? 

And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills? 

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire! 

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green & pleasant Land 
 

The Progressive Left Should Support the Strikers

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As the 30th November public sector strike beckons, the war of words between the Government and the Unions has intensified [1].

It is quite clear the David Cameron very keen to persuade the country where the blame for any disruption incurred:

“Everyone should be clear there is going to be disruption and the reason for that disruption, the responsibility for that disruption , lies squarely with the trade union leaders”

 

Over 2 million members of the following unions are due to take part:

  • The Association of Educational Psychologists
  • Aspect
  • Association of Teachers and Lecturers
  • Chartered Society of Physiotherapy
  • Educational Institute of Scotland,
  • First Division Association
  • GMB
  • National Association of Head Teachers
  • Napo (family court and probation staff)
  • NASWUT
  • Northern Ireland Public Service Association
  • National Union of Teachers
  • Public and Commercial Services Union
  • Prospect
  • Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists
  • Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association
  • Society of Radiographers
  • Ucac (one of the Welsh teachers’ unions)
  • Union of Construction,
  • Allied Trades and Technicians
  • University and College Union
  • Unison
  • Unite

The principle dispute is about changes to the pensions scheme, which would increase personal contributions and the retirement age, a change from RPI annual increases to CPI annual increases and base the final pension pension on the average career salary rather than the final salary.

The Government claims the current scheme is unaffordable in the long term, and increased longevity means that  changes must be made.

A report by Lord Hutton [2], the basis for reforms, actually predicts the the current system would fall from costing the the tax payer 1.9% of GDP in 2010-11 to 1.4% in 2059-60

A myth that public sector pensions are ‘gold-plated’ is certainly in circulation.  However, the mean public sector pension in £7,000, and the majority are under £5,000. The TUC have documented this myth and others here [3]

The progressive left should support the public sector workers for several reasons.

Firstly, the evidence shows that the vast majority of public sector workers get only a modest pension. A modest but secure pension is part of the deal the tax payer makes to public servants. Our Teachers, Fire Fighters, Nurses and Council Workers do a good job – they deserve recognition for this public service.

Secondly, but more crucially, is the fact that the Coalition are embarking on a programme to privatise our public services.  The NHS bill currently going through Parliament will hand the Nation’s most loved and trusted asset to the private sector. Public sector workers are one of the cornerstones in defending public services from an irreversible transition to private corporatism.

It could be argued that as we are all living longer, and at some point the retirement age of 65 will probably need to change. However, this is a small issue, and over time it probably will. Compared to the threat of the privatisation of our public services, it is small beer.

Much criticism of public sector pensions comes from comparisons with private sector ones. This is at the heart of my concerns. Good private pensions have diminished greatly, and the left knows that privatisation all too frequently becomes a race to the bottom. A public service with less pension liabilities is also much easier to privatise.

What is needed is a Government willing to say that too many private schemes are poor, with high fees and management costs. Too much relies on the performance of the highly variable and downright unreliable stock market. Private pensions should be raised to the standard of public sector pensions.

This what the left does at its best – it raises aspirations that the 99% need not rely just on the crumbs the 1% leave behind.

So if you want to support the campaign to keep our public services, please support the strikers on the 30th November.

They are fighting for the 99%.

Sources:

[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-15871340

[2] http://cdn.hm-treasury.gov.uk/hutton_final_100311.pdf

[3] http://www.tuc.org.uk/extras/publicsectorpensions.pdf

TUC Day of Action on Public Service Pensions on 30 November 2011.

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Campaign film for the TUC Day of Action on Public Service Pensions on 30 November 2011.

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We could stop the cuts: we can collect tax due instead. That way we all win.

Richard Murphy has published his new research for The Tax Justice Network which estimates tax evasion for 145 countries in the world covering 98% of world GDP between them…..  $3.1 trillion to illegal tax evasion.

http://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2011/11/25/collect-the-evaded-tax-avoid-the-cuts/

… the findings show that tax evaded in the UK might be £69.9bn a year….

…  Despite government claims that they are tackling this issue they’re still planning to cut 12,000 jobs at HM Revenue & Customs over the next few years; job losses that will simply deny our tax authority the people needed to chase tax due by cheats in this country. That makes no sense. Twenty thousand new staff at HMRC could transform government finances and with it the state of our national economy. Tackling tax evasion is in the national interest and in the world’s interest. Now we know just how much tax is evaded a new strategy for tackling the world’s deficits is available.

<a href=”” title=”Tackle Tax Havens”>

Who could possible disagree?  It has to be the Tory-LD government, the political wing of the City of London and the UK’s most ancient tax haven…. home of the 1%.

Support the strike on 30th November 2011.

Welfare reform and the US insurance giant Unum.

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The extraordinary announcement that GPs may no longer be able to sign their patients off work for periods longer than 4 weeks, offers an insight as to corporate involvement which underpins the policy decisions of neoliberal governments. There are doubtless many shades of understanding and levels of cynicism amongst both the supporters and the protagonists of these policies, but there are certainly those who know exactly how to deliberately spin the narrative to achieve the desired financial outcome for the ‘markets’. This post attempts to draw out some of the strands.

Lord Freud, Minister for Welfare Reform, has announced a new way in which this government can potentially deter the disabled and long-term sick from claiming benefits.  No longer would the GP be able to sign patients off work for longer than 4 weeks.  After that period, the professional expertise of the medic would be subject to an independent assessment, presumably by the highly questionable tick list/points system used by a private contractor such as ATOS.  Furthermore, according to a Guardian report  People who are signed off sick would also be put on to jobseeker’s allowance, rather than employment support allowance, for a period of three months. They would receive less money and have to prove they were looking for work.

So yet another tranche of ill and disabled people would have to comply with an inappropriately structured assessment with all the attendant worrying, potential exacerbation of symptoms and travel expenses; not to mention additional costs to the tax-payer, that such a superfluous assessment entails.

Labour MP Dennis Skinner said: “Last year, the government said GPs should be accountants in charge of the money that is spent in the NHS. This year they want assessors to be GPs. It’s crazy. No wonder the country is going to the dogs.”

So why are we being told that, on the one hand, the GPs are the right people to determine the spending of billions of tax payer’s money on health commissioning, notwithstanding their lack of expertise, but that they cannot be trusted to use their professional judgement in assessing a patient’s health and/ or the need for a referral to occupational health?

One answer is to ‘follow the money’.  The medical profession diagnose some patients with intractable long-term illnesses like Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain, Lyme Disease, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), and so on…  all of which could prove ruinously expensive for private health providers like the US employment protection insurer Unum.

‘Unum’s 1995 ‘Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Management Plan’ sounded the alarm: ‘Unum stands to lose millions if we do not move quickly to address this increasing problem’

 

Unum (www.unum.com) is one of the leading providers of employee benefits products and services and the largest provider of group and individual disability income protection insurance in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Unum’s close involvement with Welfare Reform, politicians, psychiatrists, academics and think tanks is well documented, and arguably can be likened to the tentacles of the Goldman Sachs squid extending across European governments. https://think-left.org/2011/11/07/the-market-has-a-name-it-is-goldman-sachs/

Unum’s UK activity since the 1990s is referred to in:

https://think-left.org/2011/08/04/welfare-reform-and-mecfs/

http://www.lwbooks.co.uk/journals/articles/rutherford07.html

But in addition, Private Eye has also raised questions about Unum’s involvement with the DWP (Department of Work and Pensions).

The Eye first questioned Unum about the possibility
of a serious conflict of interest back in 1995… Tricky questions are again being asked about the profits American insurance
giant Unum stands to make from its massive media push on income protection
cover, promoted as the answer to the latest tough welfare
reforms …..

Meanwhile disability activists who have fallen foul, and been forced to appeal
cuts in DWP benefits based on flawed Atos assessments, and campaigning groups
like Black Triangle, think the whole thing stinks and are urging MPs to
investigate.

http://victimsofatoscorruption.wordpress.com/2011/11/10/private-eye-magazine-asks-questions-again-about-unum-dwp/

It is clear that there is a ‘happy match’, a common objective, between the neoliberal political view of benefits, and the interests of private health insurers.  The neoliberal politician wants to shrink the State and reduce public expenditure via privatisation, and the private health insurer wants to maximize profitability by not having to pay out for any claims.  Both, therefore, want to remove people from benefit entitlement and, to that end, working collaboratively within the DWP would clearly make ‘sense’.  Unfortunately, neither the agenda of the politician, nor the health insurer, address or include the actual reality of diverse problems of ill health and the myriad of difficulties faced by sufferers … and as has been described there are several million sufferers of intractable long-term illnesses and permanent disabilities. In effect, the DWP agenda is motivated towards denying ‘illness’ and associated legitimate need, wherever possible.

In order to bridge this gap between the policy makers and reality, a narrative must be constructed which is both compelling and achieves the common objective without it being obvious that the real agenda is privatization and withdrawal of public expenditure.  The narrative chosen usually attributes some innate characteristic to a particular group.  For example:

‘GPs are our most trusted members of society and know what is best for their patients…  therefore they should do healthcare commissioning for the NHS’

‘GPs are too emotionally involved and do not know what is best for their patients … therefore, we need an ‘objective’ assessment.’

However, the underlying assumptions about illness upon which the DWP predicate their actions seem to have slipped out in the following quote:

Justifying the new proposals, UK’s national director for health and work, and the former head of the British chambers of commerce David Frost, said when people were off sick for longer than four weeks they started “to lose the will to work” 

Anything more than cursory consideration, indicates that this is a ludicrous and totally unsubstantiated statement.  All people become work averse after 4 weeks of being so ill that the GP considers them unfit to go to work? Where is the evidence for such an assertion? It is not even clear how it would be possible to validate such a claim scientifically.

However, this statement is consistent with the biopsychosocial model of illness which needs to be explored more fully in another article.  Suffice it to say that this Orwellian model redefines ‘illness’ and was created by ‘psychiatrists and academics … happy to draw on their moral authoritarianism and neo-liberal policy prescriptions (and unmentioned links with Unum) to produce a monograph, The Scientific & Conceptual Basis of Incapacity Benefits (TSO, 2005, Waddell and Aylward) which was published by the DWP, and provides the intellectual framework for the 2006 Welfare Reform Bill (1).

The proposition, “to lose the will to work” amply indicates one of the moral panics of authoritarianism that human beings only behave ‘properly’ if offered ‘the stick or the carrot’… ie. people will pretend to be ill to get out of work if given the opportunity.

This view of humanity or ‘model of man’ underpins both neoliberal policy decisions and the justification for the so-called ‘free-market’.  The nature of ‘Man’ is perceived as innately self-interested, greedy, and wanting to ‘pull a fast one’, unless they are restrained by laws or offered incentives.  That it is considered to be innate, and therefore immutable, justifies both taking advantage of others to get the best deal, and the imperative to punitively control the other to prevent having that advantage taken away.  Hence, we have a one-sided neoliberalism.

‘..neoliberalism has not so much been about increasing wealth, but about redistributing it.

https://think-left.org/2011/10/14/capitalism-neoliberalism-plutonomy-and-neo-feudalism/

Unsurprisingly, given the lack of fit with reality:

‘The work capability assessment programme, which assesses benefit claimants to see whether they are fit for work is “teetering on the brink of collapse” as the system becomes clogged up with appeals.’

http://www.guardian.co.

uk/politics/2011/nov/21/benefits-appeals-system-near-collapse

Appeals have quadrupled, and Citizen’s Advice Bureau’s are inundated with people seeking advice on how to appeal.

It is clear that the changes and cuts made to the benefits system are based on the interface of ideological, psychological, political and financial factors, and are simply not tenable.  The appalling impact of these ‘welfare reforms’, ungrounded in reality, are only now beginning to come to light with tragic reports of suicides http://diaryofabenefitscrounger.blogspot.com/2011/11/latest-disability-news-roundup.html but little reported in the mainstream media are the increased levels of hardship, worry and deprivation for the disabled and long-term sick whom the overwhelming majority of the population would wish to support.

Somewhat horrifyingly, these facts are used to the advantage of Unum UK in their advertising ploys:

McGarry,
chief executive at Unum UK, earlier this year warned: “The
 government’s welfare reform bill will seek to tighten the gateway to benefits 
for those people unable to work due to sickness or injury. Each year up to 1m 
people in the UK become disabled and the reforms mean that working people will 
be able to rely less on state benefits to maintain the standard of living they
were used to prior to their illness.”

http://victimsofatoscorruption.wordpress.com/2011/11/10/private-eye-magazine-asks-questions-again-about-unum-dwp/

So, Unum warns people to get insured against the cuts in benefits … of which they, Unum, were major architects …. either directly as advisory consultants, or through their funding of psychiatrists who created the intellectual framework, the funding of think tanks and academics who in turn recommend policies to the DWP, and  by offering ‘jobs for the boys’.  For example, by funding the 1.6m  UnumProvident Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research at Cardiff University, and appointing Mansel Aylward (the former DWP Chief Medical Officer and co-author of the DWP  biopsychosocial monograph) Director of the unit..

It is hard to believe that there are not some very hard-headed individuals in Unum who are not fully aware of the heist that they have perpetrated.

It should be noted that there are many other private health providers who have doubtless played a similar role in creating Lansley’s new model for the NHS…

However, it cannot be avoided that many of these policies stem from New Labour’s period in office.  It is particularly noteworthy that a common link is provided by Lord Freud who switched from New Labour to the Conservatives in 2009, having been appointed by Tony Blair to provide an independent review of the British welfare to work programme in 2006, and then rehired as an adviser to the government when James Purnell was appointed Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in 2008.  A former journalist for the FT, Freud became the vice-chairman of investing banking at UBS AG until his retirement in 2003.  His expertise in disability or long-term illness is rather notably absent but his background in asset management and financial structures is clearly impressive.

UBS AG (SIXUBSN, NYSEUBS) is a Swiss global financial services company headquartered in Basel and Zürich, Switzerland, which provides investment banking, asset management, and wealth management services for private, corporate, and institutional clients worldwide, as well as retail clients in Switzerland.  (Wikipedia)

In order to become Real Labour, Ed Miliband and his team must draw a clear line away from New Labour’s policies, and devise a programme of Welfare Reform which is fit for purpose, and which really meets the needs of some of the most vulnerable people in society.  The present arrangements should be rejected because they are dangerous, punitive and would be completely unacceptable to most of the population if their true impact was exposed.  Philip Gould, one of the architects of New Labour, advised Tony Blair in 1997 to ‘Reassure, reassure, reassure’.  Ed Miliband explicitly needs to ‘Reassure, reassure, reassure’ the population of the UK, that they will be appropriately protected and helped if they or their family are, or should find themselves, vulnerable and in need due to long-term illness or disability.

(1) https://think-left.org/2011/08/04/welfare-reform-and-mecfs/

https://think-left.org/2011/11/19/doctor-doctor-2/