by Caroline Colebrook
MEMBERS of Parliament of all the three main parties have been hugging the headlines as evidence of their personal greed and expenses fiddling emerges.
It is almost as though the ruling class prefers this scandal to fill the newspapers and news bulletins because it distracts from far greater scandals.
For a start, the personal greed and corruption of Britain’s bankers and landowners would dwarf that of the grubby little MPs, who take only thousands while the real ruling class pocket billions.
But the really big scandal is the effect all this is having on the daily lives of Britain’s working class. Last Tuesday’s official figures put the number of people out of work in Britain at 2.2 million, an increase of 244,000 in the first three months of 2009, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
This brings the unemployment rate from 6.7 per cent to 7.1 per cent, the biggest rise since 1981. These figures go to the end of March so we can only speculate what the current figures are. Top bourgeois economist Brian Hilliard said: “I fear that the unemployment rate... is certain to deteriorate much further.”
“We had been looking for 6.9 per cent so that is a really sharp acceleration.”
Average earnings, including bonuses, fell 0.4 per cent compared to the same three months in 2008. They had not fallen since records began in 1991.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “Unemployment is the country’s number one emergency and the government must use all possible means to address it.
“Some people in the City are already talking of recovery. But the only recovery in the real world will be when unemployment starts to fall.”
On the same day ONS figures revealed that manufacturing in Britain is again falling sharply. It fell 5.5 per cent in the first three months of this year – though even that was not as bad as the previous quarter, which was the worst since 1948.
But it seems the weak pound has helped to narrow Britain’s trade deficit as foreigners find our exports cheaper and fewer imports are being bought.
A TUC analysis of the official figures found that one in nine (11.2 per cent) people in part-time work are only doing so because they cannot find full-time jobs.
The TUC found that the number of involuntary part-time workers has increased sharply over the last two years to 829,000 – the highest figure since May 1994.
The growth of involuntary part-time work reflects the lengths that people are going to in order to stay in work, says the TUC.
The lack of full-time work is demonstrated in jobcentres across Britain, with Government statistics showing that over one in four (27 per cent) vacancies are for less than 16 hours a week.
The majority of involuntary part-time workers are female (451,000 women compared to 378,000 men) reflecting the fact that around 80 per cent of Britain’s part-time workforce are women.
Pay rates for part-time work are much lower than for full-time work. Women working part-time earn 36.6 per cent less per hour than men working full-time. Men working part-time earn 27 per cent less than full-time male equivalents.
The prospects of manufacturing industry in this country took another huge blow last week when Tata Steel – the company that took over Corus – announced it was planning to “mothball” its giant plant on Teesside, threatening 2000 jobs there.
The announcement came after a contract was cancelled. The company, the world’s sixth-largest steelmaker, said it had to consider mothballing operations after a consortium that had a 10-year off-take agreement for 78 per cent of the plant’s output decided last month to unilaterally terminate the contract after just five years.
Unions reacted immediately, calling on the Government to intervene.Tom Brennan GMB Northern Regional Secretary said: ‘‘This has come as a great shock. We are seeking urgent meetings with the Government and the company to see what can be done.
“This is appalling news. We cannot believe that the consortium is taking such irresponsible action that will have a devastating effect on our members and the whole community in Teesside,” said Michael Leahy, general secretary of Community (formerly the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation).