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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Five percent on the dole!

TUESDAY saw the Office of National Statistics (ONS) issue the latest quarterly unemployment figures for September to November. These which show that in UK there are now 1.7 million or five per percent of people of working age on the dole. This is the both the highest since 2016 and the highest quarterly increase with 395,000 reported redundancies since the last quarter, and 828,000 lost jobs since February.

One thing that is clear is that things will get worse before they get better because it is unlikely that people are going to be allowed out to make or spend money any time soon, not until the vaccination programme has been rolled out and found to be effective, which given the evolution of the coronavirus remains to be seen.

The fact that Britain’s population has fallen by 1.3 million implies that many more jobs have vanished but whose former occupants have departed from these shores, suggesting that the rise in those claiming benefits is not the whole story. This would account for the fact that in Scotland there is a decline in the number of employed by 2.8 per cent whilst the number of unemployed fell by 0.1 per cent. It is not difficult to guess which figure the SNP will be boasting about.

The Office for Budget Responsibility estimate the dole queue will have more than 2.6 million people (7.5 per cent) in it by June whilst the Bank of England says that unemployment could rise to 10 percent. In addition, there are people facing such drastic cuts in hours that they are forced into claiming Universal Credit.

Both the Trades Union Congress and its largest member Unite are demanding that the Government’s Job Retention Scheme (JRS) is extended to provide workers with some security.


Unite’s General Secretary Len McCluskey demanded: “The government must not repeat the mistake of the last time round when it delayed on extending the jobs retention scheme only to do so at the eleventh hour. That dithering sent workers to the dole queue.” He claimed that: “All we’re asking for is the same stability as our competitors. Italy, France and Germany all have superior and lengthier furlough schemes. They will emerge from this crisis in a far better shape than this country as a result.”

The TUC’s General Secretary Frances O’Grady doffed her cap to make the same point, saying the Chancellor must extend the scheme until the end of the year, pleading that: “The more people we keep in work, the faster we can recover. But with the job retention scheme set to end in April, millions of people’s jobs hang in the balance. … It’s time to end the uncertainty and anxiety. The Chancellor must urgently extend furlough support to the end of the year to keep jobs safe.”

The head of the boss’s organisation, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), made a similar but more moderate plea for the JRS to be extended until the end of June.

It is all very well leaders of trade unions asking a Tory Chancellor for some favours. This newspaper is not one that calls for a “General Strike to Overthrow the Tory Government” every second issue, but there is an urgent need for much more grassroots activity amongst trade unions in both the private and public sectors, not merely to just hold the line against the recent and widespread ‘Fire and Rehire” disputes we report on inside. Trade union membership is merely half of what it was 40 years ago.

If present day membership density was what it was in the 1970s the bosses would not have even thought about ‘firing and rehiring’.

Instead of wasting time on identity politics and lamenting that the HR department is “not diverse enough”, it is more important that trade unions focus on securing a larger slice of the cake for all workers rather than agonise over the precise distribution of a smaller slice as is presently fashionable.