Image of Hammer and Sickle

New Communist Party of Britain

adopted December 2015

The Crisis

With the start of the current crisis in 2008 many companies sacked workers, introduced short‑time working and reduced inventories by selling goods at discount prices. There was a 50 per cent increase in unemployment rising to 2.6 million by April 2011 but this has subsequently fell back to 1.85 million by the spring of 2015, but was starting to show signs of increasing unemployment. Unemployment statistics do erect a barrier by which governments can hide behind. There are more than 9 million people aged between 16 and 64 who are not in work or looking for work, many of these have just slipped out of sight because there is little hope of finding a decent job. For the 31 million in employment many are trapped in low‑paid, highly insecure jobs, where mistreatment is the norm and where there is limited prospect of escape.

Over the last few years the number of those working in insecure jobs has increased significantly as seen by the sharp increase in the use of zero‑hours contracts. In February 2015 the Government's Office for National Statistics (ONS) published the results of a survey, which estimated that there are at least 1.8 million zero‑hours contracts in use in Britain and that there are an additional 1.3 million workers on employers’ books who did not work during the period of the survey. Zero‑hour contacts have introduced a significant pay reduction on the working class as these contracts are used as a weapon to reduce hourly wages to the absolute minimum.

To increase the burden on paying for the crisis the retirement age has been increased to 66 though not an insignificant change for men it was a huge increase for women who have to work 6 more years before reaching retirement age. This has resulted in increased stress amongst older workers and stopped their ability to claim benefits such as free bus passes.

Of those employed, whether on zero‑hour contracts or not, there are 3.0 million underemployed workers who want to work more hours than they are currently employed to do. On average each underemployed worker would have like to work an extra 11.3 hours per week.

Most workers have seen no benefits from the so‑called recovery. Instead they often find it difficult to make ends meet, with some resorting to pay day loans or even food banks to cover basic household bills and to feed their families. In 2014 more than 1 million people received three days’ food from food banks including for more than 400,000 children and 5,500 people were admitted to hospital in the Britain for malnutrition.

Those in precarious work are also particularly vulnerable to exploitation in the workplace. Due to their uncertain employment status, the transient nature of their work and their low level of weekly pay, many zero‑hours contract workers, agency workers and others in insecure jobs lose out on basic rights at work. Being in such a precarious situation means it is very difficult for workers to complain if they are treated badly. As a result they risk having the few rights they do have disregarded.

Of those employed, 2.9 million regarded themselves as over‑employed i.e. working more hours than they wanted to, some may do it through choice but many are given no choice other than the sack. So with this level of unemployment, under‑employment and over‑employment and with more than 730 thousand 16 to 24‑year‑olds unemployed, the Government’s policy on increasing retirement age must be regarded as absolutely nonsensical.