Fight Job Seekers Allowance

The TUC called a national meeting last week on the JSA, which aims to penalise the unemployed still more for the ‘crime’ of being out of work

THE CAMPAIGN against the Tories’ planned Job Seekers Allowance has been hotting up. The civil service unions, CPSA and NUCPS, have stopped virtually all of the 20 planned pilots of the JSA, with ballots for industrial action under way in a number of offices. Local campaigns have been springing up - with occupations, pickets and demonstrations taking place. The recent announcement by the government to delay full implementation of the JSA by six months has revealed the potential to stop it completely. This was not however the intention of the TUC in calling last Thursday’s mini-conference at Congress House.

The tone of the day was set by Labour MP Malcom Wicks of the Social Security Select Committee. Sounding like a Victorian missionary, he said the JSA would be a “discouragement to thrift and savings”. He swiftly left, before he was asked to give any straight answers.

Richard Exell, TUC golden boy on the campaign trail against the JSA, introduced the session on the “discussion to determine the future direction of the campaign”. The whole aim of the new look TUC was to “empower local campaigns”, meaning the TUC did not have to do anything for our money. The objective of these “empowered” local campaigns, however, is not to defeat the JSA. It is more in the interests of getting Tony Blair elected - ie, “we want this one to cost them votes”. Delegate after delegate called for a national campaign to defeat the JSA. Scottish delegates spoke of the example of the poll tax, yet any efforts to realise the potential of those gathered was sabotaged by the TUC.

The London Trade Unions Against JSA (CPSA/NUCPS) called for a national demon-stration to provide a focus for the campaign. The West London CPSA Branch, which met that morning, sent a motion to this effect. In the true spirit of democracy, the TUC chair refused to allow the meeting to discuss the motion. Instead, it would be raised in the report to the General Council. It may as well go in the bin. The reality of the TUC role was revealed by the only proposal on the agenda from the TUC itself, a proposal to set up a “project to monitor JSA”. An unemployed delegate from Newcastle pointed out that this was an admission of defeat. The proposal was accepted without a vote being cast!

The TUC has once again reaffirmed its role as the ‘labour lieutenants of capital’. There is a crying need for a national rank and file response of employed and unemployed workers. In London CPSA/NUCPS branches have linked up with Lambeth Unemployed Action Group, Hammersmith Unemployed Workers Centre, Greater London Trades Councils and others to forge such a response. A conference will be called later in the year to extend the fight against the JSA in London. It is an example which must now be followed across the UK.