Showing posts with label austerity cuts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label austerity cuts. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

It's not all over yet

The eight-year programme of cuts to budgets for running Scottish public services is only 40% over.

The analysis, by the Centre for Public Policy for Regions (CPPR) in Glasgow shows 60% are still to be applied between this year and 2017-18. The deepest cuts in that will be towards the last two years of the spending period. A £2.7bn real terms projected cut in resource spending still to come will be increasingly hard to accommodate, especially given the £1.8bn already experienced since 2009-10.

Professor John McLaren, one of the authors of the study, said: "The day-to-day, or resource, budget cuts still to come include some of the harshest annual reductions seen over this period".


Tuesday, May 07, 2013

The cost of cancer

Allan Cowie, general manager for Macmillan Cancer Support in Scotland, has revealed that after fear of pain, money worry is patients’ greatest cause of stress. And demeaning work assessments ruling people are fit to work are also causing unnecessary suffering.


Many Scots, according to the charity boss, have been left with the fear of being labelled scroungers, meaning vital benefits go unclaimed. Cowie said:

“ We worry the stigmatisation of those on benefits may mean patients with cancer are too ashamed to claim. We have encountered cases of terrible poverty. We have heard of instances where people only worry about benefits when they face losing their home. Up until that point, they are more concerned with the dreadful worry of if they will live or die. We have also heard of cases where people have no food in their homes because they have channelled all their money into keeping a roof over their heads. This is not acceptable in this day and age.”

Cancer sufferers face additional costs of a staggering £470 a month – the same as many mortgage payments.

He said: “This is the average cost associated with a cancer diagnosis in Scotland. It accounts not only for heating bills and travel costs for appointments, and dietary needs, but also the reduction in their income. People often can’t work during treatment or rehabilitation. Cancer mounts a two-pronged attack on people’s finances.”

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The price of the cuts

Cuts in a range of welfare payments – including child benefit, tax credits, housing benefit and disability living allowance – will see the average Edinburgh household losing £2170 by 2016.

Some of the biggest cuts will come about as a result of the so-called bedroom tax which will cut housing benefit payments to households with spare bedrooms.

Figures from 2011-12 show that 15,500 households in Edinburgh – 60 per cent of all applicants – required a one-bedroom home. The annual number of one-bedroom city properties available to rent is around 500.

The tragic fact is that with the passing of Thatcher, her legacy, ‘Thatcherism’, remains government policy where the poorest who struggle to survive are the easiest targets for the implementation of austerity cuts.




Thursday, December 13, 2012

The outlook is bleak

Some 26 of 30 countries covered by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development have shown a falling labor share of national income since 1990. International Labor Organization (ILO) data show the gap between the top 10% of earners and bottom 10% increased in 23 of 31 nations since 1995. Between 1999 and 2011, average labor productivity in developed economies worldwide increased more than twice as much as average wages. Real average monthly wage growth worldwide, excluding China, fell to 0.2% last year from 2.3% in 2007. Unemployment might have been higher than it might had it not been for reduction in working hours, shorter working weeks, cuts in overtime and even job sharing in exchange for keeping jobs.

The United Nations bodY focuses on how the shrinking share of the pie going to workers was one cause behind the credit bubble. The falling share of national output going to workers in the decade before the crisis ended up boosting household debt as workers tried to maintain consumption via ever-easier credit. Had falling labor shares of the bottom 99% in the United States not been compensated for by debt-led consumption, it is likely that world economic growth would have slowed or halted much earlier," the report said. The same phenomenon was seen in Britain, Australia,Ireland, Greece, Portugal and Spain. The pressure to rebuild national balance sheets or sustain corporate [profit] margins with further pressure on wages is all too clear.

 Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire who owns the Las Vegas Sands Corporation. Adelson invested more than $100 million in the election, mostly on Republicans who lost -- including $20 million that went to Romney's super PAC "Restore Our Future," $15 million to another super PAC that almost single-handedly kept Newt Gingrich's Republican primary campaign going and about $50 million to nonprofit Republican fronts such as Karl Rove's Crossroads.
Adelson tells the Wall Street Journal he's ready to double his 2012 investment next time around. "I happen to be in a unique business where winning and losing is the basis of the entire business," he says, "so I don't cry when I lose. There's always a new hand coming up." He isn't looking back at his losses.
 Adelson says he has many friends in Washington, "but the reasons aren't my good looks and charm. It's my pocket personality," referring to his political investments. Adelson recently met with three Republican governors said to be eying the 2016 presidential race. This week he met separately with Republicans, House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Screwing the workers


Just four years after the worst shock to the economy since the Great Recession, U.S. corporate profits are stronger than ever. In the third quarter, corporate earnings were $1.75 trillion, up 18.6% from a year ago, according to last week'si gross domestic product report. That took after-tax profits to their greatest percentage of GDP in history.  How is that possible? It’s simple: profits have surged because wages and other labor benefits are down.

Today’s economy is a market. The 1% populariSe the view that today’s economy is a fair and argue, as Margaret Thatcher put it, There Is No Alternative (TINA). The market's real invisible hands are at work insider dealing and anti-union maneuvering plus outright looting and fraud. What they all seek is power is hire strike-breakers, lobby for special favors and backing politicians pledged to act on behalf of the 1%. Firms use political leverage to make sure that anti-labour laws determine employment and working conditions. Capital-intensive industries out-source low-skill jobs to small-scale providers using non-union labor and advocate privatising public utilities largely aimed at breaking trade union power. 

Why are capitalists uninterested in the jobs crisis? The indifference to the jobs crisis isn’t simply a matter of being out-of-touch. Businesses oppose employment creation policies in order to keep wages low, even though this may limit the market for their own output. After all, without a mass reserve army of labour to decrease the demand for labor and bully the workforce into a more pliant state of submission, profitability becomes imperiled by the threat of enhanced worker power and the ensuing demand for higher wages. This is a process one can clearly see in the wake of the present crisis. Rising financial profits have reduced workers' wages and squeezed profits across the rest of the economy, according to a new TUC report. Worker wages have fallen to historic lows. Such are the true splendors of the “market"

Of course, the role of mass unemployment in suppressing wages and ensuring continued profitability necessarily extends to the global capitalist system as a whole. In 2011 the global reserve army of labour stood at some 2.4 billion people, as opposed to the 1.4 billion found in the active labour market. That is, the global reserve army of labor stood 70 percent larger than the active world labour market. “The existence of an enormous global reserve army of labour forces income deflation on the world’s workers,” Foster and McChesney explained in their book The Endless Crisis. Where labour is on the defensive, capital is on the offensive. Hence, amid rising corporate profits we see a varied global attack on labour—stretching from Brooklyn to Broxburn to Bangladesh and beyond. The class struggle must be international. The international dimension of economic power is the IMF, the World Bank and the ECB through which the U.S. and E.U. imposes imposes austerity on Greece, Spain and the rest of the world, targeting families, the elderly, the sick and the poor, as governments slash benefits. People are being pushed into poverty and no longer can afford the basics such as food, heating and education. The "invisible hand" of the market is unable, or unwilling, to satisfy the needs of society.

 Some political activists call for mobilisation against the bankers and the billionaires but socialists say don’t hate the players, hate the game.

Based on this article

Sunday, December 09, 2012

A reality check

All working-age benefits, including tax credits and child benefit, will only go up by 1% a year – less than half the rate of inflation – for the next three years. A cut, in other words, that will be worth £3.75 billion a year to the Treasury, in addition to all the previously announced cuts and freezes. The poorest 30% will be made to bear most of Osborne's budget cuts in the age of austerity.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation explained that as things stand – which is to say, before the next round of cuts – out-of-work benefits cover 60% of the minimum income standard for couples with children, and 40% for single adults.  It is calculated simply by asking ordinary members of the public what they think is "an essential minimum standard of living".

28% of workers engaged in the Scottish private sector earn less than £7.20 an hour. 17% of Scots are stuck in relative poverty – defined as having a household income of less than 60% of median household income. 

Six out of 10 children in Scotland belong to families enduring the contradiction known as in-work poverty. 57% of children in poverty had at least one parent in work.

Oxfam claims, however, that four million of the 13.5 million poor in Britain are in work, of sorts. Meanwhile, the Child Poverty Action Group points out that a couple with two kids would need to find 58 hours of work a week on the minimum wage – if work could be had – simply to be out of poverty.

Zero-hours contracts are spreading. One million workers, by the latest estimate, are stuck in part-time jobs, hoping for more hours.

 In November 2011, the Trussell Trust established a food bank in the south-east of Glasgow. During the Christmas period last year, it helped 168 people, including 103 children. The Trust estimates that up to 60,000 Scots will need its help every year.

 To some, "recession" means a little more prudence when managing the monthly finances. But others, those who can least afford any further cuts in their household budgets will suffer long-term job losses and find it more difficult to feed and clothe their families. They will be much more susceptible to mental and physical ill health and another couple of years will be deducted from their life expectancy. Many will turn to alcoholism and drug misuse as a pitiful means to get to the end of the day in one piece. A particularly cold winter will carry off the vulnerable and elderly people.
The vast majority of those who rely on benefits and tax credits are either in work, have worked, or will be in work in the near future. Families are scraping by in low-paid work, or being bounced from insecure jobs to benefits and back again. The means testing is being de facto deployed by Atos, the inquisitors of the disabled with the presumption of benefit fraud before any claimant is given a single penny of welfare.

The richest 10% in Scotland have incomes equal to the earnings of the poorest 50%. The sheer greedy, corrupt and rapacious bankers and hedge fund managers who caused the recession tell us that they shouldn't be punished for their avarice because the country need their expertise too much but that we the victims should pay the price of their failures and to just knuckle under.

The poor are being blamed for being poor.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Hitting the vulnerable

Tens of thousands of sick and disabled people in Scotland face being forced on to unpaid work programmes under threat of losing their benefits from tomorrow. People with a range of physical or mental health conditions could find themselves stacking shelves in high-street stores such as Tesco and Poundland, or cleaning private homes, under the new proposals. They are to be told that they must take unpaid positions or risk losing up to 70% of their employment support allowance. 

 Across the UK, some 340,000 disabled people have been placed in the work related activity group (WRAG), which means they must undertake a range of activities to help them get back to work, including training, job-hunting – and now mandatory work placements.

 Most disabled people welcome support to get into the labour market, but compulsory placements rarely work, says Richard Hamer, director of external affairs at Capability Scotland. "When disabled people get forced into jobs, they tend to be unsuccessful jobs," Hamer said. "It can be very difficult, not just because of physical difficulties, but also mental impairments – poor mental health for example – for people to adapt to the labour market. If we start simply forcing people into jobs then there's a high likelihood that the employer won't be the best solution for them."

 Susan Archibald, a disability rights campaigner based in Fife, branded the proposed plans "a disgrace" that "will put disabled workers at risk".  Archibald estimates that around 30,000 work-capacity assessments are being carried out each week on disability claimants by Atos.

 Disabled and elderly protestors plan to disrupt the showpiece relay at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, forcing up security costs, if the "fit-for-work" benefits test company Atos is not dropped as a sponsor. Campaigners plan to turn the Queen's Baton Relay, the equivalent of the Olympic Torch relay, into a public-relations disaster if Atos is involved when the Games start, with pensioners and wheelchair-users potentially being arrested for blocking the route.

 Atos Healthcare has a £110m-a-year contract with the Department for Work and Pensions to run Work Capability Assessments to see if sick and disabled people are fit to work. Critics say the tests are flawed, degrading, and meant to cut benefit spending. Next year the firm begins work on a second £400m contract to assess mobility benefits.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Exposing the ethics of the Co-op

On Thursday 22nd a dozen people, including members of benefit claimants' groups Black Triangle and the Crutch Collective, Clydeside Industrial Workers Of The World, Glasgow Anarchist Federation, Glasgow Solidarity Federation as well as other individuals took part in the hour long picket of the Co-Op Bank and supermarket on the same street in central Glasgow.

They gave out leaflets to Co-Op customers and the hundreds of people going pass on their way home from work. The leaflet highlighted the Co-Op's four year occupational health contract with Atos. Atos continue to make huge profits by continuing to assess most sick and disabled benefit claimants as fit for work, ignoring contrary medical evidence, to comply with Government targets for benefit cuts. The cuts are being imposed to make the poor pay again for the latest crisis in capitalism caused by the rich. They asked people to contact the Co-Op to tell the company, that sells itself as ethical, that they will be losing their custom until they cancel their contract with Atos.

Most interest came from older women who perhaps know from experience what the Co-Op is really about. Maybe they know the reality of the Co-Op's claim that they have always been ethical, because they have always provided affordable prices to those in need. In past generations the Co-Op mostly employed women. Their exploitative employment practices are still the same as any other business. Historically the Co-Op has played a significant role in the daily lives of many working class people. But it's contribution to working class emancipation has been marginal at best and at worst has added to illusion that such an aim can be achieved within the capitalist system. Like any other business it is open to the pressures that come with the fluctuations of the marketplace and has made workers redundant when the markets are down. Like any other bosses the Co-Op management have made older workers redundant, using the excuse that they would be incapable of coping with the introduction of new technology, that was never introduced, because managers had nothing better to do than manage workers like cogs in a machine.

Co-Op management tried to placate the protesters with more empty words about ethics, rather than taking action against Atos. They have refused to rule out Atos from the bidding process for their new occupational contract, that starts next year, despite the unethical behaviour of Atos being well documented. If the Co-Op were interested in ethics they would have already publicly rejected an Atos bid. Their decision on who to award the new contract to will be based primarily on cheapness even though the profitable Co-Op do not have to do this out of economic necessity.

Atos and the police have been monitoring anti-Atos activity to try to manage dissent towards ineffectiveness. Now the Co-Op are up to it as well to help their Atos partners. The communications from Co-Op management, the hiring of extra security staff and the ludicrous number of police present for the picket show that the Co-Op are extremely worried about their ethical image, no matter how fake, even from the dent that can be caused to it by a relatively small group and one action. We must be doing something right. Just imagine what actions against the Atos contract by larger groups in more that one place could do.

From here


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Even the lawyers are striking

Lawyers in Edinburgh caused chaos in a court as they staged a walkout in a dispute over changes to the legal aid system.

Anyone with more than £68 of disposable income each week or with £750 in the bank will be expected to pay all or part of the cost of their defence in court under the plans, designed to cut £3.9 million a year from Scotland's legal aid bill. Solicitors say the move will risk miscarriages of justice and deny access to legal representation for all.

Edinburgh Bar Association and Glasgow Bar Association have already voted to take industrial action over the issue and in the first round of action, members at Edinburgh Sheriff Court walked out of the custody court at 11.45am yesterday and protested outside.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Capitalism's Cuts

P&O Cruises are to withhold passengers' tips unless crew hit performance targets. Some of the ship's crew on British cruise holidays who are paid a basic salary of as little as 75p an hour face having extra tips from passengers withheld unless they hit performance targets. Bonuses will be held back in part if customers' feedback ratings do not exceed targets, some of which stand at 96%. Cabin stewards whose attitude was ranked below 92% by customers will forfeit an entire bonus payment worth approximately 15% of their basic salary. 
David Dingle, CEO of Carnival UK, in charge of P&O cruise lines, said "Yes, the minimum wage is more than we pay, but this is a global industry, Our businesses have to remain competitive... We have a manning office in Mumbai. There are queues out on to the street."
TUC general secretary, Brendan Barber, said: "Holidaymakers will be horrified to learn that some of the seafarers on their cruise ships are paid so little. It's high time the disgraceful practice of allowing the shipping industry to pay poverty wages to workers who don't live in the UK was stopped. Exploitative rates of pay for those working on British ships have no place in a modern society."
http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/apr/29/cruise-firm-performance-bonuses-tips

This week, about 70,000 seriously ill, disabled people will lose some or all of their £99-a-week allowance. From Monday, the government will limit receipt of employment and support allowance (ESA), the contributory allowance to just 365 days. By 2015 almost 300,000 people will lose out.
Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy calls this a "betrayal" and argues for a rethink. "About 300,000 people will be losing almost £100 a week even when they continue to be assessed as being too ill too work.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/apr/29/sickness-benefit-cuts

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