Labour to Get Tough with Jobless
Barrie Clement, Labour Editor, The Independent (London, England)
As part of a radical carrot-and-stick approach to unemployment, a Labour government would pay the national minimum wage to the long-term jobless for undertaking community work. If the unemployed refused the jobs offered they would lose large chunks of their state benefits.
The strategy being drawn up by Ian McCartney, the party's chief employment spokesman, is an attempt to break with discredited "schemes" for the jobless where the work was considered meaningless and the training minimal.
The plan involves the concept of the "intermediate labour market" where there is a need for goods and services, but private enterprise cannot satisfy the demand because there is insufficient money to pay for it. Mr McCartney argues that there is sufficient money already in the system to fund the work and ensure that participants were covered by the same statutory minimum wage as employees in conventional jobs. He believes that the application of the minimum rate is critical to the psychology of those who would participate. He pointed to the cash already spent on benefits, existing schemes for the long-term unemployed, local authority budgets and grants available from European funds. Ministers will claim that the idea is little different from the Project Work initiative already being piloted which pays the unemployed pounds 10 on top of their benefits - except that Labour's programme will be far more expensive. Sceptics will also warn that organisations operating in the "intermediate labour market" might undercut conventional enterprises and throw other people out of work, The Centre for Local Economic Strategies calculates that by bringing together budgets for existing schemes into a national fund of pounds 1. …