Thursday, 20 December 2012

The Court Fines You Workfare!

In October, Conservative toff John Glen stood up in the ‘Commons’ and presented a bill calling for the introduction of forced labour for those who weren’t able to pay court fines.

During the motion, Glen hovered around the ideas of justice and fairness; and of the total outstanding fines ‘owed’ to the magistrate as being “too much” —although Glen thinks “[t]his is not so much an issue of lost monies, but more about how to deliver justice to society.” Eh?

Is it about money? Is it about justice? Glen isn’t arsed, because his real sights are set on the unemployed:
“To my mind, there are two clear cases where unpaid work orders could be a preferable means of payment: first, where the deduction of a fine from benefits would risk serious implications for the well-being of the defendant or their household, or where a deduction from a benefits order request is refused because the benefit cannot statutorily be reduced; and secondly, the small number of cases where the defendants wish to accelerate the payment to preserve their income, especially if they are relying on benefits.”
If you were around in 1662, you would've heard a similar presentation being made by Sir William Petty, who suggests "the substitution of compulsory labour for all penalties, 'which will increase labour and public wealth'".

It’s doubtful whether Glen loses sleep over the “well-being of the defendant”; and it’s a massive assumption that defendants, or anyone, would want to “accelerate” themselves into forced labour.

The Courts Act 2003 already forces people to work off their poverty fines, although a pilot scheme operated throughout 2004-2009 found “unpaid work orders” were only applicable to a small number of people. Glen, though, thinks its time to “look-again” at unpaid work orders and wants to fire-up another pilot…but with a twist. Rather than the probation service supervising the pilot, Glen wants Local Authorities and charities to take on the role:
“Many charities would be willing to supervise an individual if that meant they could benefit from a number of hours of work that are of real benefit to a local community.”
Hang on a second. Charities. Unpaid labour. Now where have we heard that before?

With the recent explosion —and subsequent, ongoing implosion— of workfare charities, Con’ Glen provides another piece of the Conservative’s ideological attack on the unemployed by potentially suckering charities into taking charge of another part of an historical network of social discipline and exploitation. At either end of claimant survival lies a charity waving the workfare stick. Nowhere in the presentation of this bill was there mention of other strata of people who might have to endure unpaid labour as a result of unpayable fines: Glen when straight for those claiming benefits.

If Glen has his way, claimants already threatened with DWP-workfare, who find themselves in-front of the magistrate, could also be looking at MoJ-workfare.

These are fucked-up times. Just this week we had some bonehead in the Commons trying to introduce income management for claimants by-way-of welfare cash cards; and then earlier in the year Con Glen is trying to expand, encourage and normalise forced labour as a punishment for the unemployed upended by the Ministry of Justice. 

Every Body is being dragged into the net of exploitation —a hydra of modern accumulation leaving no part of the fabric of society unturned as it readjusts and restructures itself post -crisis. And this attack on our welfare is merely a smaller part of a class assault that’s trans-national in scale. All struggles are now inter-woven and collectively we need to start kicking the living shit out of exploiters going about their daily routine as if it’s business as usual. 


  1. Workfare is and has always been slavery of the poor
    And most vulnerable people in our society and must
    Be extinguished from a so called civilised society
    We want and need jobs that pay a living wage not
    A minimum wage where we need a benefit like working
    Tax credits any one who claims any sort of benefit is now
    By a matter of course labelled by this Tory government as
    A scrounger a person or family to be shunned by society
    Can we still call our society civilised?