The Guardian May 31, 2000


Work for the dole
Work for nothing!

by Magda Hansson

The Queensland Teachers Union (QTU) has become aware that Queensland 
schools have been approached to participate in work for the dole schemes. 
One scheme is called "Skool Werk" where unemployed people will be placed in 
schools as "teacher aides". It is not known if the participants of the 
scheme will undergo any training before they are placed in schools.

A similar situation exists in the area of childcare where at least 350 work 
for the dole participants have been approved by the Federal Government to 
work in childcare centres. After the federal government abolished $850 
million from the childcare budget many cash-strapped centres have been 
forced to take on work for the dole participants. However, the Liquor, 
Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers' Union (LHMWU) who represent 
childcare workers are also against such work for the dole schemes.

While both unions want the unenmployed to be given a fair go they do not 
support work for the dole schemes as being in the best interests of either 
the unemployed or workers.

There are many reasons for opposing work for the dole schemes. It is based 
on the erroneous theory that there is something innately wrong in the 
nature of the unemployed that they do not want to work or that they are 
lazy. Those that would profit from their cheap labour have levelled such 
criticisms at workers for centuries. 

It was said of the crofters in England when they showed reluctance to 
abandon their self-sufficient life on the land for the dark satanic mills 
of Birmingham, Manchester and other nascent industrial cities. Only by the 
local aristocracy evicting their tenants and replacing them with sheep were 
the new mills and foundries able to exploit the labour of the now landless 
peasantry.

Those that invaded other countries said it of the indigenous people of the 
colonies. The hunting and gathering and agricultural practices that had 
sustained their cultures for millennium were "primitive" or even 
"barbarous" and what they needed to do to become "civilised" was to first 
exchange their lands for a few beads and yards of fabric then they would be 
"free" to grow tea and coffee and tend cattle. Those who refused to comply 
and held on to their traditional way of life could be captured and sold as 
slaves or required to pay taxes to force at least one member from each 
family into the capitalist work force.

Compel

The work for the dole schemes apply the same underlying attitude. Only the 
prospect of the withdrawal of benefits compel people to participate in such 
exploitation. Work for the dole schemes are not about beautifying parks and 
gardens or doing good deeds for the community or the creation of on-going 
jobs. They are a coercive system to provide cheap labour for government 
institutions in the first instance. As time goes on this will be extended 
to private employers. 

Work for the dole schemes allow the government to wash its hands of its 
responsibility for the structural causes of unemployment. What is not 
addressed is the fact that unemployment is created by the system of 
exploitation and government policy and is good for business. 

A large pool of unemployed workers acts as a brake on the ability of those 
who are employed to bargain for better working conditions as evidenced by 
the huge amounts of unpaid overtime now being worked by most workers and 
expected by their employers. Business is able to pay less and get more 
labour power from their workers by using the real fear of unemployment. By 
dividing the working class into two groups  those with and those without 
jobs  the ruling class pits workers against each other.

In whatever way the statistics are looked at, there are not enough jobs for 
those that need and want work. As it is the statistics have been fiddled 
for years to redefine the real unemployment levels to make it look as 
though the government is doing something about it, when they are not. 

Real job creation schemes are an urgent necessity not work for the dole 
schemes that do not bring any solution of the problem.

Back to index page