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Politics no image

Published on June 24th, 2012 | by Kirsty McKellar
Image © [caption id="attachment_10516" align="alignnone" width="566"] Do strikers stand to lose benefits and working tax credits? Copyright WhiteAct[/caption]   Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, has this week announced that the government is to limit the amount of benefit workers receive if they take part in industrial action. Employees are eligible for working tax credits if they earn under £13,000, however under the new policy they will not receive their top up if they go on strike. Iain Duncan Smith has denounced the current regulation on striker’s benefits as ‘out of date’ and ‘unfair’. Under the current system workers can go on strike for up to ten days per year without their tax credits being affected. However the new Universal Credit system, set to be introduced next year, combines all current benefits into one single monthly payment. Employees involved in a strike would continue to collect their basic benefits if they already receive Universal Credit, but if their income drops as a result of taking part in a strike their payments will not increase to make up the difference. According to the Department of Work and Pensions nearly 1.4 million days were lost to strike action last year. Iain Duncan Smith stated that ‘striking is a choice’ and that claimants should pay the price for that choice as ‘we no longer will’. Whilst advocates argue that the policy would save the taxpayer tens of thousands of pounds. The plans have proved controversial amongst Labour and the Unions, who have claimed that the move it is a blatant attempt to discourage strike action which is a basic democratic right for workers. Brendan Barber, General Secretary of the TUC, believes that the changes are ‘petty and vindictive’ and depriving families of benefits leaves low-paid workers even more vulnerable to bad treatment. Many Trade Unions believe that this is an attack on low-paid workers’ democratic right to strike. The policy does clearly attempt to discourage strike action. A spokesman from Unite has stated that this is ‘gesture politics’; aimed at putting fear into vulnerable, low-paid workers to stop them from standing up for their rights against poor working conditions. Politicians are creating the impression that striking workers are undeserving and are trying to take advantage of the benefits system. Strikers are frequently portrayed as being selfish or greedy, yet in reality, even with tax credits, it is likely that a striking worker would be sufficiently less well off than in work therefore would not strike meaninglessly and people are generally reluctant to take part in industrial action unless it is due to injustice in the workplace. It is not just low-paid workers who make up the 1.4 million lost days and it is hardly fair to insinuate that workers are currently rewarded for going on strike, after ten continuous days of action workers can lose their entire working tax credit supplement and strikers are not entitled to job seeker’s allowance at all. The Conservative Party came into office claiming that Britain had become a ‘nanny state’ and our benefits system was offering the public a life on benefits, hence the Universal Credits system which is hoped to encourage people back into work. The government insist that the new system will make it impossible to be better off on benefits than in work and prevent fraud. However it is feared that the real impact of Universal Credit will be that work will not be worthwhile for many of the lowest paid workers. Many people see the move to end worker’s benefits as a step too far and yet more evidence of an unsympathetic government whose policies are merely further damaging the working class. Obviously those who can work should work, and there are many who do attempt to manipulate the system. But workers should not be severely punished for exercising their democratic right and taking action in order to secure a just workplace.

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One strike and you’re out!

Do strikers stand to lose benefits and working tax credits? Copyright WhiteAct

 

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, has this week announced that the government is to limit the amount of benefit workers receive if they take part in industrial action. Employees are eligible for working tax credits if they earn under £13,000, however under the new policy they will not receive their top up if they go on strike. Iain Duncan Smith has denounced the current regulation on striker’s benefits as ‘out of date’ and ‘unfair’. Under the current system workers can go on strike for up to ten days per year without their tax credits being affected. However the new Universal Credit system, set to be introduced next year, combines all current benefits into one single monthly payment. Employees involved in a strike would continue to collect their basic benefits if they already receive Universal Credit, but if their income drops as a result of taking part in a strike their payments will not increase to make up the difference.

According to the Department of Work and Pensions nearly 1.4 million days were lost to strike action last year. Iain Duncan Smith stated that ‘striking is a choice’ and that claimants should pay the price for that choice as ‘we no longer will’. Whilst advocates argue that the policy would save the taxpayer tens of thousands of pounds. The plans have proved controversial amongst Labour and the Unions, who have claimed that the move it is a blatant attempt to discourage strike action which is a basic democratic right for workers. Brendan Barber, General Secretary of the TUC, believes that the changes are ‘petty and vindictive’ and depriving families of benefits leaves low-paid workers even more vulnerable to bad treatment. Many Trade Unions believe that this is an attack on low-paid workers’ democratic right to strike.

The policy does clearly attempt to discourage strike action. A spokesman from Unite has stated that this is ‘gesture politics’; aimed at putting fear into vulnerable, low-paid workers to stop them from standing up for their rights against poor working conditions. Politicians are creating the impression that striking workers are undeserving and are trying to take advantage of the benefits system. Strikers are frequently portrayed as being selfish or greedy, yet in reality, even with tax credits, it is likely that a striking worker would be sufficiently less well off than in work therefore would not strike meaninglessly and people are generally reluctant to take part in industrial action unless it is due to injustice in the workplace. It is not just low-paid workers who make up the 1.4 million lost days and it is hardly fair to insinuate that workers are currently rewarded for going on strike, after ten continuous days of action workers can lose their entire working tax credit supplement and strikers are not entitled to job seeker’s allowance at all.

The Conservative Party came into office claiming that Britain had become a ‘nanny state’ and our benefits system was offering the public a life on benefits, hence the Universal Credits system which is hoped to encourage people back into work. The government insist that the new system will make it impossible to be better off on benefits than in work and prevent fraud. However it is feared that the real impact of Universal Credit will be that work will not be worthwhile for many of the lowest paid workers.

Many people see the move to end worker’s benefits as a step too far and yet more evidence of an unsympathetic government whose policies are merely further damaging the working class. Obviously those who can work should work, and there are many who do attempt to manipulate the system. But workers should not be severely punished for exercising their democratic right and taking action in order to secure a just workplace.

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About the Author

Kirsty McKellar

Kirsty has recently graduated from the University of Liverpool, obtaining a degree in Politics and Criminology (BA Hons). She is mostly interested in British politics, particularly the policies of the current coalition government. After completing her dissertation on the reasons for youth voter apathy with a First classification, she has developed a keen interest in young people’s relationship with and participation in politics. Kirsty has also undertaken some valuable work experience with her local MP, Esther McVey. She enjoyed the experience of working in local politics with Members of Parliament and Wirral Borough Council, helping to organise a charity event for the Big Lottery Fund. Kirsty intends to move to London this year to pursue a career in politics and social research, as it is something that she has always been passionate about.



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