Cardiff: Clegg Receives Anti-Workfare Message

7th March 2012

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Youth Fight for Jobs and Cardiff Trades Council demonstrated outside the Welsh Liberal Democrats spring conference on Saturday to oppose the government's workfare scheme, which has seen the unemployed forced to work for big companies or risk losing their benefits.

Joined by around 70 trade union, young, socialist and Occupy Cardiff activists the protest sent a clear message to Nick Clegg and his coalition cronies that the exploitative workfare programme won't be tolerated, and the campaign that has seen some large companies pull out of the scheme is far from over.

We saw Clegg hurry sheepishly into the conference behind a line of police and security, as the crowd chanted "When Nick Clegg says workfare, we say unfair!" and "Tory!"

The deputy prime minister has said the workfare programme will help get the unemployed "off the sofa".

This shows how millionaire Nick is completely isolated from the reality of unemployment which he has never had to face. Maybe he should be asked to work for £2.19 an hour!

The truth is that far from helping the unemployed this scheme will see workers' pay and conditions attacked.

Capitalism uses unemployment to drive down costs and workfare is a prime example of this exploitation. Why hire someone on a real wage when you can get someone to work for free?

The pressure on workers means it is vital to link up with the trade unions and the staff in workplaces, and is why Youth Fight for Jobs called a joint demonstration with Cardiff Trades Council.

Usdaw activists supported the demonstration; trade unionists will be vital in building a mass movement to oppose the scheme.

After protesting outside the conference the demonstration marched to the centre of town, to protest outside McDonald's, a company that is worth $22.8 billion but still sees the need to avoid paying some of its workers.

The protesters handed out leaflets, and came up with the chant: "Old McDonald had a shop, ee-I-ee-I-Oh; And in that shop there worked some slaves; ee-I-ee-I-Oh; With a big mac here, a fatcat there, here a big mac, there a fatcat, everywhere a fatcat; Old Mcdonald had a shop! ee-I-ee-I-Oh!"

The workfare scheme has demonstrated how the main parties offer no credible alternative to youth unemployment, but it has also demonstrated that a focused campaign being lead by socialists can have a huge impact on this weak government and even on major corporations.

Steffan Bateman
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