Mash up Jobmatch!

The past week has seen the introduction of an important new weapon in the state’s ongoing war against benefit claimants: Universal Jobmatch. This development seems to have gone almost unnoticed outside of a few welfare-focused sites like The Void, Intensive Activity, and Consent.me.uk, but it could potentially have devastating effects for many claimants. The new system has been designed and introduced specifically to make it easier for the jobcentre to spy on claimants and eventually sanction them for not doing enough. This should concern everyone who receives benefits, or who might end up having to rely on them at some point in the future – even if you’re currently doing enough to meet your jobseekers’ agreement so you feel you have nothing to hide, bear in mind that the requirements could change at any time, and there’s talk of requiring people to spend 35 hours a week looking for work when Universal Credit is brought in, as discussed on page 9 of this document. This seemingly harmless jobsearch system is in fact a tool that could be used to throw huge numbers of people into absolute poverty.
Officially, Universal Jobmatch is a voluntary system, but it’s worth bearing in mind how little control claimants have over anything – Universal Jobmatch is not mandatory, but jobcentre staff have the power to give unemployed people “directions” that they have to follow, and they can give people directions to sign up. As usual with the benefits system, it’s a confusing mess. And although claimants have the right not to sign up, there’s no guarantee that they’ll know about it – jobcentre staff aren’t going to tell people “hey, there’s this new system, you can sign up if you want or you think it’ll be useful”, they’re telling them “we have a new system, sign up to it”. As harsher and more terrifying sanctions are continually being brought in, many people have an entirely reasonable fear of getting in trouble and losing their benefits, and so they’ll just go along with whatever their adviser tells them without questioning it
Still, while Jobmatch is a harsh tool designed to spy on and punish claimants, it’s being sold as a helpful tool to making jobsearching easier, and at the moment they’re mostly relying on “voluntary” signups. I think this means it’s an area where campaigning could have a real impact. A lot of political activism tends to take the form of “awareness raising”, and, as anyone who’s been politically active for a while and is still in touch with reality will be aware, that usually means it’s pretty futile: just making people aware of a situation is not enough, unless they have some power to change it. The recent wave of demonstrations against Israel’s latest attack on Gaza are a good example of this well-meaning but utterly ineffective mode of activism, as British citizens gathered in town centres up and down the land in the hope that somehow a brutal, murderous government half the world away would pay attention and change its behaviour as a result. Universal Jobmatch is different: it actively requires claimants’ participation, which makes it much easier to sabotage. This is something it has in common with the Poll Tax, which was perhaps the last great victory won by struggle from below in this country, and ID cards, which still haven’t been made compulsory despite being a major project of the last government. Spreading the word about Universal Jobmatch will mean that fewer people sign up, and that’ll make it harder for the government to sell the scheme as a success. It’s rare for leafleting to have a real impact, but letting someone know about their right to refuse could mean they don’t sign up, and in turn that could save them from getting sanctioned.
With that in mind, here’s a brief leaflet I’ve designed for people to print off and hand out at Jobcentres: Jobmatch leaflet. It’s a word document, so should be easy enough to edit if you want to add contact details for a group, or just if you think you can improve on the wording or design. If, for whatever reason, you want it as a PDF instead, here you go: Jobmatch leaflet PDF. It might also be a good idea to print off and hand out some of the stuff that consent.me.uk’s guide to jobmatch links to, particularly these DWP guidelines which state that claims to benefit will not be affected by a refusal to sign.
For an individual, refusing to register with Jobmatch could save them from being sanctioned. On a collective level, a mass refusal of Jobmatch could be a rare chance to inflict a major defeat on the government’s welfare reform schemes. Either way, this is one area where we can really make a difference.

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About nothingiseverlost

"The impulse to fight against work and management is immediately collective. As we fight against the conditions of our own lives, we see that other people are doing the same. To get anywhere we have to fight side by side. We begin to break down the divisions between us and prejudices, hierarchies, and nationalisms begin to be undermined. As we build trust and solidarity, we grow more daring and combative. More becomes possible. We get more organized, more confident, more disruptive and more powerful."
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6 Responses to Mash up Jobmatch!

  1. Ollie S says:

    The limits to the Israel-Gaza protests do to whatever extent show the limited possibilities of international solidarity (in our current world/situation/etc). Our government’s support for Israel would soon disappear if the international solidarity (with Palestinian working people) extended to disruption of British capitalism/daily life, ie British workers striking in order to end the British state’s support for Israel. Obviously, class consciousness and internationalism in Britain is no where near this level. But I think an action like that is a sound base for international-solidarity action, that’d work better than the protests. This is quite a complex issue however.

    • Yeah, I actually intend to write up something about nationalism, Zionism and anti-Zionism in the next few days thinking about the experience of those protests, although that’ll be more about politics than tactics (as far as you can separate the two). A super-simplified version of my views on the subject – and this is, of course, very reductionist – would be something like: the idea of mass direct action as something that wins victories isn’t really in “our” collective cultural memories, so in the absence of that tradition, it makes sense for ineffective liberal forms of protest to be the default for anti-war protests. I think that if a successful campaign of non-registration successfully derailed Jobmatch, it could play a part in building/rebuilding a cultural context where suggesting direct action makes sense to people – obviously, it wouldn’t be enough on its own, but in conjunction with other successful direct action campaigns it would be a step in the right direction.
      So, I think a shared cultural understanding of direct action as something that can be successful (I keep on using these really clunky terms, but hopefully you get what I mean) is pretty much a prerequisite for an effective anti-war or international solidarity movement, and I think that mass non-registration defeating Universal Jobmatch could be one small step helping us to get to that starting point.
      It is complex, though – from one perspective, you can say that the wave of university occupations against Israel’s last attack on Gaza at the start of 2009 were a bit futile, because British universities have no real influence whatsoever over Israeli foreign policy, and I doubt that the occupations had any impact on the outcome of that conflict, but on the other hand, those occupations were less than two years before the wave of uni occupations over fees and cuts in late 2010, and I’m sure that many of the same people will have been involved in both, and the lessons learnt during the first set of occupations will have been of some use during the second. So things don’t quite fit into a nice, simple framework of “issues that affect us directly = effective direct action, international solidarity protests = ineffective abstract lobbying”.
      Cor, that comment ended up being a lot longer than I meant it to be.

  2. Pingback: More thoughts on Jobmatch | Cautiously pessimistic

  3. Pingback: Zionism and anti-Zionism: an anti-state perspective | Cautiously pessimistic

  4. Pingback: Jobmatch: the latest news, and a few thoughts on where next. | Cautiously pessimistic

  5. Pingback: It’s all about where you’re at: some fragmented thoughts on the current state of things | Cautiously pessimistic

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