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Problems at work: No. 7: Women's work - next year's news

The government is set to introduce yet more measures aimed at “empowering” women – which actually means in this case, forcing them to take low paid jobs.

From October 2005, lone parents on income support with children over 14 years old will be forced to attend “work-focused” interviews every 3 months. This is a blatant attempt by Labour to intimidate single parents into pointless shitty jobs. Alongside this, the government also announced that lone parents will have to complete a “compulsory action plan”, part of which will include applying for any jobs on offer. These draconian measures are designed in the longer term to force single parents to take on any “suitable job” or lose their benefit.

By forcing lone parents into work, the Government is allowing capitalism to continue to drive down wages to the point where workers would not do the work unless the Government forced them to. The result will be even more inequality within society – one of the most shameful blots on their record since 1997 is the ever-widening wealth gap, which exposes their anti-social credentials. In the case of lone parents, the overwhelming majority of which are women, it can only add to the appalling inequality we already experience. Not to mention that fact that it simply adds to the already enormous pressure placed on women trying to raise a family in difficult conditions on a low income.

The unions apparently don't care much about the growing number of people forced to get by on poverty wages. This speaks volumes about the detachment of the unions from a whole sector of the working class. Contrast this with the CNT (the anarcho-syndicalist union in Spain). Instead of having fancy offices staffed by overpaid union beurocrats on big expense accounts, the CNT locates its offices in working class areas, and they are staffed by union activists on a voluntary basis. Through this means, the CNT is part of the working class community and a focal point for local campaigns against low pay. It also gives people the support and confidence to resist state intimidation aimed at forcing people into low paid jobs in the first place. It is this form of fighting union that we at Catalyst want to see established in Britain, as an alternative to the more dead-head unions we have to suffer at present.

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