An Phoblacht 2 - 2022 small

13 March 1997 Edition

Resize: A A A Print

Workers in struggle: Benefit myths dispelled

If you repeat something often enough it ends up peddled as truth. Never was this more true than in discussions about unemployment benefit. It is an endlessly repeated mantra that unemployment benefits are too high and act as a disincentive to taking up paid employment in the formal economy.

Last week the Irish National Organisation of the Uunemployed went some way towards dispelling that myth in their new research document titled Welfare to Work.

The research analyses the impact paid employment has on the after-tax income of family units of varying size. They look at two particular cases. The first deals with the financial implications of moving into employment with the support of the Back to Work Allowance scheme. The second looks at the implications when the scheme is not available.

The study covers income levels ranging from £8,000 to £15,000 and finds that in both cases unemployed people are significantly better off in paid employment.

The study also highlights a range of other problems faced by unemployed people returning to work. These include the complex nature of the tax and social welfare system and the lack of awareness among the long-term unemployed of existing social welfare measures.

The INOU recommends a ``properly resourced independent welfare rights service'' and a number of changes in tax and social welfare code such as a simplified means test and extending medical cards to cover all children in a family.

Zero tolerance for corporate crime

Much has been made in the media during the week of the Zero Tolerance principle in the so-called fight against crime. The theory originated on the streets of New York where police enforced every possible legal infringement as part of an overall campaign to reduce the level of crime in the city.

Here on the Workers in Struggle page we were fascinated with the proposal which has won so many friends this side of the Atlantic, including Tony Blair, Mary Harney and newest convert Bertie Ahern. We turned our minds to the full possibilities of Zero Tolerance and wonder could it be applied to all crime including:

Employers who are in breach of Labour Court judgements and Labour Relations Commission recommendations. This would include the public sector and so government ministers might find themselves behind bars;
Companies who breach environmental regulations;
Tax fraudsters. Would we finally see an end to amnesties and instead have prosecution and prison sentences for those who, to quote Michael Lowry, fail to ``have their tax affairs in order''? After all, you can get a week in Mountjoy for shoplifting £50 worth of goods, but you can't seem to get a day for £5,000 in unpaid taxes;
Successful fraud prosecutions have been thin on the ground over the last two years. But fraud, embezzlement, robbery and bribery is a thriving industry. Would we see those company bosses and others who selectively disappear with all the money being pursued across national boundaries to those sunnier climates they seem to end up in?

The only drawback to all of this is that if Zero Tolerance was applied to these crimes we really would have to double or treble our available prison places. Now there's a thought.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1