Speaking to his business backers at the latest Confederation of British Industry annual conference, Gordon Brown told his audience that it was time to make training mandatory for all benefit claimants.

"There are too many people on benefit," says Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (DWP), Peter Hain. And with cuts to disability benefits and child benefit for lone parents, Neo Labour are old hands when it comes to screwing the poor.

Whilst training may be good for some people seeking work, its also a real money spinner for the private companies making millions by forcing the poor into dead end menial McJobs. And what ever happened to the right NOT to work, anyway?

One such company is Working Links. Established in 2000, Working Links was set up to work in the government’s new ‘Employment Zones’. These were areas where poverty and long-term unemployment were at their worst. But rather than offer locals de-cent jobs with a living wage, Working Links have, instead, taken shedloads of tax-payers money to bully people into minimum wage jobs - sometimes even offering jobseekers cash-in-hand incentives to go to interviews.

And it’s not just company bosses or shareholders who benefit from booting the ‘workshy’ into jobs – a Working Links employee can earn a hefty bonus if they decide to be particularly persuasive one month.

Working Links ownership is split four ways between the DWP, Mployment Limited, Manpower plc and CapGemini plc. Mployment is a wholly owned subsidiary of Mission Australia – a bible-bashing outfit which is rolling out a right-wing welfare reform programme down-under. To work for Mission Australia staff-members are required to read Matthew chapter 25 verse 35 ("I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you made me welcome, naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me..." – in case you were wondering).

Mission employees are no strangers to tough welfare policies in a country where Ross Cameron, the former Liberal MPfor Parramatta said that he was "against the welfare state on humanitarian and religious grounds. The early church had welfare, but it was also tough — Paul said ‘Whoever does not work, does not eat."

By promising to send more people on training schemes, organisations like Working Links are pulling down some serious money. £4m profit in 2006, to be exact. Although profits were down to less than a million quid in 2007, this was mainly because of the recruitment of a new ‘sales team’. Turnover’s up 15% and the business won 43 new contracts generating another £6m during the year. The government says that it is determined to ‘grow the value of the business as measured by sustain-able economic profit’, and in this spirit shareholders received a dividend payment of £300,000. Proving that you can make money by pushing people off benefits and into work, Working Links can make nearly three grand for every Incapacity Benefit claimant it gets into a job for at least 13 weeks. Nice little earner!

Business-friendly Brown is promising more and more schemes which must be driving investors wild. Next year Incapacity Benefit will be replaced by the Employment and Support Allowance. ‘Customers’ who don’t agree take part in work-focused interviews or take up training ‘opportunities’ will lose £11 a week for the first refusal, a penalty that doubles if they refuse to toe the line a second time.

Companies like Working Links stand to pick up more contracts as the government considers proposals to cut the benefits of lone parents (with kids over 11) who fail to look for work. There’ll be more ‘intensive mentoring’ of claimants which suggests that Working Links may be putting that new sales team to work phoning jobseekers up at home with the occasional ‘outreach visit’ to boot.

And its onwards and upwards as at the end of November, Working Links landed a contract to run a new welfare-to-work programme in Chile. "The problems facing Chilean workers are similar to those of the UK unemployed," according to Working Links managing director, Keith Faulkner – boring jobs, low pay presumably? Another profiteering company is the Careers Development Group. They’ve set themselves up as a charity and in a speech to Brighton & Hove Business Forum, told local businesses that "CDG could be used by local businesses to source enthusiastic, skilled workers at no cost." Bargain!

Remember kids, as famous US union leader Lane Kirkland said, "If hard work were such a wonderful thing, surely the rich would have kept it all to themselves." (OK, we looked that one up on the internet...)

– from SchNEWS, 13th December 2007