By Noah Wilderbeest
The new Kapos like chocolate cake, Krispy-Kreem doughnuts, crystal therapy healing, Reiki sessions and Tarot readings. The new kapos take all friggin’ manner of pop-psych self improvement courses (“7 Highly Effective Ways To Unleash the Inner YOU!”), read the Murdoch press, and use expressions such as; “…that’s because you’re a nurturer!” to one another.
These nurturing qualities do not extend to their charges, in fact it’s actively discouraged.
The new kapos similarly to their twentieth century counterparts, are drawn from the lower end of the socio-economic scale. In the main they’re from unskilled or semi-skilled occupations. In the 90s, the new kapos delivered spare parts to automotive repair shops, drove delivery vans, mowed lawns, worked as kitchen hands or hairdressers, hospital porters or receptionists and maintenance men but that was then and this is now.
The job of the new kapos is to enforce government policy on the payment of unemployment benefits.
Unlike their twentieth century counterparts, the new kapos do not need clubs, whips, dogs or electrified fences to keep their charges in line. They don’t need them. They have effective financial control over each and every ‘client’ they case manage.
The kapos, male and female, are given inordinate power over their clientele.
“Case officers”, “Employment Consultants”, or “Labour Market Specialists” are able to suspend clients unemployment benefit payments for eight weeks – on the spot – for “infringements of their mutual obligation contract” leaving the client to either appeal the decision, a process that can take weeks, and whose outcome is far from certain, or to try to find some means of supporting themselves.
The kapos oversee around 120 clients at any given time and the pressure is on. New inductees are told to; ‘‘get em off the dole anyway you can. Work for the dole, voluntary work, or just breach ‘em for the slightest excuse”. And they have the authority to do so. Most recently, they were given the added powers of being able to breach a client for “not providing a satisfactory outcome” when interviewed by their ‘Labour Management Specialist’.
A satisfactory outcome being total acquiescence to the dictates of someone whose horoscope has told them “best to deal firmly with people who have a negative outlook today.”
Like their mid twentieth century counterparts, the new kapos never question their role, it’s all very straight forward; enforce the rules whether or not there are any jobs for their clients to apply for. Otherwise, it’s the dole queue for the Labour Management Specialist, and in my time at the DS provider, I saw almost a complete staff turnover (approximately 20 staff) within the space of nine months.
During a conversation, a case officer told me that there were plenty of jobs available but most were down to networking, “All the jobs that I’ve had came through networking, they weren’t advertised” she said smugly.
When the topic shifted to a whinge about pay and conditions at the JNS, and I asked her why she didn’t leave if she had such good a network and there were plenty of jobs available.
“I’ve been looking”, she said, “but there hasn’t been anything advertised that’s worthwhile”. I mean, most of them are only casual or part-time and the pay is really shit. I’m really worried what I’ll do when my contract expires”.
Last week it was Paul Farrell’s piece in the Guardian on the entrenched bullying practices of the Jobactive/Disability Service Providers reported by the Australian Unemployed Workers Union National Hot-line.
This week it’s ACOSS remonstrating the government over the use of threats of jail made to welfare recipients.
The fact that 170 people lodged complaints should be reason enough to raise alarm bells about a government funded system which enables private enterprise to seek profit from the curse of unemployment, and it’s a mark of the draconian structure of the system that only 170 complainants had the courage to report their treatment; in all likelihood, the rest were either too cowered or too apathetic. Anyone who has become unemployed quickly learns that they have little or no power and that their fate is in the hands of the new kapos.
Fear and apathy is how the system works. Exploitation through entrenched bullying is how it is carried out…
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