I am extremely disappointed by Royal Mail’s decision not to give British Gold medal Paralympic athletes equal treatment when it comes to producing stamps with pictures of successful athletes on them.
To celebrate every gold medal that Team GB wins, Royal Mail has been painting a Postbox gold in the home town of athletes that win gold medals. It is welcome that this practise will also be carried out when an athlete in the Paralympic games wins a gold medal too.
In addition, Royal Mail has been issuing special stamps with pictures of the winning gold medallists every time Team GB wins one. However, they will not be carrying out this practise for disabled athletes when they win gold medals. Instead, all Paralympics winners will feature across a series of six stamps. The reason cited for this is that it would be “logistically impossible” to have this equal treatment of Paralympic athletes as in Beijing, they won 42 gold medals over 10 days of competition.
In a statement on the British Paralympics Association’s website, they say that they are “very pleased with the final plans” and the reason for not having gold medal stamps for Paralympians is “very good”.
If it logistically impossible to provide equal treatment for all our gold medal winning athletes, then Royal Mail simply should not have printed stamps for any athletes. The Olympic and Paralympic Games should be seen as part of one London 2012 Games. It may just be stamps, but there is a bigger picture – it symbolises that there is still a long way to go in the struggle for disability equality.
The announcement, earlier in the winter, that 80,000 people had applied for the 18,000 temporary Christmas jobs advertised by Royal Mail, showed how bad unemployment has become under the coalition – and the latest Labour Market Statistics have confirmed it. These showed, amongst other things, that there are now more people out of work than at any time since 1994, when John Major was Prime Minister, and that youth unemployment is now higher than at any time since the 1980s, when Thatcher was in power. And all the indications are that it is going to get worse.
According to the statistics (which mainly cover the quarter to end September 2011):
Overall unemployment increased by 129,000 to 2.62 million, or 8.3% of the economically active population, the highest figure for 17 years.
The number of people unemployed for over a year increased by 31,000 to 868,000 and the number unemployed for over two years increased by 13,000 to 422,000.
Unemployment amongst 16-24 year olds increased by 67,000 to 1.02 million, giving a youth unemployment rate of 21.9%. This is the highest youth unemployment has been since 1992 when current records began, but previous records suggest that the figures haven’t been this high since the mid 1980s.
The number of economically inactive people (not included in the unemployment statistics) increased by 64,000 to 9.36 million, or 23.3% of 16-64 year olds.
The number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) increased by 5,300 to 1.6 million, giving a claimant count of 5%.
The number of job vacancies increased by 7,000 to 462,000, leaving 5.67 unemployed people chasing every vacancy. Haringey in north London (where the summer riots began) is the hardest place in Britain to find a job, with 22.6 dole claimants chasing every vacancy. Lewisham in south London is the second hardest place to find a job, with 21.9 claimants chasing every vacancy.
The coalition is blaming everybody but themselves for this disaster and is shedding bucket loads of crocodile tears for unemployed youth in particular. Their Work Experience Programme is supposed to help young people into work by providing unpaid work experience in supermarkets and other big businesses to young JSA claimants. However, it has recently emerged that anybody accepting an unpaid placement on this scheme will have to continue working for eight weeks, for their JSA payment only, unless they opt out of the programme in the first week. And if they do leave, they can have their Jobseeker’s Allowance cut. So much for slavery being abolished!
*Update: October’s statistics have been published since the above article was written. These show that unemployment has risen again, by 128,000 to 2.64 million.
Richard Lynch is a Dudden Hill resident. He is a retired Unite the Union official and currently conducts voluntary work on employment rights for the Brent Community Law Centre. He also acts as an accompanying representative for the GMB union.
Speaking at a job summit in Birmingham, Gordon Brown said more than 150 employers including the Royal Mail, Microsoft, Pfizer, Phones4U, Centrica and Morrisons will provide apprenticeships, work or training for young people.