Developers have devised a web browser plugin which automatically applies for jobs on the government run job listings service, Universal Jobmatch, and bypass having to use the website.
Universal Automation, a plugin (also known as an extension) which is only available for Google Chrome users, can be configured to search Universal Jobmatch for appropriate jobs and automatically send CVs to multiple employers with a simple one-click activation.
From March 2013, the Department for Work & Pensions made it mandatory for claimants of Jobseekers Allowance to sign up to Universal Jobmatch – which in November received an award for being the worst online jobs board of 2013 – which could gather data about jobseekers’ activities on the site.
But the creators of the Universal Automation plugin – whose logo is a sabot, a wooden clog widely believed to have been the origin of the word sabotage after French workers threw them into machinery in the late 19th century in labour disputes – have more political motives other than simply to make it easier to avoid a bad website.
“The purpose of [Universal Jobmatch] is not to help people actually find work” their website states, “It is to get people off benefits. This is achieved by monitoring claimants’ activities, including jobs that are just looked at as well as those that are then applied for. This data could be used to accuse the claimants of not looking for work hard enough and then provide the justification needed to sanction claimants by suspending their benefits.”
Under current plans by the DWP, jobseekers will be required to spend up to 35 hours per week in job search activities, so it is entirely possible that the metrics provided to Jobcentres from the Universal Jobmatch site would form a crucial part of enforcing this requirement.
Universal Automation’s creators say that many of the jobs advertised on Universal Jobmatch are not actual jobs, “Numerous postings on the site are spam, identity fraud scams, or work disguised as self employment to avoid paying National Minimum Wage. Alternatively, many of the real jobs are simply automatically reposted from other sites.
“There are no extra jobs magically created by Universal Jobmatch and at best people looking for work elsewhere will have to divert their efforts and spend time sifting through rubbish there. Because people are mandated to do this, there is an incentive for fraudsters and exploiters to fill Universal Jobmatch with their bait, as people cannot freely abandon it as they would any other useless service.”
When asked by Consett Magazine whether they believe their software would have any impact on the DWP’s use of Universal Jobmatch, the developers of Universal Automation, who wish to remain anonymous, said “the main goal of the extension is to support unemployed, disabled, and everyone else suffering from the imposition of misery by this government. This is the primary goal. If we make a dent, however small, in this machine, that’s good too.”
The developers of the web extension, who identify as anti-capitalists, also said that they believe the ‘labour market’ as it exists, is broken, “Around 2010 it became apparent that the way it was working in the last couple of decades was not sustainable and it’s seeking a way out. How they imagine this way out? That we need to reduce our living standards, reduce wages and this will make it easier for businesses to produce and compete.”
Problems with Universal Jobmatch – created by Monster.co.uk at a cost of £17million – have been compounded by further IT problems with the introduction of Universal Credit, the single benefit due to replace six other benefits and tax credits.
When questioned by MPs at the work and pensions select committe last month, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, admitted that the reform was not ready, and that the DWP have already written off £40.1million worth of software, while a further £90million worth of software would be worthless in five years time.