Posted: July 14th, 2015 | Author: boycottworkfare | Filed under: Action report, Name and shame | No Comments »
Saturday 27th June saw an inspiring nation-wide Day of Action against B&M Bargains, a notorious user of workfare.
In a very short space of time the action snowballed, with autonomous groups organising actions against B&M in at least 20 towns and cities across the UK (let us know if we’ve left you off the list below!). It was truly a moment of solidarity: “If you exploit us we will close you down!”
Many of these groups were new or recently formed, which shows the exciting beginnings of campaigns against sanctions and workfare in even more localities. It also shows that such groups can get going almost anywhere. They can have immediate impacts and that there are many, many people out there who want to take direct action to bring an end to the exploitation, misery and poverty caused by workfare and sanctions.
The impact on B&M was clear – almost no one entered their shops while protests were taking place. And as always on anti-workfare protests, the response from the public was hugely supportive. Passers-by were shocked and appalled at a company not paying its workers. Many had never even heard of workfare and sanctions, and this shows how much the imposition of these schemes rely on maintaining unawareness in the wider public. It also points to serious questions around mainstream media’s coverage of these issues.
At the Norwich protest, a manager admitted that he, like all managers, are given a fixed amount to spend on wages. Therefore, he can only only cover all the tasks to be done during opening hours by using workfare – while B&M Bargains made about £100 million profit last year.
Elsewhere, another manager argued that those on workfare were on “work experience”. A month of full-time work in a low-skilled job is not work experience. It is only work. But instead of a wage paid in exchange for labour as in the classic understanding of a job, compulsion is used that forces those on workfare to work for free or face sanctions.
With other companies, keeping up the pressure through monthly or even weekly pickets can be incredibly effective. Norwich has already had a follow-up protest the weekend after!
Contact B&M – Remind B&M of the reasons that workfare is unfair and the impact it could have on the company if it continues to exploit its workers.
Main Telephone: 0151 728 5400 (or search the B&M website for a local store contact) If there is interest, there could also be another National Day of Action, perhaps to coincide with the opening of a new B&M store.
Some example slogans from protests around the UK:
Workfare = Claimant Trafficking
Fair Work, not Workfare
B&M: Big Profits, No Wages
They say work, we say pay us!
Workfare = Exploitation
Don’t shop where they don’t pay wages!
Workfare = Not Fair
If you exploit us we will shut you down!
List of actions that took place:
Actions in Wales – pictures and updates on the joint Facebook page:
– Rheidol Retail Park, Aberystwyth
– Y Coed Duon/Blackwood
– Merthyr Tydfil
– Caerdydd, Heol Casnewydd/Cardiff, Newport Road
– Casnewydd/Newport – 2 branches (Maesglas, and the Kingsway Centre)
– Ceredigion (near Aberystwyth)
– Cwmdu (Swansea)
Edinburgh (Musselburgh) – organised by Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty; a write-up of the action is at: http://edinburghagainstpoverty.org.uk/node/177
Middleton District Shopping Centre, Leeds – Leeds Welfare Fightback and Left Unity report (first on the page).
Birkenhead, Wirral – Unite Community Branch in Wirral; pictures on Facebook.
Liverpool, Toxteth – Liverpool IWW wrote up this action here.
Liverpool, Marina Walk Ellesmere Port – supported by Unite Community Ellesmore Port and Cheshire West Trades Council.
Birmingham, Priory Square Shopping Centre – Birmingham Claimants Union
Pool, Cornwall – Cornwall Anti-Cuts Alliance
Norwich – Norwich Claimants Union
Tottenham, London – Haringey Left Unity
Old Kent Road (Peckham), London – organised by South London Left Unity; pictures on the Facebook event. Report on the Left Unity website (second report on the page).
Willesden, London – Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group
Rotherham, Great Eastern Retail Park, Park Gate (Off Beale Way)
Haymarket Sheffield S1 2AX – organised by Sheffield Uncut.
Sheffield, Meersbrook. Pictures and brief report online here.
Posted: June 27th, 2015 | Author: againstworkfare | Filed under: Call to action, Name and shame | No Comments »
Get in touch to order leaflets for the Day of Action on 27th June!
Here is the full list (as far as we know) of actions in the national day of action against B&M Bargains’ use of workfare today, Saturday 27th June!
If you’re going to one of these actions , let us know how you get along by email, or on Twitter. The hashtag for the day of action is #BandMDayofAction Let’s show B&M what we think of their #BigSavingsNoWages approach.
London – 3 actions
- 2pm-3pm B&M Store 473 High Road, Willesden (near Dollis Hill tube station) NW10 2JH
- 11.30am, B&M Bargains, Tottenham, 867 – 869 High Road Tottenham, London, N17 8EY
- 11am – 1pm, B&M, 593-613 Old Kent Road, London SE15 1LA
Sheffield – 2 actions:
B&M bargains in Rotherham, Great Eastern Retail Park, Park Gate (Off Beale Way), Rotherham S62 6EJ
Manchester: 2pm, B&M Bargains Chorlton, 595 – 597 Wilbraham Road, Manchester, M21 9AJ / Facebook event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1700748456819555/
Leeds: B&M in Middleton District Shopping Centre, Leeds LS10 3DZ, at 2pm.
“Make it noisy – bring pots and pans and wooden spoons
Bring trumpets, drums, whistles and kazoos
Make it colourful
Bring a message small or big for B&M Bargains”
Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty – Gather 2pm onwards at B&M Bargains, 91 – 93 High St, Musselburgh EH21 7DA
Posted: June 14th, 2015 | Author: noworkfare | Filed under: Call to action | Tags: Boycott Workfare, JobCentres, Mental Health Resistance Network, Psychologists Against Austerity | 12 Comments »
See you in Streatham
New evidence on the coercive use of psychology to ‘change the attitude’ of claimants was published this week. At the same time, the DWP confirmed plans to put 350 psychologists into JobCentres.
Mental health services in exchange for job seeking
Streatham Job Centre will be the first of 10 pilot sites to bring CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) into JobCentres. And the opening of Lambeth ‘Living Well Hub’ for Community Mental Health Services in the same building is planned for Monday 29th June.
As the Mental Health Resistance Network has pointed out, these together amount to an extension of the coercive powers of the 1983 Mental Health Act, with psychologists pressured to act as state enforcers and claimants potentially subject to sanctions for refusing therapy.
Whereas at present people can only be forced into “treatment” under in-patient Sections of this Act or by Community Treatment Orders, making welfare benefits and by extension housing conditional on agreeing to psychological treatment broadens the principle of compulsion.
The psychological coercion and manipulation that claimants face are inspiring a strong and growing fight back. In the face of widespread press and social media coverage, the British Psychological Society has finally made a statement ‘expressing concern‘ (it’s only taken them 18 months). We’re still waiting for an enquiry.
Claimants, service users and mental health survivors are organising to resist the use of psychology and pseudo-psychology to force people off benefits. Psychologists Against Austerity and many other mental health professionals are also mobilising against these developments. Let’s keep up the pressure!
What you can do:
Join the protest at Streatham JobCentre Friday 26th June: Meet at 1.30pm Streatham Memorial Gardens, Streatham High Road/Streatham Common North, London SW16. The Facebook event is here.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: May 16th, 2015 | Author: boycottworkfare | Filed under: Call to action, Welfare to work industry | 9 Comments »
Get in touch to order leaflets for the Day of Action on 27th June!
B&M Bargains have won a ‘prestigious’ workfare industry award for their use of forced unpaid labour. We need to let them know this has not gone unnoticed. They need to understand that it is unacceptable to have this sort of exploitation take place in our communities.
B&M bargains are a private, profit making company (they made over £100 million last year) and yet it won’t pay its workers for their labour. People on workfare are given sanctions (loose their benefits) if they don’t work for free, and even when they do work they are sanctioned for ‘misdemeanours’ such as being late. Sanctions mean that claimants loose their basic means of survival – the money they need for food, bills and other necessities. Sanctions are a major cause of the rise in the use of foodbanks.
Apart from exploiting claimants, workfare also undermines the hours and conditions of paid employees at B&M. As with all workfare placements in the private sector, workfare provides free labour that replaces paid jobs.
Boycott Workfare has had several reports of reduced hours for paid staff as well as the practice of employing paid staff on a trial basis, sacking them after 12 weeks, and replacing them with workfare placements: Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: May 3rd, 2015 | Author: editor | Filed under: Call to action | 11 Comments »
Saturday 30th May, 10.30am-5.30pm (arrive from 10.15am for a cup of tea), London Welsh Centre (10 minutes’ walk from King’s Cross station)
We’ve just added a couple more workshops! And now there’s a timetable as well.
Faced with policies that are pushing ever more people into precarity and poverty, thousands of us have been coming together to support each other. We are pushing back workfare, standing up to sanctions, challenging the work capability assessment and fighting insecure, unaffordable housing.
If you are concerned about:
- Job centres being places of intimidation and sanctions,
- Private providers bullying claimants on ‘welfare-to-work’ schemes,
- 35 hour jobsearch under Universal Credit,
- ESA assessments putting sick and disabled people in fear of destitution,
- Welfare rights for young people being abolished and replaced with unpaid work,
- Workfare being required to be eligible for social housing,
- Housing benefit being part of sanctions under Universal Credit,
- Claimants in work being sanctioned under Universal Credit too…
…then do something about it and come to the Welfare Action Gathering to hear from other people organising across the UK! Learn about our rights and share ideas and tactics!
Organising against workfare in your town or city: How groups have had a huge impact and ways to get started in your town.
It can seem a daunting prospect to start a campaign against a workfare provider or business when sometimes there is only you and a couple of mates. What can a couple of people do? How can you sustain a campaign? Whose going to take notice of you? But, this is exactly how groups like those in Edinburgh & Haringey started many years ago, and these groups now having a huge impact against Workfare and sanctions. And it’s how most groups start. Just look at the rise of Housing Action type groups around the country. Most were started by a few people who knew each other. Come and listen to groups who have just started out and others who have been going for years. The workshop is for us all to share experiences, learn from each other, help those out who are thinking of setting a group up and mutual support.
Challenging sanctions and mandation
Over half a million people were sanctioned last year, and unless we fight every sanction we now risk three years without even a subsistence income. This session explores the key facts that people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance need to challenge sanctions. We’ll look at both the formal processes and ways we can collectively put pressure to overturn sanctions as well. We hope people will go away equipped to support each other to fight every sanction!
Knowing your right to Access to Work support, before going on Work Placements
We can use Access to Work as a stalling tactic for avoiding work placements. If disabled people need support to work, such as equipment or a support worker, or can’t use public transport, they can apply to Access to Work. Big employers have to pay themselves so may think twice about taking a workfare placement on if it’s going to start costing them.
Take part in this workshop with Andy Greene of Disabled People Against Cuts to explore ways disabled people can resist forced unpaid work placements.
Taking on Workfare
Together we have brought a flagship government policy to near “collapse”, but with all three main political parties and UKIP firmly committed to workfare and sanctions, we need to keep pushing. Take part in this workshop to share information on the shape of workfare at the moment: where it is taking place and the latest tricks of the providers. We’ll map out workfare’s weaknesses and find the places we can push together to bring it down once and for all.
Universal Credit: The time for welfare and housing campaigners to come together
Universal Credit is slowly being rolled out nationwide, Job Centre by Job Centre. People on “in work” benefits will soon face the same evil job seeking and sanctions regimes that those of us on JSA and ESA have had to endure for years. For people in low paid work, it could mean facing workfare or losing housing benefit. Could this be the present government’s “Poll Tax” moment when different groups come together to destroy a hated piece of legislation? Come and share knowledge about Universal Credit, explore ways to make sure people know what it could mean for them, and discuss how we can bring people together to put a stop to it.
Tactics to resist and navigate the Work Programme
A few different companies have contracts to deliver the Work Programme, the flagship two year workfare scheme. They’re all supposed to follow the same regulations. These can be used against them. There are lots of ways not to cooperate with the Work Programme.
Come to get information from groups and individuals about what Work Programme providers don’t have the power to demand, and the personal data they can’t force you to give them – and more on how to avoid and overturn benefit sanctions they inflict. We’ll hear from welfare action groups in Edinburgh and elsewhere about what can be achieved by insisting on your right to be accompanied to appointments.
This workshop is for everyone to share strategies for stalling and changing the activities that providers try to impose, and for resisting their demands about attendance, unhelpful training, and unpaid work placements.
Keeping Volunteering Voluntary: Workfare stops when there’s nowhere to send people
For workfare to happen, the government needs charities and voluntary groups to take placements. But more and more voluntary organisations are standing up and saying no. Over 550 have signed Keep Volunteering Voluntary’s pledge not to take part and the word is spreading. With most national charities now out of the schemes, we need to get the word out at a local level where charity workfare placements are still rife.
Come along to this workshop with Kevin and Penny from Keep Volunteering Voluntary to explore the key arguments to challenge the voluntary sector’s involvement, to share which tactics and approaches have been successful so far, and to plan how to take the campaign further and win!
Staying strong: Supporting each other through the emotional impact of punitive welfare reforms
When we work in mutual support groups, before we ever overturn a sanction or force a workfare user to pull out, we are already doing something important: sharing our experiences and offering emotional support. The reality is hard: the punitive culture at job centres, ever-present threat of sanctions, and the psycho-coercion of workfare providers take a heavy toll on people’s wellbeing. This session is an opportunity to share our experiences of working in groups dealing with these issues and discuss good ways to share support and look after ourselves and each other.
Dealing with energy companies and energy debt
Eleven million people in the UK are now on prepayment meters- many of these were unwanted and imposed through court warrants, home break-ins or by intimidating people into accepting unpayable debt arrangements.
Come to this workshop with Fuel Poverty Action to discuss what we can do collectively about break-ins by energy companies and ways we can support each other. Find out about basic rights and standards with treatment from energy companies and what to do if you’re being threatened with an unwanted prepayment meter –at the doorstep, in court, on the phone or by letter. Hear about ways to get energy debt written off or negotiated down; what benefits and funds exist that go towards paying energy bills – and how to get them.
Against austerity — a caring society for everyone!
Caring for others is the foundation of every society, yet this work done mostly by women is devalued & underfunded. Single Mothers’ Self-Defence, WinVisible (women with disabilities) & Payday men’s network host a discussion on how the international petition for a living wage for mothers and other carers counters the market and promotes the caring society we all need.
||Tea / coffee / welcome
|What will cuts and reforms to welfare and housing mean? How can we fight against them? We’ll hear from everyone about what the biggest challenges facing us at the moment are. We’ll find out what all the different groups and individuals want to get out of the day.To get a snapshot of who’s come along, each group will have 2 minutes to say who they are and what they do. Hopefully this way, everyone will be able to make links with the people they especially want to speak to throughout the day. We’ll hear about successes that we might like to explore in more depth later. Everyone will be able to share the priorities and interests that bring them to the gathering, and say what they’d like to work together on and what issues they’d like to discuss.
We’ll start using the materials around the room to record what people would like to discuss in the open space, to signpost others to useful resources, and to advertise upcoming dates for actions/events/workshops.
We want this to be a day for making concrete links between groups and between people. We want there to be more effective collaboration by the end of it – not just another committee or a manifesto. And we hope these discussions can get going from the start.
||Tea / coffee / snacks
||Workshop session 1
|Organising against workfare in your town or city
||Challenging sanctions and mandation
||Staying strong: Supporting each other through the emotional impact of punitive welfare reforms
||Knowing your right to Access to Work support, before going on Work Placements (DPAC)
||Lunch (provided, vegetarian and vegan friendly)
||Workshop session 2
|Universal Credit: time for welfare and housing campaigners to come together
||Taking on workfare
||Tactics to resist and navigate the Work Programme
||Keeping Volunteering Voluntary: workfare stops when there’s nowhere to send people (KVV)
||Against austerity – a caring society for everyone! (WinVisible)
||Tea / coffee / snacks
||Open space session to make stuff happen!
|This session is for organising and information sharing. People can plan how the ideas for action from the workshops will happen; or spend time exploring important questions we’ve all brought to the day. People can move between discussions, and between discussion and the workshop. We’d like each discussion group to be able to feed back with information about: who to contact; what is going to happen; how can people get involved.
||Dealing with energy companies and energy debt (FPA)
|We’ll hear about the plans from the open space, who is taking them forward and how we can stay in touch beyond the day. We’ll maybe arrange dates or targets for UK-wide action and ways we can build capacity and share resources to support each other.
||Finish and pub!
Join the Facebook event and invite others to come too!
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Posted: May 2nd, 2015 | Author: editor | Filed under: Call to action, Charities | 2 Comments »
Just one of the actions taking place for the Week of Action vs. Workfare and Sanctions on 25 April – 2 May…
[Photo: Sinister Pics]
Saturday 2nd May, 12noon – 1.30pm, Salvation Army International HQ by Millennium Bridge, London
Praised by the government for “holding the line” on workfare, the Salvation Army is one of the few national charities still to use compulsory unpaid work placements.
Being involved in workfare means being responsible for sanctions – benefit stoppages which leave people with nothing to live on. Sanctions are driving food poverty in the UK. So it’s a mystery how Salvation Army – which also runs foodbanks – can justify its involvement in the sanctions regime.
On Saturday 2nd May, come and shame Salvation Army into joining the tens of charities to pull out of workfare. Take part in a visual action outside their international headquarters by millennium bridge near St Paul’s between 12 noon and 1.30pm.
Bring a placard or poster with a sanctions story, fact or example. Show just what a grotesque system the Salvation Army is supporting!
Can’t make it? Keep up the pressure online:
Contact the Salvation Army UK on Facebook and on Twitter:
They can be telephoned on (020) 7367 4500 or emailed at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Salvation Army’s youth section are on facebook here.
Posted: May 1st, 2015 | Author: editor | Filed under: Call to action, Charities | No Comments »
This week’s the Week of Action vs Sanctions and Workfare with daily online actions. If you haven’t had a chance to do so yet, please take a minute to:
Today we’re supporting the Keep Volunteering Voluntary campaign’s call for people to contact the charities and voluntary organisations you support to invite them to pledge to shun workfare too. Read on for more info, and follow Keep Volunteering Voluntary on twitter and facebook.
There are a lot of organisations who have said they won’t take workfare, but still a lot who do. We want all voluntary work to be freely chosen, not a means for private companies to make profits or Jobcentres to force people off benefits. Keep Volunteering Voluntary (KVV) have set up a pledge and already over 450 organisations have signed!
You can help to encourage organisations to sign up to Keep Volunteering Voluntary in several ways. Firstly check whether they are already on the list of sign-ups.
- If you use or support a charity, try to find out whether they use workfare, and in any case ask them to sign up to KVV.
- If there is a local charity shop, go in and talk to the people there: find out whether there is anyone there on workfare, and ask the organisation to sign up to KVV.
- If you work or volunteer at a voluntary organisation, try to get them to sign up.
- If a place you work or volunteer at has any links with a voluntary organisation, try to contact them too.
Download or order leaflets from Keep Volunteering Voluntary to take into charity shops, or adapt this template letter as an email to send to a voluntary organisation.
Some responses you may get and some tips on how to reply:
“We’ve already signed up.” – great, well done!
“We don’t have anyone on workfare.” – so you won’t mind signing up to KVV then.
“We’re helping the unemployed gain experience.” – that’s not of much value if they don’t want to be there.
“What’s wrong with (unpaid) volunteers.” – there’s no objection to genuine volunteers, but to compulsory schemes and coercion.
“The people on placement want to be here.” – that’s fine, but they shouldn’t be threatened with sanctions.
If you can get any kind of statement from an organisation, that’s always useful – a way in to further dialogue, or good publicity for the campaign. Let Boycott Workfare know and we’ll pass it on to KVV as well.
Some charities – such as Age UK – have a national office but each local area branch is ‘independent’ and may sign up separately. So if you see a local branch signed up but not your area, that’s an added incentive for your local to sign up too.
Without charities’ support, workfare schemes will collapse. That’s why every extra new organisation to sign up is so important – helping build consensus in the voluntary sector that workfare is completely at odds with its aims and values.
Perhaps you’d like to take the opportunity to contact some persistent workfare-using charities with your concerns too?
And don’t forget to check out the list of actions taking place across the UK today and tomorrow as part of the Week of Action vs Workfare and Sanctions.
Posted: April 30th, 2015 | Author: boycottworkfare | Filed under: Call to action | 5 Comments »
Graph of sanctions increases, from David Webster’s evidence to the sanctions inquiry
It is a disgrace that the three main political parties (and UKIP) support workfare and sanctions. This consensus has allowed the introduction of policies that are causing ill health, hunger, homelessness and deaths. All three parties have some responsibility for this and they all have questions to answer.
So today we’re asking you to take action online and help us break the election silence on workfare and sanctions. It is unlikely that these issues will even get a mention during tonight’s Election Leaders Special edition of Question Time.
Help us to make sure these issues do get talked about, and tweet up a storm about workfare and sanctions using the #bbcqt hashtag. And tweet your unanswered questions to @Ed_Miliband @nick_clegg and @David_Cameron…
Here’s the low-down on the political parties that support workfare and sanctions:
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Posted: April 29th, 2015 | Author: noworkfare | Filed under: Psychological coercion, Sanctions | 6 Comments »
Psychobabble in a Jobcentre near you
On top of punishing claimants with sanctions that leave people destitute, the Government now has plans to use psychological treatments to force people into work.
George Osborne’s budget announced measures to ‘improve employment outcomes’ for people with mental health conditions. These include online cognitive behavioural therapy (change the world by changing how you think) for people on ESA or JSA and putting psychologists in JobCentres.
Unemployment is being redefined as a psychological disorder and the main purpose of psychological therapy will be to force people off benefits. Or to promote yet another specious reason to cut people off benefits.
Meanwhile, the Tory Manifesto states that claimants who ‘refuse a recommended treatment’ may have their benefits reduced. This is an assault on the human rights of people on benefits and an attempt to co-opt medical professionals as state enforcers.
We’re hearing more and more reports of the misuse of psychology to coerce, bully and punish claimants into ‘getting the right mindset’: “all new starts must attend an initial two week course to develop their confidence”.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: April 28th, 2015 | Author: noworkfare | Filed under: Call to action, Personal accounts | 3 Comments »
If you exploit us, we will close you down
Take action against persistent workfare exploiters B&M Stores as part of the Week of Action vs Workfare and Sanctions!
B&M Stores has won an award from the workfare industry for their support for forced unpaid labour. The harsh reality of their involvement is exploitation of claimants – people working for nothing under the constant threat of sanctions – and workfare being used to reduce overtime and replace paid staff.
“B&M stores started using workfare Jan 2013. Receiving free labour and stopping overtime for employees with contracts. The people forced to do this free labour are not happy and neither are the other workers.”
Boycott Workfare has had several reports of reduced hours for paid staff as well as the practice of employing paid staff on a trial basis, sacking them after 12 weeks, and replacing them with workfare placements.
“Just to let you know B&M Stores have taken on new staff under a workfare scheme. This was 1 month after staff hours were cut by 50%. This meant my hours were cut from 20 to 10.”
B&M Stores made over £100 million profit last year but still they use forced unpaid labour.
B&M Stores have over 400 stores from Perth in Scotland to Portsmouth in the South of England. They have expanded by using workfare grabs from any local JobCentrePlus. It has been reported that in one B&M Store “older or long term staff were sacked and a new wave of 20 workfare placements taken on.”
What you can do:
Thanks to your efforts, more and more businesses and charities are withdrawing from workfare. Keep up the pressure and let B&M Stores know: ‘if they exploit us, we will close them down!’
Use twitter, facebook and direct action to expose B&M Stores and call for a boycott of their stores. Workfare exploits claimants and means poorer pay and conditions for all workers.
Email customer services
Phone: 0151 728 5400 (remember to speak politely)
Visit their Corporate Website
You could also let workfare apologists ERSA know what you think about awards that celebrate companies that profit from exploiting claimants.