Posted: March 3rd, 2014 | Author: editor | Filed under: Call to action, Charities, Pledge to boycott workfare, Welfare to work industry | 4 Comments »
Workfare: If you exploit us we will shut you down!
Tens of organisations have already quit workfare. The government will not reveal which organisations are still using it for fear the schemes will collapse. Its contractors complain that they have lost hundreds of placements due to public pressure.
But they’re trying it again with a new scheme – “Community Work Placements” – launching on 1 April 2014 which will force claimants to work for six months without pay. Six months – 780 hours – is more than twice the maximum community service sentence. Workfare does not help people find jobs and being unemployed is not a crime.
This new workfare scheme is part of a raft of draconian measures, misleadingly called “Help to Work”, which are designed to increase sanctions (benefit stoppages) and undermine wages still further.
For the workfare schemes to happen, they need places to send people, but tens of large charities have already quit. Oxfam stated that the schemes were incompatible with its goal of reducing poverty in the UK. Liverpool CVS has condemned the scheme in the strongest possible terms.
Our action can stop companies, charities and councils from exploiting forced unpaid work and make sure this new scheme falls flat on its face. Wherever you are, however you can contribute, take action on 29 March-6 April.
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Posted: March 4th, 2014 | Author: editor | Filed under: Action report, Charities | 10 Comments »
Four Salvation Army shops blockaded in one day by Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty!
Thanks to Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty for this inspiring report of their action on 3rd March… a hint of what’s to come in the week of action?
Anti workfare campaigners swooped on four Salvation Army shops in Edinburgh on 3rd March, blockading them all and turning away customers and a delivery lorry. Salvation Army managers were visibly rattled as a giant banner proclaiming IF YOU EXPLOIT US WE WILL SHUT YOU DOWN blocked the entrance to their shops.
At the Bruntsfield Place shop the Salvation Army manager threatened: “I’m one of the more serious managers. I’ll get a group of people to come and kick your heads in if you don’t move from in front of my shop.” The demonstrators from Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty maintained their blockade of the entrance and shortly afterwards turned away a lorry from Nathans Wastesavers textile recycling company. Animated debate continued in the street outside the shop as a pro-workfare passer-by was berated by another passer-by who recounted his experiences in the local Salvation Army hostel, where he said the management took half of residents’ benefits to pay for their accommodation.
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Posted: March 1st, 2014 | Author: editor | Filed under: Call to action | No Comments »
Grosvenor G Casino picket
Here’s a call for action from Brighton Benefits Campaign
Tonight we will be picketing the Grosvenor G Casino here in Brighton.
Not content with profiteering from the punters, Grosvenor G are maximizing their profits through massive state handouts: in-work benefits for their low paid workers, and now unpaid labour in the form of workfare.
Unemployed people taken on under the guise of ‘work experience’ have been expected to work until the early hours or face sanctions. Grosvenor G have even taken their tips!
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Posted: February 26th, 2014 | Author: editor | Filed under: Name and shame, Personal accounts | 13 Comments »
Hundreds of leaflets were given out and there was a great response from passers-by to the demos on 1st March!
Another high street chain has now been exposed as using workfare: Peacocks have taken on workfare placements instead of hiring staff.
Two stores faced protests on 1 March and their Facebook moderators have been very busy deleting people’s messages for days now. London Boycott Workfare invites other groups to pay a visit to your local store too and put the pressure on for Peacocks to pay its staff! Download our leaflet template here.
This person’s story shows how this practice means job applications are ignored when free labour is on offer instead. Another report has come in that the Sutton store has 10 workfare placements at one time. Please find out what’s going on at your local store too and let us know!
Can’t make it to a store in person?
Peacocks’ code of conduct claims: “Employment is Freely Chosen. There is no forced, bonded or involuntary prison labour. This includes forced labour due to peer pressure…”
Let Peacocks know what you think about their use of workfare on their social media channels:
Facebook | Or via their website |
Or contact the company which owns them – Edinburgh Woollen Mill:
On Facebook |
I started claiming in last August, and since then have been sent on several work placements.
In December of last year I had an interview for Christmas temp work at Asda (though in the end I didn’t undertake it). One of the interviewees was someone who had been on a work placement there. At the start of the placements, people are told they will take you on a temporary contract after completing the placement, but this person had to go through the same process as everyone else.
In December I also undertook a work placement within a local Holiday Inn branch that was tied into a ‘Sector Based Work Academy’ I was referred onto and that was organised by a local college and I believe jobcentre supported. They have also now however been placed onto the ‘work experience’ list available from my jobcentre.
A few months later, I was asked to put my name down for work experience again. Our local branch of Peacocks hadn’t long reopened. They had been advertising vacancies for some time and so within the first week of the shop being open I had put my CV into the store for consideration.
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Posted: February 24th, 2014 | Author: editor | Filed under: Action report, Info on schemes, Unions | No Comments »
Last week figures on how many people faced sanctions (benefit stoppages) were published. There were no surprises, only the disturbing reality that more people are facing the hardship, hunger and stress of sanctions than ever before.
What about the union of the job centre workers who are pushing poor people into these devastating situations? Last year its members voted for PCS union to look into means of non-cooperation with sanctions, but its leadership is point blank refusing to even consider this an option. This is despite the fact that over 4000 workfare placements have taken place in the DWP, undermining jobs and wages for PCS members.
Elsewhere, the TUC mustered a cynical statement condemning sanctions – cynical given they also support the use of sanctions (PDF – 3.6, pg 31) and have explicitly called for Labour’s ‘workfare-lite’, the so-called ‘job guarantee’, to be backed with this threat of destitution. Also taking the cynical “sanctions bad, but also necessary” line were charity Gingerbread, which seemed determined to have its cake and eat it, in a press statement which managed to both condemn and advocate sanctions. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: January 27th, 2014 | Author: editor | Filed under: Call to action | 12 Comments »
Come to an info and skill-sharing day in London on 15 February, 10.45am-5.30pm, Maiden Lane Community Centre – 20 minutes walk or a short bus ride from Kings Cross Station, off York Way (156 St. Paul’s Crescent, London, NW1 9XZ. Venue wheelchair accessible.)
We’ll have people at the bus stop to help point you in the right direction, but here’s some info on how to find it!
From Kings Cross on foot: Come out of Kings Cross station and follow it around to the left until you reach York Way. Walk past the bus stops, up York Way, over the canal and passing the Guardian on your right. Keep going for about a mile. When you reach the junction with Agar Grove, turn left down Agar Grove, take the first left and it’s the white building at the end of the road.
From Kings Cross by bus: Come out of Kings Cross station and follow it around to the left until you reach the bus stops on York Way. From Stop G, take the 390 bus about a mile to the Agar Grove/Maiden Lane stop. At the junction with Agar Grove, turn left down Agar Grove, take the first left and it’s the white building at the end of the road.
From elsewhere in London: Use the TfL Journey planner to plan your journey. The postcode for Maiden Lane Community Centre is NW1 9XZ. The nearest stations are Kings Cross, Camden Road, and Caledonian Road.
Getting your welfare rights is about a lot more than just knowing your welfare rights. Across the UK, people are getting together to support each other
and pushing back workfare, standing up to sanctions, wrong decisions, and insecure housing.
Meet others from across the UK, hear inspiring stories, learn info about our rights and share tactics that work. This isn’t a day for speakers from the front. Party political representatives aren’t invited. It’s about people at the grassroots getting together and working out how we can support each other and throw even more spanners in the government’s plans!
If you are in a local group where people share mutual support on welfare or housing (or plan to start one), we should be able to help with your travel costs. Please get in touch as soon as you can so we can sort it out.
Planning on coming? There’ll be tea, coffee and a free lunch! Please let us know you’re coming so we know how many people to cook for!
Want to know what to expect? Check out the agenda below. There’s an open space session in the afternoon if you’d like to offer a workshop too!
||Tea and coffee
||Sharing stories – top tactics, issues and new ideasOne of the most important things about the day will be hearing from others.
This session will kick off discussions about what people do and how they do it. We’ll learn about what’s going on and what’s on the horizon, share strategies and start making links for action and ideas.
||Getting your rights on JSAGetting your rights on JSA is about a lot more than just knowing your rights.
This workshops aims to highlight some of the key rights, but also share some of the tactics groups and individuals have used to avoid getting screwed at the Jobcentre.
|Fighting for housing rightsHear from campaigns that have been organising around the bedroom tax and benefit cap in their local communities, find out how to set up an eviction resistance network, learn about our basic housing rights, and discuss how we can push for quality, secure, and truly affordable housing for all.
||Universal Automation Universal Automation is a Chrome browser extension that automatically searches and applies for jobs on Universal Jobmatch, the government-run job search website which benefit claimants are forced to use.
Find out more and how to use it in this info session!
|Building strong mutual support groupsFor long established mutual support groups to those who are just starting out – join this workshop to share experiences, reflections, tips, and questions on how to run a sustainable and successful local group to enforce and extend our welfare rights.
||Fuel Poverty ActionWith 10% increases in energy prices, many more of us are having to choose between heating and eating.
This workshop will cover support, solidarity and resistance, understanding and negotiating on bills and debt, and more on Fuel Poverty Action’s pre-payment meters campaign.
||Dealing with the Work Capability AssessmentLearn together how we can effectively navigate our way around Employment and Support Allowance for those claiming and those wanting to provide support. This will cover how to start a claim for ESA, methods of attempting to avoid Atos, and how to support each other through Atos to ensure we get the benefits that are rightfully ours.
||Bringing workfare downTens of organisations have pulled out of workfare and the government fears the schemes’ ‘collapse’.
This session will share some of the top tactics for people facing workfare, as well as discuss strategies that will help bring down workfare this year!
||Open Space SessionA chance for us to explore great ideas or important questions people have brought to the day, and link up to make things happen!
||Making stuff happenWe’ll hear the ideas and plans from the open space, discuss how we stay in touch beyond the day, ideas for UK-wide action and ways we can build our capacity to support each other.
Posted: January 26th, 2014 | Author: editor | Filed under: Call to action, Public Sector, Welfare to work industry | No Comments »
Welfare to Work conferences have never gone unchallenged – whether in person or online, we can make sure their work profiting from dismantling social security doesn’t go as smoothly as planned!
Take action on Monday 27th January while poverty profiteers gather at Capita’s ‘Welfare reform’ conference
While millions of people struggle to eat or heat their homes, and thousands of families face eviction, foodbanks and homelessness due to sanctions, bedroom tax and loss of disability benefits, Capita cashes in with conferences for Lord Freud (Minister for Dismantling Welfare) and his workfare collaborators.
You could pay £350 – £575 (plus VAT) to join all those snouts in the workfare trough at the Park Plaza Riverbank Hotel. Or you can let them know what you think via twitter, email, phone – follow the links below.
The conference is using the hashtags #capitaconf and #welfarereform if you’d like to join in the discussions today (or you can check out @capitaconf for their feed). You could also use the DWP’s #job2014 hashtag. The DWP are making a big effort to improve their social media presence – the least we can do is increase their footfall @DWPgovuk
The aim of the conference is to get ‘partners’ who make money from it ready for the next stage of ‘benefit reform’, with a special focus on ‘shifting the culture’. Let’s shift it in another direction!
In addition to the DWP’s own Lord Freud, (one of the chief architects in paying the private sector to dismantle welfare rights aka the great welfare rip off) the organisations below are supporting the event.
Private and voluntary sector organisations making big money from the outsourcing of welfare – let them know (politely) what you think…
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Posted: January 12th, 2014 | Author: editor | Filed under: Charities, Public Sector | 3 Comments »
120 people were sent on Mandatory Work Activity Placements for Scarborough Borough Council, but the scheme has now been cancelled!
Less than two weeks into 2014 and we’re already having an impact! Scarborough Council, one of the worst workfare-using councils in the UK, has cancelled its involvement. Volunteer centre Knowsley CVS has taken the principled stand to have nothing to do with workfare schemes. On Friday, the DWP’s social media strategists were forced to abandon use of their hashtag #takeoverday to promote ‘work experience’ when people literally took it over to campaign against sanctions and workfare!
Over Christmas, The Mirror and The Guardian published our research into UK councils using workfare. Scandalously, councils have benefited from at least half a million hours of workfare labour since 2011. We highlighted some particularly shocking examples, including Scarborough Borough Council, which had taken 120 Mandatory Work Activity placements in its Parks Department.
Apparently the Council didn’t appreciate the national publicity, and following its first meeting in the new year, the scheme appears to have been cancelled practically overnight [Warning: link contains embarrassing self-congratulation by members of the same political party which introduced workfare to the UK]. Cuts to the Parks Department were proposed in 2012. This success should mean jobs are now a little more secure. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: January 2nd, 2014 | Author: editor | Filed under: Action report | 3 Comments »
In December’s week of action, Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty shut the Salvation Army shop down for over two hours!
The workfare industry annual conference disrupted with a very loud noise demo. Salvation Army in Edinburgh – the main users of Mandatory Work Activity in the city – blockaded for two hours. An anti-sanctions action in Germany. Solidarity with claimants subject to the farcical pilot of Universal Credit. The petition for all sanctions to be scrapped hit 10,000 signatures. Tea and information outside job centres. Workfare users picketed in Wales, Scotland and England. All this in just one week in 2013 – a year in which ordinary people made workfare’s progress a whole lot more rocky.
Targeting workfare exploiters
In 2013, your actions online and on the streets meant these brands stepped back from workfare: Shoe Zone, The Red Cross, Capability Scotland, Marriott Hotels, Superdrug, Argos, Wetherspoons and Debenhams.
In April, we helped expose that at least one Homebase store was using 25 placements at a time to save hundreds of hours on their payroll, and cutting existing workers’ hours as a result. Thousands of people took action online and outside Homebase stores across the UK, and just one month later, the company withdrew from the scheme (though we’re chasing up reports that it’s since reappeared in their Willesden store).
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Posted: December 28th, 2013 | Author: boycottworkfare | Filed under: Info on schemes, Name and shame | 10 Comments »
Boycott Workfare’s research revealed half a million hours of unpaid work in councils
New research by Boycott Workfare, covered in The Mirror and The Guardian, reveals that UK councils have used over half a million hours of unpaid work through the government’s workfare schemes, which compel people to work without pay on threat of benefit sanctions. Click here to see if your council is involved!
In a Freedom of Information request to all councils in the UK, 38% of the 271 councils who responded and held the information had taken a workfare placement at some point in the last two years. These placements include schemes with direct benefit losses, benefit losses if you drop out after starting, or referral to a scheme with direct benefit losses if you refuse to take part. Also, with all these schemes, Boycott Workfare has heard of people being told it is compulsory by their job centre advisor, even if officially you can choose to take part.
In total 1,929 placements were reported to have taken place across the 106 councils involved since June 2011, with 15 councils reporting use of the schemes but not saying how many placements they had taken. This is over 500,000 hours of unpaid work. Half of these reported placements were on the Work Experience scheme, but nearly 300 placements were on Mandatory Work Activity where people can receive a benefit sanction for up to 3 years for refusing to take part in the 4 week placements. Almost 300 people were also sent to work at councils through the Work Programme (or Northern Ireland’s equivalent Steps to Work) where placements were lasting up to 26 weeks.
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