Posted: December 6th, 2013 | Author: editor | Filed under: Call to action | 1 Comment »
The Cardiff action paid M&S a visit!
The week of action has seen a very loud noise demo at the workfare industry’s annual conference, hijacking its hashtag and actions in Cardiff, Wrexham, and even one in Germany! There’s loads more planned this weekend – with a new action just announced in Sheffield this Saturday too (and one coming up next week in Oxford!).
Thanks to everyone who’s been putting the pressure on online too. We’ve kept a lot of workfare exploiters’ Facebook Page moderators very busy this week and we’ve seen time and again how pressure from action on the streets plus online embarrassment can be enough to make a company or charity think twice!
Today, please help show all the companies and charities we’ve contacted this week that we won’t stop until they do. Scroll down our website front page for ways to contacts some of the worst offending charities, biggest workfare-using companies, those that make the workfare industry conference happen and those cutting wage bills using young people on traineeships.
The petition to end all welfare sanctions without exception is only 300 away from 10,000 – please take a few minutes to spread the word and help make it 10,000 by the end of the week of action!
And if you’ve still got a bit of time to spare, please feel free to contact any of the workfare exploiters listed here.
Thanks for being part of the week of action!
Posted: December 4th, 2013 | Author: stopworkfare | Filed under: Call to action, Uncategorized | 3 Comments »
[Photo: Sinister Pics]
As part of the Week of Action Against Workfare and Sanctions, on Thursday 5th
December 2013, we’re focussing on the Charities that will be handing in their tenders today to access unpaid claimant workers through the new Community Work Placements regime.
Community Work Placements, originally announced by George Osborne as “Help to Work” on 30th September 2013, is a set of new measures that will be forced on claimants who have come through the two year Work Programme without securing employment. The scheme is described as an “intensive option” where the providers will “deliver mandatory work placements for claimants for 30 hours a week for up to 26 weeks, alongside supported jobsearch”. Or put another way, it’s a six month sentence to force claimants work for free or lose their benefits.
Typically the 33 companies who have the option of tendering for this new scheme are the very companies who currently run the Work Programme: the companies who failed to assist the claimants back into work over two years are now being given an extra six months to make even more money off the back of the unemployed! These “Employment Related Supported Services Suppliers” include three charities Boycott Workfare has flagged up before.
Take a look at their finances at http://www.charitycommission.gov.uk/find-charities/ by inputting their charity number. Then e-mail or contact them on social media to express your distaste at their continued abuse of the benefits system to line their own pockets!
THE SHAW TRUST:
THE CONSERVATION VOLUNTEERS:
There are also two more charities touting for business as “secondary delivery providers”, seeking to subcontract from the above and the usual suspects such as Ingeus, G4S, A4e and Serco. They are the supposedly christian organisations The Salvation Army and the YMCA. Key in “Salvation Army” or “YMCA” to the web link above to find out how they are profiting in your locality. The details below are for their head offices in London.
THE SALVATION ARMY:
firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Don’t forget to sign the petition calling for an end to all benefit sanctions without exceptions:http://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/benefit-sanctions-must-be-stopped-without-exceptions-in-uk
Posted: December 3rd, 2013 | Author: editor | Filed under: Call to action | Tags: Asda, B&M Stores, Marks & Spencer | 2 Comments »
Workfare hands companies free labour which means fewer jobs and paid hours for everyone. But direct action and online pressure mean tens of brands now steer clear of it. Let’s step up the pressure on companies who still think they can profit from unpaid work!
Take action today to shame these companies and make them realise that exploiting unemployed people might just mean fewer customers this Christmas. There’s new online action every day this week so please keep checking back!
Marks & Spencer
M&S: rolling out workfare in their stores. Unless we stop them!
Marks & Spencer’s use of workfare hit public awareness when they announced 1400 new placements in their stores and a benchmark of 2% of the workforce to be unpaid. But this isn’t the brand’s first encounter with workfare. Despite their CEO earning over £2 million a year, they are also profiting from unpaid work through another workfare scheme in Scotland, which targets single parents. It’s likely their involvement is much more widespread – we also heard from someone sent on a 4 week placement at one of their outlet stores.
Last time we took action, M&S was forced to disable comments on their Facebook Page. Several pickets and walks of shame will pay a visit to their stores this week. Please feel free to contact them with your thoughts as well:
By email: Using their online form
By phone: See this useful list of numbers
Facebook: Marks and Spencer
In May, B&M won an award from the workfare industry for its involvement. But the reality of this involvement is harsh. One person has reported: “B&M stores have 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 employees!” Boycott Workfare has had reports of workfare at B&M stores in Bangor, Glasgow, Manchester, Southend and Northern Ireland. Show them they can’t keep cutting their wages bill with unpaid work!
By email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
By phone: 0151 728 5400 or more numbers here.
Facebook: B&M Stores
Leeds Unemployed Action Group exposed the workfare providers in their area
Asda has been at the heart of workfare in the UK, helping the government relaunch its “Work Experience” scheme last year. We have had reports that one of their stores in Manchester uses disabled people on workfare on the night shift. They are frank about their involvement here.
Asda contact form: Click here
Don’t forget to sign the petition calling for an end to all benefit sanctions without exceptions.
Posted: December 3rd, 2013 | Author: editor | Filed under: Call to action | 1 Comment »
Day One of the week of action against workfare and sanctions was great – with a LOUD noise demo at the workfare industry’s annual conference, hijacking its hashtag and actions in Cardiff and Germany! On Day Two, target the companies profiting from making young people work without pay on Traineeships.
Traineeships are about providing cheap labour, driving down wages, massaging unemployment figures and conditioning our young people for a life of poverty and jumping through endless hoops in search of a job.
They’re a fairly new scheme that targets 16-24 year olds with more unpaid work. Traineeships involve a work placement of up to six months for which the employer is not even required to pay travel expenses. The promise at the end of six months’ unpaid work? You may then be eligible to work for £2.67 an hour as an apprentice.
Used together, traineeships and apprenticeships have the potential to massively undercut the minimum wage on the high street and elsewhere. The government is of course rolling out compulsory education for 17-18 year-olds and unpaid work looks set to make up an increasingly large component of that education. Benefits cuts for 18-25 year-olds are also threatened.
There are many companies happy to take advantage of young people and profit from their lack of opportunity and today let’s take action against them. Contact them by phone, email or on social media.
Kwikfit’s hit the headlines for expecting 39 hours of unpaid work a week from its traineeships and advertising them across the UK. It’s already faced huge public criticism on social media. Let’s make sure it knows the pressure hasn’t gone away and it needs to pay the people who work for it.
You could comment by phone or email, on its Facebook page or Youtube channel.
This multi-national brand with $18.1 billion in sales in a year, is recruiting multiple traineeships in Blackpool to “prepare food and serve customers” for 21 hours’ work a week each. currently advertising for at least three placements, this shop is saving itself £3180 on the wages bill in the next two months. Let’s hope the young people weren’t planning on buying any Christmas presents.
Share your thoughts on Subway’s Facebook page or take a look at their contact details.
Here is a luxury watch shop offering unpaid work for six months in its store in Westfield to young people when clearly it should and could offer them paid work and on the job training. You can contact Toywatch and let them know what you think on firstname.lastname@example.org, comment on their Facebook page, give them a call on 020 3301 8744 or pay them a visit.
Novotel’s 4* hotel in Southampton is also profiting from 42 hours of unpaid work in its kitchens each week. Its contact details can be found here.
Got a few more minutes?
Have a dig here and pick the companies you’d like to contact about their exploitation of young people to replace paid work.
Want more info on traineeships? Hear it from the horse’s mouth here and here.
Posted: December 1st, 2013 | Author: editor | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: CESI, ERSA, Workfare | 4 Comments »
On Monday 2nd December the welfare-to-work industry will be splashing out yet more tax payers’ money on their annual workfare conference in a plush Central London venue.
Workfare exploiters like the Shaw Trust and the Salvation Army will be gathering to discuss how to further profit from the huge increase in unpaid work. From April next year hundreds of thousands of unemployed people will be forced to work for free for six months or face losing benefits completely. The cost of this scheme is estimated to be £300 million. Most of this cash will end up lining the pockets of the welfare-to-work sector – companies like A4E, G4S, Ingeus and Serco who specialise in forcing people to work without pay.
Many of these companies will be present at Monday’s conference where tickets cost up to a whopping £534 in some cases. Claimants are clearly not welcome at the conference unlike Employment Minister Esther McVey and Matthew Sinclair from hard right think tank the Tax Payer’s Alliance who will both be giving speeches at the event. The Tax Payer’s Alliance recently released a report calling for permanent workfare for those out of work even if this is due to sickness or disability.
The conference is being organised by ERSA, the trade body established to represent the welfare-to-work racket along with the Centre for Social Inclusion (CESI).
Boycott Workfare will be holding a noise demo outside the conference from 12.30pm as part of the Week of Action Against Workfare and Sanctions . A day of online protest has been called targeting the sponsors of the event who hope to gain some positive publicity from being associated with this workfare love-in. Contact them on social media and let’s make sure that doesn’t work out quite in the way they hoped as they are named and shamed for their support of forced work.
Delegates at Monday’s conference will be tweeting using the hashtag #ERSA2013 so add this to all tweets. Don’t forget to tweet conference organisers ERSA and CESI themselves.
Sponsors of the conference include:
Learn Direct, who are on facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/learndirect
Work Programme providers the Shaw Trust are at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Shaw-Trust/221553131217597
Training charity Catch 22 who recently advised the Department for Education that the new unpaid Traineeships Work placements should be shown “to provide a commercial advantage to employers” can be found at: https://en-gb.facebook.com/Catch22charity
Spirit Resourcing are sponsoring the delegate packs: https://www.facebook.com/spiritresourcing
Welfare-to-work recruitment agency R3 Welfare & Skills will be sponsoring the pens at the conference.
Don’t forget to sign the petition calling for an end to all benefit sanctions without exceptions.
Posted: November 30th, 2013 | Author: editor | Filed under: Call to action | 4 Comments »
Things are very wrong: each month 70,000 people face hunger and hardship due to benefit stoppages – ‘sanctions’. Millions of hours of work which should be paid are being replaced by workfare. But we’re taking action and having an impact.
This week, from 2-8 December, join thousands of others across the UK to push back against sanctions and workfare – with action online and on your high street. Here’s the latest list of actions planned across the UK. Let us know if you’re planning something too and check back here Monday-Friday to take online action every day.
Edinburgh: flyering all week and a demo on Saturday 7th
Cardiff: Wednesday 4 December at 6:30pm, Marks and Spencer – 72/76 Queen Street, Cardiff
Glasgow: Saturday 7th, 12.30-2.30, Sauchiehall St
- Noise Demo at workfare industry conference at the University of London, 12.30pm 2nd Decemeber
- Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group demo at Hammersmith Job Centre against the introduction of Universal Credit. Meet 11am on Wednesday 4th December at Hammersmith Job Centre, Glenn House, 22 Glenthorne Road, W6 0PP
- M&S picket, Islington – Sunday 8th December 1pm outside Holloway Road M&S
- M&S picket, Wood Green – Sunday 8th December 2pm outside Wood Green High Road M&S (Nearest tube: Turnpike Lane)
Reading: Saturday 7th 4pm at Reading town centre. Planning meeting for the action on Tuesday at 7pm.
Wrexham: Tuesday 3rd December Noisey Demo (bring pots and pans) at the Grosevenor Road Job Centre 12pm
Sheffield: Saturday 7th December 1pm – M&S picket outside of 19/31 Fargate, S1 1LF organised by South Yorkshire UNITE Community Union. More detail here.
Posted: November 24th, 2013 | Author: editor | Filed under: Call to action, Uncategorized | 5 Comments »
12.30-1.30pm, Monday 2nd December, outside the ERSA workfare industry conference, Senate House, Malet Street, London (nearest tubes: Russell Square, Warren Street, Euston), facebook event here
(Can’t make it to London? Take part in the week of action where you are.)
On 2nd December, those driving forced labour for unemployed people on the government’s workfares schemes are getting together in one place for their annual conference. Be there too to show them that their days of vast profits for abusing the poorest people in the UK are numbered.
The workfare industry is already on the backfoot. The government’s flagship ‘Work Programme’ which promised to hand £5 billion to this sector – whose profits are wholly subsidised by public funds – has failed. The industry failed to meet even the minimum targets and tens of thousands have returned to the Jobcentre as the two year stint comes to an end.
Add to this arrests for fraud, consistent reports from jobseekers of the punitive and pointless measures these companies demand, and the immense public backlash against workfare – leading many of the big brands to withdraw from forced unpaid work.
ERSA, the trade body for the ‘welfare to work’ industry, have called their conference “Challenge and change in an evolving landscape”. Let’s make the scale of the challenge clear with fun and noise on the conference’s doorstep.
And in case you need more convincing, here’s a few good reasons you should come (in the form of a list of people who’ll be at [the conference] pushing their workfare agendas): Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: November 20th, 2013 | Author: boycottworkfare | Filed under: Guest blog | No Comments »
Stuart Crosthwaite works at an asylum seeker and refugee support centre in Sheffield. He wrote this article in response to Boycott Workfare’s call for sanction stories. If you would like to contribute some writing on sanctions or workfare, we’d love to hear from you, please get in contact with us: email@example.com
If your aim is to reach targets for numbers of people sanctioned then you’ll pick on the easiest targets. Understanding the language of Job Centre Plus is hard enough if you speak good English but if you don’t, you’re in trouble. Evidence from South Yorkshire shows that refugees claiming JSA are being disproportionately sanctioned by JCP.
“Most of them get sanctioned at some point” a refugee support worker told me. From interviews with refugees I estimate that at least 50% of refugees on JSA are sanctioned. For women, particularly older women, the figure is higher still.
Why and how are refugees particularly vulnerable to being sanctioned by JCP?
- For most refugees English isn’t their first language. Many are sanctioned for not demonstrating jobsearch activities, verbally and/or via jobsearch records. Some JCP staff accept that other people help with completing forms – I saw one Job Seekers Agreement which explicitly recognised this, although the person who helps record jobsearches is often not allowed to accompany the claimant at interviews. Other people receive sanctions when they explain that they have had help filling in “Looking for Work” books.
- Interpreters are supposed to “always available” to those who need them according to JCP, though refugees are rarely told that they can request one. Some refugees told me that JCP staff have lied, claiming that an interpreter was present when important forms like the Job Seekers Agreement were signed. Others complained that interpreters were of poor quality, though understanding the difference between “mandatory” and “compulsory” isn’t easy or anyone.
- Low quality English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) provision. Refugees have been sanctioned for not attending JCP-recommended ESOL courses (run by A4e etc), complaining that they are of lower quality compared to community-based, non-commercial ones.
Language problems also make appeals against sanctions and applications for hardship payments more difficult. Support workers frequently had to go back to JCP with refugees to find out the reasons given for sanctions so that an appeal could be made. A lack of familiarity with “the system” and fewer support networks meant it was less likely that sanctioned refugees would seek support in appealing. They were more likely to lose housing benefit when sanctioned, not knowing they had to tell the local authority about the change in their circumstances.
Cultural differences often made sanctions more likely and appeals more difficult: most refugees come from countries where there is no official welfare system. For many, particularly men, there is a social stigma attached to claiming benefit. So when problems arose through sanctions they were less likely to discuss it and therefore be able to receive support.
It’s worth remembering that those refugees on benefits have struggled to achieve refugee status, often after years of having their asylum claim dealt with by another bureaucratic and cruel organisation: the Home Office/UK Border Agency.
It’s important to recognise that many of the measures which are now used to punish unemployed people were tested on those people seeking asylum during the last decade: enforced destitution as an “incentive” and the payment of some benefits with non-cash vouchers redeemable only in certain shops to be spent on certain items. People seeking asylum are not allowed to work while their claim is determined. In 2007 the government abandoned attempts to force them to “volunteer” after widespread protest and boycotting.
So, the next time you hear someone at the JobCentre complain about “them” who “come over here just to claim benefits” you might want to have a word.
Case studies (anonymous by request)
Ahmed from Iraq speaks little English: his JS agreement requires him to apply for jobs “using body language”! When sanctioned for failing to verbally explain what he’d done to find work he applied (with help) for hardship payments. He was assessed as “non-vulnerable” and received no payment for 3 weeks. Soon after he was hospitalised with TB, assessed as unfit for work and now receives ESA
Aida from Somalia was sanctioned for 4 weeks after she insisted that she wanted to do “any kind of work”. Her JCP advisor (without the use of an interpreter) told her that she had to specify particular “job goals” on her JS agreement.
Louis from Cameroon has a prosthetic leg and speaks virtually no English. His Job Seekers Agreement requires him to visit packing/food preparation factories in person to find work. He was sanctioned for 4 weeks for not being able to explain the steps he took to find work despite having completed his jobsearch record in compliance with his JS agreement. His JCP advisor claims that a competent interpreter was used at all times but Louis says he did not understand the French translation.
Posted: November 13th, 2013 | Author: editor | Filed under: Call to action, Charities, Info on schemes | 3 Comments »
Community Work Placements
Salvation Army is one of the charities propping up workfare and sanctions – let charities know it will damage their reputation if they get involved [Photo: Sinister Pics]
are the workfare part of the ‘Help to Work’ scheme. This was announced by George Osborne in September, and will begin in April next year. The other parts are daily attendance at job centres (for 35 hours per week) and compulsory training.
This means that once again we’re seeing ads for workfare subcontractors that target the Community & Voluntary Sector. While some charities (e.g. YMCA, Salvation Army, The Conservation Volunteers & Groundwork) are dedicated workfare exploiters, many others say they do not support workfare, but still end up helping to deliver it. The supply chain is so (deliberately) complex, it can disguise what’s going on.
Currently EOS, Maximus, Learn Direct, Reed in Partnership, ESG, G4S (tax dodging supremos) and Interserve (they rely on prayer & financial support from Christians) are all inviting bids from voluntary sector ‘partners’ to provide Community Work Placements in a ‘real working environment’ for up to 30 weeks, for up to 30 hours per week. In other words, forced unpaid labour for people who have not found ‘sustained employment’ while on the Work Programme.
The criteria for being sent on a Community Work Placement are ‘lack of motivation‘ (for example a reluctance to be exploited in no pay, low pay jobs) and/or ‘lack of work experience‘. Claimants will have to do these placements alongside ‘supported job search’: the exhausting and pointless process of endlessly looking for non-existent employment opportunities. As blogger Johnny Void says: “This new scheme represents 780 hours unpaid work, over two and a half times higher than the maximum community service penalty that can be handed out by the courts. And this is just for the crime of being unable to find a job.” Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: November 6th, 2013 | Author: boycottworkfare | Filed under: Uncategorized | 2 Comments »
After months of delay, the DWP have finally released data on benefit sanctions for JSA and ESA claimants. The data confirms what claimants and anti-poverty campaigners have been saying all along; that sanctions are being used on a massive scale to bully and intimidate claimants and leave hundreds of thousands of people without subsistence benefits for a minimum of four weeks, with the maximum sanction lasting for three years.
Some of the key stats from the DWP’s data shows that:
- Since the new sanctions regime was introduced in October 2012, there has been an average of 69,000 JSA sanctions a month – a 75% increase on the previous year.
- Between October 2012 and June 2013 0.58 million JSA sanctions were applied.
- Between December 2012 – June 2013 11,000 ESA sanctions were applied. 71% of these were for “failure to participate in work related activity”. ESA claimants having been declared unfit for work by ATOS were subsequently sanctioned by the DWP for failing to do workfare.
- Between December 2012 – June 2013 45,000 ESA sanction decisions were made with 11,000 of these being applied. For JSA between October 2012 – June 2013, 1.35 million sanction decisions were made of which 0.58 million were applied. This shows the high rate of successful challenges that claimants have made to a sanction decision.
With the post-Work Programme ‘support’ and Osborne’s mass workfare plans, it is likely that these numbers will continue to soar as a result of these increasing obstacles to subsistence benefits. The DWP also has plans for one million low paid workers to be subject to the brutal sanctions regime.
Boycott Workfare have called on the Public and Commercial Services union, the union for job centre staff, to ballot their members on a boycott of workfare and sanctions.
Boycott Workfare have called for a UK-wide Week of Action Against Sanctions and Workfare from 2nd to 8th December.
Liz Wyatt from Boycott Workfare said: “These statistics are sickening to see, but they are no surprise. We are contacted regularly by people who tell us horrific stories of being unable to afford to buy food as a result of having their benefits sanctioned. They also describe the significant mental toll that sanctions and the threat of sanctions cause them. Sanctions must stop. They are causing hunger, homelessness, and intense suffering in our communities.
“Yet the government is intent on extending benefit sanctions to low-paid workers as well, bringing one million more people under the savage sanctions regime. Sanctions are being used by the government to bully people from claiming what is rightfully theirs. People around the country will be taking action against sanctions and workfare in December as part of Boycott Workfare’s week of action and we invite people to join us.”