22 days for Labour to show it believes in paid work


Labour introduced workfare in the UK. It could now right that wrong. (Photo: UK parliament / flickr)

If Labour opposed workfare they could pass a motion calling for a debate and vote on the new workfare regulations. Take action now to call on them to do so.

Whilst MPs can collect £250 a month in expenses without even having to provide a receipt, people claiming JSA are expected to work for the likes of Asda in order to receive the subsistence benefit of £71 a week. They are being joined by people on sickness and disability benefit ESA. This makes the lack of opposition in Westminster following the recent High Court ruling that workfare schemes were unlawful even more shocking.

Labour introduced workfare with the New Deal and the Flexible New Deal, and with the Welfare Reform Act 2009. On its watch thousands of hours of unpaid work were handed to the likes of Primark, as well as replacing jobs in hospitals, businesses and local councils.

This government has simply followed suit, unchallenged by an Opposition whose shadow DWP minister this week made the draconian proposal that jobseekers’ benefits be limited to two years. Labour’s new ‘alternative’, the “Job Guarantee” replicates the workfare model of hefty sanctions for failing to take part in work at below the minimum wage.

But Labour and other politicians now have a chance to right this wrong. Workfare is in deep trouble: the number of placements has plummeted following grassroots online and direct action; every DWP study shows that workfare does not help people find work; and last month’s legal ruling could be another nail in the coffin.

Iain Duncan Smith rushed through new regulations last month to end the vacuum left when almost every workfare scheme was found unlawful. Unless the Official Opposition put in a motion within the following forty days to call for a debate and vote on it, then it automatically becomes law through the negative resolution procedure. Labour opposed workfare in the early nineties and it could do so again. If it now does nothing, then it is responsible for workfare continuing in the UK.

This not just a question for Labour. It is a question for the trade union movement, which funds the party. Workfare is replacing jobs and undercutting the minimum wage, and has been described by Unite as “state sponsored slavery”. Yet at the same time, the union has given the Labour Party £41 million since 2001, (despite saying it does not have the resources to offer representation to its unemployed members). It is now urgent that the trade union movement call Labour to account and make sure it ditches its workfare past.

Call on the Official Opposition to oppose the new workfare regulations

Once you’ve had a chance to email your MP asking them to help block the new workfare regulations, help put it on Labour’s agenda. The regulations are only likely to get overturned if the Official Opposition challenge them.

Labour introduced workfare in the UK. They could now act to right that wrong. Perhaps you’d like to send a message to the two Labour Lord spokespersons on Work and Pensions. They are:

Lord McKenzie of Luton –
Baroness Sherlock –

A template letter is available here (or here as a PDF).

Please keep us posted on any responses you get! (And remember, workfare is wobbling because of the action we’re taking to stop companies and charities taking part. Take action on the streets on 18-24 March!)


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Dear Lord McKenzie of Luton and Baroness Sherlock,
I am writing to you as the Labour Lord spokespersons on Work and Pensions to urge
you to ensure the Labour Party as the Official Opposition acts to stop the new
workfare regulations introduced last week following a High Court ruling that the
former regulations were unlawful.
The Official Opposition must support the EDM tabled by John McDonnell MP last
week stating:
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Jobseeker's
Allowance (Schemes for Assisting Persons to Obtain Employment) Regulations 2013
(S.I., 2013, No. 276), dated 12 February 2013, a copy of which was laid before this
House on 12 February, be annulled.
The purpose of this EDM is to oppose the new statutory instrument put forward by
the Minister of State for Work and Pensions laid before Parliament under the
negative resolution procedure in the wake of the Court of Appeal judgement in the
case of Reilly and Wilson vs. the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. This
judgement concluded that the Jobseeker’s Regulations 2011 were unlawful as they
do not comply with the frameworks outlined in the Jobseeker’s Act 1995. Specific
reference was made to the lack of description for each of the named “work for your
benefit” schemes in the 2011 Regulations.
I am asking you to support the move to challenge the new regulations on the
following two grounds:
1) That the new regulations do not adhere to the Court of Appeal judgement as
i) they fail to provide a complete and coherent description of the schemes
named therein, and
ii) as such they allow – under the contracting out guidelines in s.17 (2) (a) –
for an unduly broad flexibility of interpretation in the requirements for
claimant participation in the scheme on the part of the authorised
employees and scheme providers;
2) That there is consistent recent evidence from the Department of Work and
Pensions and other sources that these “work for your benefit” schemes –
including the Mandatory Work Activity scheme which is not covered under the
judgement – have no or little impact on the speed with which people move into
employment and can actually be detrimental for those placed on such schemes in
their search for employment*.
I thank you for your consideration of this request and hope that you will soon be able
to give me an indication of your intentions on this issue.
Yours sincerely,
C Redmond

Obi Wan Kenobi

Pass this on to every website you can and get as many people to sign this as you can.


Scrap Universal Jobmatch.


Labour agree with Workfare, just as much as the tory party.


You guys still believe that Liebor will fix what the Tories are breaking but they will not. Both parties are in pockets of corporations and big banks and their interest is to create an army of poor and hungry people who will work for free at Poundland.

Paid work is dead and buried in this country.


Labour needs to speak out against this. The Work Programme has already shown itself to be a massive failure and waste of public money. As statistics have shown, it does not help jobseekers' prospects one iota by sending them on compulsory unpaid work placements, the vast majority of which seem to be in retail. Cancel the Work Programme providers' contracts now and instead invest the money in giving jobseekers the opportunity to gain valued qualifications and do proper training which will give them the skills that employers need.


Emailed my MP: Joan Ruddock over two weeks reply. Not really surprised, I have the feeling that the majority of Labour MP's either support workfare or don't really care either way. The Labour Party (with exceptions such as McDonnell and Corbyn) are a disgrace we cannot rely on them, direct action seems to be far more effective.


A little bit disappointed in my party for their reluctance to back this campaign. They won my vote in 2010 when the Future Job Fund helped me out of 4 years of unemployment. I was given free training, support from professionals within the employment industry and most importantly, a wage. When the coalition axed the program this was their replacement and while it serves only to benefit the companies involved Labour really should be doing more to protect their legacy.

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