A new report from Haringey Solidarity Group highlights the problem of workfare being used to fill the gaps left by local authority cuts. If you’re in London, join the protest on Tuesday! If not, please support the local campaign by raising your concerns with the council.
Groundwork is one of a number of green ‘charities’ involved in workfare. Like The Conservation Volunteers they think that by remaking the natural environment, we remake ourselves (into more attractive workers). But their message is the same one always pedalled by the DWP: unemployment is the fault of unemployed people. People must work for free and under threat of being sanctioned into destitution to learn things like ‘confidence’ and ‘positive thinking’. Though Groundwork tried to claim their scheme was ‘not mandatory’, we now know it’s part of the Work Programme, which is definitely not volunteering, no matter how much the definition is mangled.
Groundwork, a national registered charity working in partnership with Haringey Council, has been using the Government’s workfare schemes – in which unemployed people are forced to work with no pay or workplace rights – to maintain some Homes For Haringey estate gardens.
Initially Homes for Haringey denied any involvement with workfare, but after a recent Freedom of Information request they have now acknowledged that 27 people on the Work Programme (one of the Workfare schemes) have been used to maintain Homes for Haringey gardens. Job Seekers have been sanctioned for refusing to work for no pay under the Groundwork workfare scheme, losing all entitlement to benefits for several weeks.
Two years ago a third of Haringey Council parks department gardeners were made redundant. They used to maintain all the Council estate gardens. It is unacceptable that these paid jobs are now being replaced with unpaid labour. People should be paid a living wage for the job they are asked to do. Poverty levels are already very high in Tottenham, being forced to work for no pay just makes things worse.
Why should people be forced to work for no pay?
The government has handed millions to private companies to administer these Workfare schemes, supposedly to save money by helping people to find jobs. But the reality is:
– Workfare does NOT get people into jobs. A recent government report found that just 3.5% of people on the Work Programme actually find paid employment lasting more than 6 months (less than the figure for those would have found work anyway). The government then handed yet more money to scheme providers, which shows that workfare is about driving down wages and subsidising the private sector.
– Workfare affects ALL of us. There are currently about 18 people chasing every job in Tottenham. Workfare placements replace REAL vacancies, taking away genuine paid jobs, so forcing more people to rely on benefits.
Under workfare schemes unemployed people have to work for nothing or they face sanctions meaning loss of ALL benefits! There is a growing movement of opposition to workfare, and in response a number of companies have quit the programme.
Homes for Haringey is wholly owned by Haringey Council to manage its housing. The Council should put an immediate stop to the use of workfare in the borough.
What you can do:
- Contact Homes for Haringey: Ask them about their use of unpaid workers. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 020 8489 4337, or tweet @homes4haringey.
- Get in touch with Haringey Solidarity Group or North London Solidarity Federation if you have seen Groundwork carrying out parks maintenance, or other work that was previously done by paid staff.
- Haringey Council have a commitment to pay their staff a London Living Wage. The five councillors below all sit on the Homes for Haringey board. Contact the councillors to speak to them about Homes for Haringey’s use of workfare.
- Cllr Ed Butcher
- Cllr Isidoros Diakides
- Cllr Joseph Ejiofor
- Cllr Juliet Solomon
- Cllr Anne Stennett
- Please come and support a protest this Tuesday 4th June, 6pm at the Homes for Haringey Board of Directors Meeting at the Haringey Council Professional Development Centre, Downhills Park Road, N17 6AR (5 minutes walk from Turnpike Lane tube, Bus W4 – see map for directions).