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Boycott Workfare is a UK-wide campaign to end forced unpaid work for people who receive welfare. Workfare profits the rich by providing free labour, whilst threatening the poor by taking away welfare rights if people refuse to work without a living wage. We are a grassroots campaign, formed in 2010 by people with experience of workfare and those concerned about its impact. We expose and take action against companies and organisations profiting from workfare; encourage organisations to pledge to boycott it; and actively inform people of their rights.

Workfare and housing

Posted: April 15th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Info on schemes, Public Sector | No Comments »
Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group attempt to resist the eviction of a private tenant. Photo by Louppy Hart

Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group attempt to resist the eviction of a private tenant. Photo by Louppy Hart

As we struggle to access our subsistence benefits – trying to navigate around workfare, benefit sanctions, and disrespect encountered in the job centre – often, simultaneously, we are struggling to keep a roof over our heads. Welfare and housing are closely connected, the poor state of both of them is causing poverty and suffering. The homelessness charity Crisis recently highlighted how benefit sanctions are causing homelessness. Huge cuts to housing benefit mean that often people have to use money from their meagre Job Seekers Allowance or Employment Support Allowance in order to cover rent, leaving even less money for food and other basic necessities. And then there are the exceptionally vile landlords (including ‘social landlords’) who discriminate against people claiming benefits making finding and keeping a home even more difficult.
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Target Marks & Spencer: they’re forcing their supplies to take workfare

Posted: April 8th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action | 6 Comments »

Percy Pig Says No

Take action today to tell M&S that cutting costs and reducing jobs through forced, unpaid labour is unacceptable.

Last October, M&S told its suppliers it wanted to cut costs by 2% in its food business. M&S are also putting pressure on their suppliers to make 2% of their workforce come from workfare.

We’ve seen a newsletter from Tangerine Confectionary which says they aim to have ‘2% of [their] workforce’ come from ‘work placements and training’ by this October. This will get them a ‘Silver award’ from M&S, because this target is part of M&S’s ‘environmental and ethical programme‘! (see p. 39)

from Tangerine's newsletter, March 2014

from Tangerine’s newsletter, March 2014 – click to enlarge

M&S are deeply involved with the government’s workfare schemes. We know M&S organises its own work experience – last year M&S announced 1400 new placements in their stores, on an unpaid work scheme they run with the Princes Trust.

They also take placements from people on the Work Programme, and their outlet stores are involved in Mandatory Work Activity. They run another workfare scheme in Scotland, too, profiting from the unpaid work of single parents.

Boycott Workfare has heard from several people who’ve been on workfare at M&S. They’ve told us that they were promised a job at the beginning of the four week placement. But these jobs were never there. That’s why we occupied their Hackney store last summer.

People on these schemes work for free for M&S under threat of sanctions, directly and indirectly. They’re lied to and exploited.

Tell M&S it’s wrong to use forced, unpaid labour, and wrong to demand their suppliers do as well.

Facebook: Marks & Spencer

Twitter:

By email: using this form

By phone: on one of these numbers


Join the physical or online blockade of the Salvation Army!

Posted: April 4th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Charities | 2 Comments »
blockade of salvation army shop

Workfare: If you exploit us we will shut you down!

Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty will be holding another of their regular and extremely successful blockades of the Salvation Army on Saturday morning from 11am onwards.

Join in with an online blockade of the Salvation Army’s social media and let them know what you think of their prolific and unashamed use of forced unpaid labour.

Make your feelings known and you may even get to join the prestigious ‘Banned by the Salvation Army over workfare related comments’ facebook group.

Although the Salvation Army are steering clear of the government’s latest workfare programme, the 6 month long Community Work Placements, they are still major users of workfare, taking part in Mandatory Work Activity and the Work Programme. The Salvation Army have expressed their support for workfare for sick and disabled people using the disturbing phrase “emancipation through employment”. Their enthusiastic support of workfare has won them praise from the government last year that they were ‘holding the line’ as other organisations were dropping out of the schemes due to public outrage.

We will keep the pressure on until they fully withdraw from all workfare schemes which threaten people with benefit sanctions of up to 3 years, causing hunger and homelessness.

Contact the Salvation Army UK on Facebook and on Twitter: 

They can be telephoned on (020) 7367 4500 or emailed at: info@salvationarmy.org.uk

The Salvation Army’s youth section are on facebook here.


Online Action: Sign up to Universal Automation

Posted: April 3rd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action | 1 Comment »

UnivAuto

Even though the failure that is Universal Jobsmatch could come to an end in 2016 (although some form is meant to continue!) it is still being pushed now. People are being bullied into using it, made to apply for scams, zero hour contracts and below minimum wage jobs, whilst it’s also being used to sanction us for the smallest errors. One person contacting us was sanctioned for not applying to a job advert with a broken link!

Today, as part of the week of action, we call on people to take action against Universal Jobsmatch using Universal automation:

As the Job Centre clamp down on our time more and more, Universal Automation can help us resist this as our weekly job search is done in record time! Also if you have time, skills or general user feedback get involved to support the project.

This email to Universal Automation also shows the effect of people applying for lots of jobs advertised by exploitative employers ;)


Take Action Against The Green Charities Profiteering From Workfare

Posted: April 2nd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action | 3 Comments »
Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 19.11.59
Environmental charities The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) and Groundwork UK are two of the biggest workfare exploiters in the UK.  Both accept forced labour placements, often to carry out hard, outdoor, physical work, and both have lucrative contracts to manage workfare schemes.
 
Both charities have been invited by the DWP to help run Community Work Placements – the upcoming mass workfare scheme which involves a shocking 780 hours of unpaid work.  As some more enlightened charities have stated these placements are not volunteering.  Anyone who refuses one of these unpaid positions will face brutal benefit sanctions.  
 
Groundwork receive huge amounts of tax payer’s money already from the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) [1] and the National Lottery.  Unlike other organisations they have remained silent about their use of forced labour despite repeated criticism on social media.  With the Government paying their bills, they are more like a workfare Quango than a real charity.
 
Both charities however do not just rely on the government funding to survive, but also the goodwill of genuine volunteers, community groups and partners.  As part of the week of action, let’s make sure everyone knows about their dirty little workfare secrets.
 
Groundwork are on twitter  and facebook them here 
 
You can email them at: info@groundwork.org.uk
Tel: 0121 236 8565
 
Groundwork have local branches throughout the UK.  To find contact details for the nearest visit: http://www.groundwork.org.uk/Page/map
 
The Conservation Volunteers are on twitter  and facebook them here 
 
Email them at: information@tcv.org.uk
Tel: 01302 388 883
 
To find your local TCV office visit this website
 
But please note: Whilst it’s well worth trying to speak to a manager or senior individual if possible please bear in mind most people taking calls/emails will be low paid retail/admin staff and could even be on workfare themselves. Be aware that is an offence to make telephone calls or send communications which are threatening, indecent or offensive.
 
[1] This article was amended on 5th April to correct this sentence, which mistakenly stated that Groundwork receive funding from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).  The correct Government department is the DCLG. Groundwork have received DEFRA funding in the past – despite a recent denial – and now say that the DCLG funding has stopped. This doesn’t mean that Groundwork are not a workfare quango: they receive huge sums of public money from the lottery and the DWP, and in their 2012/13 Annual Report said that:
It is recognised that, in the short term, the financial security of Groundwork is dependent on the organisation’s charitable aims demonstrating that they contribute to the priorities of central and local government. (pdf, p. 11).

Keep up the pressure on YMCA!

Posted: March 31st, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Action report, Call to action | 8 Comments »
Boycott Workfare inside YMCA HQ

Boycott Workfare inside YMCA HQ

Today boycott workfare paid a visit to the London headquarters of workfare exploiter YMCA. They’ve defended their use of unpaid, forced work in previous statements and we’ve called them out on it. Mandatory Work Activity forces people to work without wages under threat of sanction, and doesn’t help them find a job anyway. Whereas the Salvation Army have stated they will not get involved in the new 6 month long Community Work Placements starting later this month, the YMCA have yet to make a public statement on the issue.

The YMCA wants to have its cake and eat it. Their president, Bishop John Sentamu, has spoken against workfare. Yet, the organisation still takes part in some of the harshest schemes.  They’re also involved in delivering traineeships – workfare by another name.

We say volunteering should remain just that, and that people shouldn’t be “made to volunteer” under threat of sanction.

The fight against workfare is more important than ever, with 74,000 people being sanctioned every month. Sanctions are one of the main reasons people are turning to food banks to feed themselves, and you can now be sanctioned for up to three years. This is forcing people to make the choice between heating their homes or eating.

Join us in a day of action against the YMCA’s use of workfare. Tell them what you think about them using forced unpaid work in their charity shops. Don’t let them ignore the devastating effect that sanctions are having on people up and down the country.

Facebook: YMCA England

Twitter:

Phone them on 020 7186 9500 or their shops hotline on 0845 601 0728.

Find contact details of your nearest YMCA shop here

But please note: Whilst it’s well worth trying to speak to a manager or senior individual if possible please bear in mind most people taking calls/emails will be low paid retail/admin staff and could even be on workfare themselves. Be aware that is an offence to make telephone calls or send communications which are threatening, indecent or offensive.


Subway: Traineeships are Workfare

Posted: March 29th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action | No Comments »

fast-food-rights-logo-square-iiToday is the Fast Food Rights Day of Action! In solidarity with the Bakers Food & Allied Workers Union, target Subway, who are using traineeships to avoid paying wages.

In return for no money, for 21 hours a week, for five months, ‘You’ll become a member of the team and will assist with food preparation, serving customers and ensuring the shop and kitchen areas are kept clean and tidy. Despite huge profits, billion pound fast food multi nationals like Subway use unpaid labour and zero hour contracts, leaving young workers especially vulnerable and exploited.

Traineeships are not apprenticeships. They are a form of workfare: forced, unpaid labour under threat of sanctions.  They fall under an ‘exemption to the National Minimum Wage’ and are specifically designed to enable employers to take on young people aged 16-24 without paying them.  The only obligation an employer has, having used you as free labour for five months, is to give you an interview – either a job interview or an ‘exit interview’.

Subway Unpaid traineeships  are being organised via GP Strategies Training Limited – one of a range of ‘training providers’ who make money out of traineeships.

As the Government guidelines say: ‘Traineeships are delivered by training providers and funded by the government, with employers providing the valuable work experience placement and interview as part of the programme.’

With £12 million currently set aside for traineeship delivery, the only people who aren’t making money out of this are the young people forced to work for nothing – this list of other companies who are also using traineeships to avoid paying people is just now advertising 580 traineeships.

Let Subway know that workfare can’t be disguised so easily.

 or Facebook them

Support #FastFoodRights: 


Leaflet to help shut down new workfare scheme

Posted: March 25th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Info on schemes | 3 Comments »

CWPleafletimage

During the Week of Action against Workfare (29th March – 6th April) actions will take place across the UK to stop workfare and the new 6 month workfare scheme being introduced called ‘Community Work Placements’. Actions are already planned in Brighton, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Liverpool. We have also created the above leaflet that we encourage people to hand out at Job Centres – along with our ‘Know Your Rights’ info. As placements are meant to begin in late April this leaflet will help us find out the first places taking this latest, and longest, workfare scheme, helping us put an end to the ‘Community Work Placements’ before they have even properly get started. The recent statement by the Salvation Army where they announce they will not get involved in the new scheme (but sadly keep their involvement in all the others *boos*) demonstrates the effect exposing and taking action against workfare users has.

Here you can get the pdf of the leaflet (print on A4 and cut in half to get two A5 leaflets). If you are unable to print your own flyers get in touch with info@boycottworkfare.org with the amount you want and an address and we will send you them (along with know your rights leaflets if you wanted). Send us photos or reports of how the leafleting has gone and any information you find out from speaking to people!


UK councils use half a million hours of workfare

Posted: December 28th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Info on schemes, Name and shame | 10 Comments »
Public sector workers, including at the DWP, will soon face sanctions under Universal Credit unless we take action now.

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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100,000 people given historic sanctions

Posted: December 15th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Info on schemes | 6 Comments »

In August 2012 it was ruled in the high court that the letters given to claimants mandating them onto workfare schemes of up to 780 unpaid hours did not communicate to people what was required of them on these schemes. This meant all the bretroSanctions2enefit sanctions that had been awarded through a range of different workfare schemes were unlawful and had to be repaid. The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) went about appealing this ruling, but in February 2013 the decision was upheld.

After this the DWP rushed through the retrospective Jobseekers (Back to Work) Act, making the unlawful withdrawal of benefits from an estimated 179,000 people now apparently legal – although obviously this Act did not change the fact that people were not fully aware of what was required of them at the time. This Act was supported by the Labour Party and deprived people who would have suffered significant hardship of a total of £130 million that was unlawfully stolen by the government.

It now turns out that the cruelty of this Act did not stop there. Since the first court case decision in August 2012 they had stopped sanctioning for cases that would be affected by the courts decision, and had started to stockpile these decisions. The introduction of the Jobseekers (Back to Work) Act allowed them to start sanctioning all these stockpiled sanctions. At the time they rushed through the act 63,000 sanctions had been stockpiled, and by the time they started to sanction people in July 2013 this could have reached over 100,000 sanctions.

Over the last 3-6 months people have been notified of these sanctions with letters such as the one shown. As can be seen there can be a year long gap between the alleged event and you being notified of the sanction making it almost impossible to appeal as it is unlikely you have knowledge of what you did on that day* (and neither do the work programme providers!).

Not only were all 3 main political parties involved in depriving the poorest people of £130 million that was rightfully theirs, but are now chasing another 100,000 claimants for money through these historic sanctions with little hope of claimants forming a strong case of appeal*. All benefit sanctions are wrong, but this retrospective law shows how happy the government are to even sanction illegally – as they’ll just change the law later and sanction people a year down the line.

There is currently a petition calling for an end to all benefit sanctions and Boycott Workfare are hosting a Welfare Action gathering on Sat 15th Feb to bring together people involved in, or wanting to set up, groups that are locally trying to stop and overturn sanctions, as well as organising against other welfare cuts. Follow this link for more information on the gathering – it will take place in central London and a programme will be up soon. Get in touch at info@boycottworkfare.org if you would like to come and also if you need help with travel.

*Appealing on the grounds that you have no record of events a year later could possibly work, but we have not heard of it. Let us know how it went if you have tried it. However if you have other grounds of appeal because you still have evidence or recollection, then use that instead. It can be worthwhile appealing as 53% of reconsideration requests and appeals against JSA sanctions are successful.