Posted: August 9th, 2016 | Author: boycottworkfare | Filed under: Charities, Guest blog, Name and shame, Personal accounts, Sanctions | Tags: Benefit sanctions, Community Work Programme, Samaritans | 3 Comments »
Though the Samaritans don’t appear on the recently released lists of workfare exploiters from 2012, we’ve had a report of a Mandatory Work Activity placement in their shop in Hove in 2014. Recently, a claimant has also contacted us about Community Work Placements at another Samaritans charity shop in May 2016. Our correspondent writes: “I would like to point out that, even though I wasn’t placed at the Samaritans, other people sent by Interserve were.”
Like some other claimants who told the truth when questioned about health considerations during an interview and were not taken on, this individual has been sanctioned.
So a claimant who replies honestly about a health condition is alleged to be ‘negative’? Given that the upcoming Work & Health Programme targets claimants with disabilities and long-term health issues, we’ll greet this with a shudder and then get very, very angry.
This doesn’t seem to apply to claimants conscripted to work for free in Samaritans shops
Sanctioned by the Samaritans
I was sent for a CWP placement interview at a Samaritans charity shop. Due to my health issues, the store manager decided that I wasn’t suitable. On returning to Interserve I was removed from the CWP program and ended up with a four-week sanction.
I complained and tried to appeal but the provider Interserve and later the Jobcentre claimed that I had been very negative during the interview and refused to do the placement. This was a lie! The store manager had asked me early in the interview if I had health problems and I had only told her the truth. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: August 7th, 2016 | Author: boycottworkfare | Filed under: Call to action, Charities, Pledge to boycott workfare | No Comments »
Workfare hasn’t gone away (as evidenced by the number of name & shame posts we still get). But the recent press coverage of the court ruling revealing workfare exploiters is an opportunity to ask some tough questions of charities that may still be involved with workfare. We would like to encourage people to contact charities on that list to find out whether they are currently using workfare, and their position on workfare.
First check at KVV to see whether they have since signed the agreement not to use workfare.
Here is a sample letter which you can use – modify it as you wish.
Posted: July 10th, 2016 | Author: boycottworkfare | Filed under: Guest blog, Info on schemes, Personal accounts | 7 Comments »
Referrals to the Community Work Placements and Mandatory Work Placements schemes ended on 31 March 2016, but we are receiving more complaints from people put on Work Experience and Sector-based Work Academies. Here’s an account from someone who served time at B&M Bargains. Remember that these schemes are not compulsory though you may be told otherwise: please see Workfare: Know Your Rights for more information. We are in the process of updating this page but the information on Work Experience still applies.
I am currently on the Work Experience scheme at B&M in Droitwich Spa, doing over 30 hours of unpaid work for four weeks. If I do not do this I will have my Job Seekers Allowance cut.
There are four people, including myself, doing forced unpaid labour here. We have been told by the job centre and B&M that only one out the four of us might be given a job after the four weeks. So three of us will be working full time and won’t even get a chance at the position, and even the fourth person might not even get the job as they say it is only “possible” someone will be taken on. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: February 3rd, 2016 | Author: boycottworkfare | Filed under: In-work conditionality, Sanctions, Welfare to work industry | 4 Comments »
Roll up! Roll up! The first oral evidence session for the Works and Pensions Committee inquiry on ‘in-work progression in Universal Credit’ began on 3 February. This is all about ‘in-work conditionality’, where low-earning workers receiving top-up benefits such as Working Tax Credit and Housing Benefit will be subject to the tender attentions currently enjoyed by unemployed claimants. We previously covered this in Workfare: Don’t Think a Job Means You’re Safe and Suggestions, They Want? Now, with Universal Credit due to be ‘rolled out’ in more areas, we can enjoy another round of parliamentary mumbling.
Ready to welcome workers into the fold?
Despite the limited terms of reference, Boycott Workfare made a written submission to this inquiry. Given that we campaign against sanctions imposed on unemployed people, we naturally oppose sanctions against working claimants. Extending conditionality – which will include sanctions – to working claimants extends these harms to a wider population and will only punish people on the receiving end of the UK’s low-pay no-pay precarious labour market. Small rises in the national minimum wage will not make these concerns go away: with the imposition of conditionality for workers, a higher minimum wage will simply mean a higher conditionality threshold and the use of the minimum wage as a stick to hit workers who are not earning ‘enough’.
We have already stated our opposition to all sanctions in our previous submission to the same committee, and oppose any attempt to extend the regime that has been described as Britain’s ‘secret penal system’.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: July 14th, 2015 | Author: boycottworkfare | Filed under: Action report, Name and shame | Tags: B&M | No Comments »
Saturday 27th June saw an inspiring nation-wide Day of Action against B&M Bargains, a notorious user of workfare.
In a very short space of time the action snowballed, with autonomous groups organising actions against B&M in at least 20 towns and cities across the UK (let us know if we’ve left you off the list below!). It was truly a moment of solidarity: “If you exploit us we will close you down!”
Many of these groups were new or recently formed, which shows the exciting beginnings of campaigns against sanctions and workfare in even more localities. It also shows that such groups can get going almost anywhere. They can have immediate impacts and that there are many, many people out there who want to take direct action to bring an end to the exploitation, misery and poverty caused by workfare and sanctions.
The impact on B&M was clear – almost no one entered their shops while protests were taking place. And as always on anti-workfare protests, the response from the public was hugely supportive. Passers-by were shocked and appalled at a company not paying its workers. Many had never even heard of workfare and sanctions, and this shows how much the imposition of these schemes rely on maintaining unawareness in the wider public. It also points to serious questions around mainstream media’s coverage of these issues.
At the Norwich protest, a manager admitted that he, like all managers, are given a fixed amount to spend on wages. Therefore, he can only only cover all the tasks to be done during opening hours by using workfare – while B&M Bargains made about £100 million profit last year.
Elsewhere, another manager argued that those on workfare were on “work experience”. A month of full-time work in a low-skilled job is not work experience. It is only work. But instead of a wage paid in exchange for labour as in the classic understanding of a job, compulsion is used that forces those on workfare to work for free or face sanctions.
With other companies, keeping up the pressure through monthly or even weekly pickets can be incredibly effective. Norwich has already had a follow-up protest the weekend after!
Contact B&M – Remind B&M of the reasons that workfare is unfair and the impact it could have on the company if it continues to exploit its workers.
Main Telephone: 0151 728 5400 (or search the B&M website for a local store contact) If there is interest, there could also be another National Day of Action, perhaps to coincide with the opening of a new B&M store.
Some example slogans from protests around the UK:
Workfare = Claimant Trafficking
Fair Work, not Workfare
B&M: Big Profits, No Wages
They say work, we say pay us!
Workfare = Exploitation
Don’t shop where they don’t pay wages!
Workfare = Not Fair
If you exploit us we will shut you down!
List of actions that took place:
Actions in Wales – pictures and updates on the joint Facebook page:
– Rheidol Retail Park, Aberystwyth
– Y Coed Duon/Blackwood
– Merthyr Tydfil
– Caerdydd, Heol Casnewydd/Cardiff, Newport Road
– Casnewydd/Newport – 2 branches (Maesglas, and the Kingsway Centre)
– Ceredigion (near Aberystwyth)
– Cwmdu (Swansea)
Edinburgh (Musselburgh) – organised by Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty; a write-up of the action is at: http://edinburghagainstpoverty.org.uk/node/177
Middleton District Shopping Centre, Leeds – Leeds Welfare Fightback and Left Unity report (first on the page).
Birkenhead, Wirral – Unite Community Branch in Wirral; pictures on Facebook.
Liverpool, Toxteth – Liverpool IWW wrote up this action here.
Liverpool, Marina Walk Ellesmere Port – supported by Unite Community Ellesmore Port and Cheshire West Trades Council.
Birmingham, Priory Square Shopping Centre – Birmingham Claimants Union
Pool, Cornwall – Cornwall Anti-Cuts Alliance
Norwich – Norwich Claimants Union
Tottenham, London – Haringey Left Unity
Old Kent Road (Peckham), London – organised by South London Left Unity; pictures on the Facebook event. Report on the Left Unity website (second report on the page).
Willesden, London – Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group
Rotherham, Great Eastern Retail Park, Park Gate (Off Beale Way)
Haymarket Sheffield S1 2AX – organised by Sheffield Uncut.
Sheffield, Meersbrook. Pictures and brief report online here.
Posted: May 16th, 2015 | Author: boycottworkfare | Filed under: Call to action, Welfare to work industry | 9 Comments »
Get in touch to order leaflets for the Day of Action on 27th June!
B&M Bargains have won a ‘prestigious’ workfare industry award for their use of forced unpaid labour. We need to let them know this has not gone unnoticed. They need to understand that it is unacceptable to have this sort of exploitation take place in our communities.
B&M bargains are a private, profit making company (they made over £100 million last year) and yet it won’t pay its workers for their labour. People on workfare are given sanctions (loose their benefits) if they don’t work for free, and even when they do work they are sanctioned for ‘misdemeanours’ such as being late. Sanctions mean that claimants loose their basic means of survival – the money they need for food, bills and other necessities. Sanctions are a major cause of the rise in the use of foodbanks.
Apart from exploiting claimants, workfare also undermines the hours and conditions of paid employees at B&M. As with all workfare placements in the private sector, workfare provides free labour that replaces paid jobs.
Boycott Workfare has had several reports of reduced hours for paid staff as well as the practice of employing paid staff on a trial basis, sacking them after 12 weeks, and replacing them with workfare placements: Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: April 30th, 2015 | Author: boycottworkfare | Filed under: Call to action | 5 Comments »
Graph of sanctions increases, from David Webster’s evidence to the sanctions inquiry
It is a disgrace that the three main political parties (and UKIP) support workfare and sanctions. This consensus has allowed the introduction of policies that are causing ill health, hunger, homelessness and deaths. All three parties have some responsibility for this and they all have questions to answer.
So today we’re asking you to take action online and help us break the election silence on workfare and sanctions. It is unlikely that these issues will even get a mention during tonight’s Election Leaders Special edition of Question Time.
Help us to make sure these issues do get talked about, and tweet up a storm about workfare and sanctions using the #bbcqt hashtag. And tweet your unanswered questions to @Ed_Miliband @nick_clegg and @David_Cameron…
Here’s the low-down on the political parties that support workfare and sanctions:
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: April 27th, 2015 | Author: boycottworkfare | Filed under: Call to action, Welfare to work industry | 4 Comments »
Take action online against the workfare industry conference as part of the Week of Action vs Workfare and Sanctions!
Today, Monday 27 April, the welfare-to-work industry is holding its AGM. The ERSA – the organisation that does spin and lobbying for workfare exploiters – is meeting to discuss the year in workfare and new ways of making the sector respectable.
We don’t know the location yet. Since our noise demo massively disrupted their conference at the end of 2013, they’ve been cagier about where they meet.
For the first online action for the week of action against workfare, we want to target the ERSA and spotlight the violence they do to claimants through workfare, ‘training’, and sanctions. Their work relies on coercion, threats, and the imposition of poverty. So at the AGM we’ll find the Employment Related Services Association talking over new ways of presenting the same lies about workfare.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: April 14th, 2015 | Author: boycottworkfare | Filed under: Call to action, Guest blog, Unions | 2 Comments »
This is a guest post from the Bakers’, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU). They are organising actions around the UK on Wednesday against low wages and zero hour contracts in the fast food industry. BFAWU was one of the first unions to sign up to the Boycott Workfare pledge, after workers at a 2 Sisters Food Group factory in Nottingham were sacked and replaced with people on workfare back in 2012. Unlike some others, BFAWU has consistently campaigned against workfare as well as the precarious work, poor conditions, and low pay that workfare supports. See here for more details of BFAWU actions on Wednesday.
On 15 April 2015, thousands of fast food workers will lead a mass movement of around 60,000 low waged workers striking across the United States to raise the issue of poor wages and the lack of trade union rights within their industry. At the same time, fast food workers and activists in 33 other countries around the world will also be taking action against low pay. Here in the UK, the Bakers’ Food and Allied Workers’ Union’s Fast Food Rights campaign, which works in conjunction with the US workers’ movement, is calling for an end to the use of zero hours contracts and demanding an increase in the minimum wage to £10 per hour.
Protests have been organised across the country against employers who are wilfully exploiting their workforce in order to boost their already significant profits. Fast Food Rights actions will take place in London, Glasgow, Sheffield, Manchester, Darlington, Leeds, Birmingham, Leicester, Cardiff and Southampton (For details: fastfoodrights.wordpress.com)
One fast food worker on a zero hours contract said,
“I’m joining the 15 April global day of action because zero hours contracts and low pay are no way to live. What the American fast food workers have done shows we can fight for better. It is great that the bakers’ union has taken up the fight for £10 an hour and union rights for fast food workers here, and that’s why me and my workmates have joined the union.”
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: February 22nd, 2015 | Author: boycottworkfare | Filed under: Call to action, Info on schemes, Sanctions | 5 Comments »
Solidarity protest at Arbroath Job Centre to support Tony Cox and affirm claimants’ right to be accompanied
This week the Conservatives announced in their manifesto they would introduce a new ‘community’ workfare scheme, specifically targeted at young people.
This is odd because chancellor George Osbourne had already launched just such a workfare scheme last year – and neither David Cameron, Osbourne, nor the media appear to remember it.
What does this workfare reboot really tell us? That workfare as a policy must be in enormous trouble if it has to be rebranded and relaunched on a yearly basis. Successful polices don’t need constant spin and retreads. And this tells us that the public is just not buying workfare. But then why would they when it replaces jobs?
But then this latest ‘new’ workfare announcement is just more poorly thought out PR masquerading as a manifesto policy. A large number of workfare schemes already exist, and it is a proven fact that they do not work. They are very expensive failures. The Work Programme for example is a £5 billion failure, while the existing Community Work Placement scheme costs £235 million alone and is faltering badly with over 500 charities pledging not to take part in the scheme – and with more signing up every week.
More recently, the DWP evaluated the London Mayor’s ‘Day One Support for Young People’ (DOSfYP) workfare scheme. The DOSfYP scheme, like this new community workfare scheme presently touted by the Tories, was also targeted at young people. It cost £12 million and its chief outcome was to deter young people from claiming JSA – while making no difference to young people’s employment chances at all (see p. 28 of the evaluation here).
Read the rest of this entry »