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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.

Tales of unpaid toil: sanctioned by the Samaritans

Posted: August 9th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Charities, Guest blog, Name and shame, Personal accounts, Sanctions | Tags: , , | 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.

Tales of unpaid toil: Sanctioned by the Samaritans 1

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 »


Tales of unpaid toil: workfare continues at B&M

Posted: July 10th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Guest blog, Info on schemes, Personal accounts | 7 Comments »

Tales of unpaid toil: workfare continues at B&MReferrals 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 »


Sanction B&M Stores: our labour, their profits

Posted: April 28th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Personal accounts | 3 Comments »
Workfare exploiters B&M Stores

If you exploit us, we will close you down

Take action against persistent workfare exploiters B&M Stores as part of the Week of Action vs Workfare and Sanctions!

B&M Stores has won an award from the workfare industry for their support for forced unpaid labour. The harsh reality of their involvement is exploitation of claimants – people working for nothing under the constant threat of sanctions – and workfare being used to reduce overtime and replace paid staff.

“B&M stores 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 other workers.”

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.

“Just to let you know B&M Stores have taken on new staff under a workfare scheme. This was 1 month after staff hours were cut by 50%. This meant my hours were cut from 20 to 10.”

B&M Stores made over £100 million profit last year but still they use forced unpaid labour.

B&M Stores have over 400 stores from Perth in Scotland to Portsmouth in the South of England. They have expanded by using workfare grabs from any local JobCentrePlus. It has been reported that in one B&M Store “older or long term staff were sacked and a new wave of 20 workfare placements taken on.”

What you can do:

Thanks to your efforts, more and more businesses and charities are withdrawing from workfare.  Keep up the pressure and let B&M Stores know:  ‘if they exploit us, we will close them down!’

Use twitter, facebook and direct action to expose B&M Stores and call for a boycott of their stores.  Workfare exploits claimants and means poorer pay and conditions for all workers.

Tweet

Email customer services

Phone: 0151 728 5400 (remember to speak politely)

Facebook

Visit their Corporate Website

You could also let workfare apologists ERSA know what you think about awards that celebrate companies that profit from exploiting claimants.


Peacocks exposed: Apply for a job – get workfare!

Posted: February 26th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Name and shame, Personal accounts | 13 Comments »
group of protesters outside peacocks

Hundreds of leaflets were given out and there was a great response from passers-by to the demos on 1st March!

Another high street chain has now been exposed as using workfare: Peacocks have taken on workfare placements instead of hiring staff. 

Two stores faced protests on 1 March and their Facebook moderators have been very busy deleting people’s messages for days now. London Boycott Workfare invites other groups to pay a visit to your local store too and put the pressure on for Peacocks to pay its staff! Download our leaflet template here.

This person’s story shows how this practice means job applications are ignored when free labour is on offer instead. Another report has come in that the Sutton store has 10 workfare placements at one time. Please find out what’s going on at your local store too and let us know!

Can’t make it to a store in person?

Peacocks’ code of conduct claims: “Employment is Freely Chosen. There is no forced, bonded or involuntary prison labour. This includes forced labour due to peer pressure…”

Let Peacocks know what you think about their use of workfare on their social media channels:
Facebook | Or via their website |

Or contact the company which owns them – Edinburgh Woollen Mill:
On Facebook |

I started claiming in last August, and since then have been sent on several work placements.

In December of last year I had an interview for Christmas temp work at Asda (though in the end I didn’t undertake it). One of the interviewees was someone who had been on a work placement there. At the start of the placements, people are told they will take you on a temporary contract after completing the placement, but this person had to go through the same process as everyone else.

In December I also undertook a work placement within a local Holiday Inn branch that was tied into a ‘Sector Based Work Academy’ I was referred onto and that was organised by a local college and I believe jobcentre supported. They have also now however been placed onto the ‘work experience’ list available from my jobcentre.

A few months later, I was asked to put my name down for work experience again. Our local branch of Peacocks hadn’t long reopened. They had been advertising vacancies for some time and so within the first week of the shop being open I had put my CV into the store for consideration.

Read the rest of this entry »


Workfare health & safety problems at the British Heart Foundation

Posted: August 5th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Charities, Personal accounts | No Comments »
protesters outside bhf

Tell British Heart Foundation what you think of them using workfare!

Last year, the Minister for Employment boasted that he had reduced the 8-page Health and Safety guide for the “Work Experience” workfare scheme to one paragraph. Story after story shows that when people are made to work without pay for fear of losing benefits, companies and charities think they can get away with putting people at risk.

We were recently contacted by a mother concerned about her teenage son’s placement at British Heart Foundation. She told us:

About a month ago my son was placed on the Work Experience Scheme with a British Heart Foundation Furniture Store where he works 4 days a week.  I was surprised as I had read they didn’t take people unless they were happy to volunteer. I don’t believe these JSA claimants have much choice in the matter.

My main concern is one of Health and Safety. As far as I can work out the only thing my son is doing is moving furniture – anything from chairs to wardrobes. He is also moving these between floors. He hasn’t had any training in the proper moving and handling procedures. He is not in contact with members of the public or learning any retail skills like the cash handling. If he is unable to move furniture due to size he is either sent home or mills around… there seems to be no alternative work should this occur. The only benefit seems to be to British Heart Foundation who are monetarily rewarded. My son is now beginning to suffer shoulder problems. These young JSA claimants do not have the confidence or knowledge to challenge the work ethics of their placements.

This placement if for 8 weeks and he still has to be looking for work and its seems that if he stops going he will lose benefits. Work experience placements in school are monitored but it doesn’t appear that is the case with JSA work placements. I think other parents should be aware that Work Experience may not be experience at all.

British Heart Foundation have used workfare on a massive scale – at one point their website stated that they had 1500 placements at any one time. Following occupations and pickets across the UK, they announced they were “moving away” from workfare. But they are openly declaring on their website that they are still participating in the Work Programme – despite the fact that in December mandatory work placements on this scheme were extended, so that many sick and disabled claimants on Employment and Support Allowance can be forced to work for nothing, or face sanctions.

BHF state on their site: “Our supporters are welcome to contact us directly if they have any questions about our participation in the scheme. Please email customerservice@bhf.org.uk“. Don’t disappoint them, get in touch!

BHF Retail HQ – 01372 477 300
Head Office – 020 7554 0000
Customer Service Centre – 0300 330 3322
Facebook: BHF
Contact: http://www.bhf.org.uk/contact-us.aspx
Twitter:


‘They could refer me to it whenever they liked’

Posted: May 19th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Name and shame, Personal accounts | Tags: | 3 Comments »
Occupied Times infographic. information available in text form on know your rights page on our website.

Know your rights! Read more here.

Job Centre Advisors routinely ignore their own rules; the process for challenging bad decisions is sometimes so obscure and long-winded that someone’s time on a placement is served before they get far enough to have the decision overturned. This person’s story highlights what a deeply frustrating process this can be.

I was referred to Mandatory Work Activity in March 2013 by an adviser who, until the day I was referred, I had never met before. No adviser told me I was being considered for MWA, nor were any concerns about my job search raised, and the reason given was the period of time that I had been unemployed and needed work experience.

Having been referred I researched what MWA entailed and found that this adviser had failed to follow several of the guidelines set by the DWP for referral (failure to use the Customer Assessment Tool, the rule about the referral never coming as a surprise to a claimant and eligibility amongst other things) so made a phone call the next day to express my displeasure at this. I raised these concerns with the adviser who referred me, who fairly flippantly told me that they could refer me to it whenever they liked.
Read the rest of this entry »


My story of how I managed to get out of the Mandatory Work Activity (MWA)

Posted: November 13th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Info on schemes, Personal accounts | Tags: | 1 Comment »

Standing up for your rights works! See this account from a young person who managed to avoid being sent on workfare, and learn your rights on donotsign.com and consent.me.uk.

Last March my job advisor told me that I’ve been mandated to work inside a charity shop called Scope for which I was expected to work 30 hours a week just to receive my Job Seekers Allowance. When I asked “Is it mandatory, that I have to do it?” my job advisor said “Yes.”

At first I believed what my job advisor told me until I found the Boycott Workfare website which had links to other websites like consent.me.uk which highlighted you shouldn’t be referred onto MWA if you’re already doing your own voluntary work, which I was.

When I next had my appointment to sign on and see my Job advisor I brought a copy along detailing that I shouldn’t be referred onto MWA if I’m already doing my own voluntary work. I explained to my job advisor that I shouldn’t have been referred onto MWA in the first place and showed evidence to back up what I was saying. From the conversation that followed between myself and my job advisor it was agreed that it wasn’t necessary for me to go onto the MWA.

Moral of the story? Don’t take their word for it – know your rights.


More reasons to take action this Saturday

Posted: September 6th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Charities, Name and shame, Personal accounts | Tags: | 2 Comments »

Comedian Mark Thomas has this week spoken out against the use of workfare by British Heart Foundation: “As someone who fundraises and supports BHF (L2B bike ride regular) it’s gutting to see them join an exploitative scheme like Workfare. BHF involvement in Workfare has undermined my trust and commitment to them as a campaigning group. I would ask BHF to reconsider. If they wish to keep their public status as a charity that is automatically thought well of by the public then they should cease their involvement with Workfare.”

One charity which has admitted to using workfare on a massive scale is British Heart Foundation. This week, comedian Mark Thomas has spoken out against their involvement. Below, Izzy Koksal blogs about a visit to her local store to speak to the people forced to work without pay. Want to take action? Saturday is the day to do it as people across the UK take on charity involvement in workfare.

Forget second hand furniture – the British Heart Foundation is the place to go if you want to understand the reality of workfare. I popped along to my local store this afternoon in the hope of speaking with someone about their experience of workfare. The policy director of the BHF had announced that every store had people on work placements from the government’s various schemes and so this seemed like a good place to start. Speaking with the manager, she looked around the room and counted those on Mandatory Work Activity, ‘1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 today’ she informed me, adding ‘we do have pure volunteers as well’. I certainly had come to the right place to witness workfare at work. Three men were at the back of the room hammering at a wardrobe, a young woman was answering the phone and arranging for donations to be collected by the van, another woman was sticking price tags on sofas – all of these people were here because, as one of them put it, ‘there is no choice’, if they refused they would lose their benefits.
Read the rest of this entry »


Q: What do the Jubilee and Argos have in common? A: Workfare

Posted: June 4th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Name and shame, Personal accounts | Tags: | 11 Comments »
Argos: still exploiting people with workfare

Argos: still exploiting people with workfare. Photo: olishaw/flickr

Following the excellent blog post that revealed workfare at the Jubilee, today the Guardian exposed the full shocking story of the conditions faced by workfare stewards and security guards at the Queen’s Jubilee. Unfortunately this story would not be a surprise to those carrying out workfare at Argos.

Earlier this year, Argos admitted it was using forced unpaid work to cover its “busiest time of year”. Then under pressure from the public and media, Argos said it would suspend its involvement in workfare. However, we have been contacted by someone forced to work in an Argos store in the East of England whose story shows that Argos is back at it, and intent on getting as much free work from unemployed people as possible…

I just thought I’d tell you that I’m currently being forced to do mandatory work experience at Argos. They have three of us and we were doing 10 hours extra a week more than any member of staff at our level so they’re obviously doing it so they don’t have to give overtime to their current members of staff.

Read the rest of this entry »


A view from an ex-employee

Posted: March 15th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Personal accounts, Welfare to work industry | 1 Comment »

This testimony is by someone who used to work for one of the private companies which place people into workfare. The person didn’t want the company to be named since “this should not be a campaign against specific organisations, the whole thing is rotten and needs to be understood.” It provides an interesting insight into the attitudes and practices that are rife in the target-driven environments of these private companies.

As an ex-employee of a company that was delivering the government’s Flexible New Deal in 2010, I can verify that many questionable policies and procedures were taking place at the time I was working there.

The Flexible New Deal was the government strategy of forcing the long term unemployed (18 month+) back to work. An unenviable task, and the DWP contracts out the service to companies that out-bid each other to cut costs and corners wherever they can.

A worthy idea in many ways, it is good to have a specialised service whose aim is to encourage, coax and incentivise the long term unemployed back into the job market by training, re-skilling and confidence building for those who may have lost their way.

After a little while there however, I became increasingly uncomfortable with many of the practices that were endemic in the culture of the organisation.

Read the rest of this entry »