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: October 6th, 2014 | Author: editor | Filed under: Call to action, Unions | No Comments »
Challenge the TUC’s support for workfare, on the first day of online action for the Boycott Workfare week of action.
On 1 August 2014, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) made a joint statement with Confederation of British Industries (CBI) to back Traineeships for 16-23 year olds and “show support” for the businesses that benefit from the unpaid labour on this scheme.
Traineeships involve training and “work placements” for up to six months – all unpaid. The TUC’s Assistant General Secretary Paul Nowak hails Traineeships as “an important first step towards the world of work”. But in giving a green light to a new layer of unpaid work in the economy, the TUC is in fact helping to shrink opportunities for young people, undermine the going rate, and replace paid work with workfare.
Traineeships mean that young people are now expected to work unpaid for six months before even qualifying for an interview for an apprenticeship. The lucky few who make it through the interview can look forward to a minimum wage of £2.73 an hour, as an apprentice.
If a young person does not take part in the training, they face punitive sanctions. The work placement segment itself may not be backed with the direct threat of sanctions, but, between the economic coercion of a jobs market with so few footholds and the draconian job centre regime, few people will feel able to turn them down.
Instead of demanding decent wages, the TUC is supporting McDonalds, Toyota, Virgin Media, BT, Vodafone, Phones4U, Siemens, Capita, local councils and many more being supplied with unpaid staff for up to 6 months on benefits alone, without any obligations to hire them!
The TUC plans to march behind the slogan “Britain needs a payrise” on 18 October. It seems to have chosen to ignore the millions of us who do not have paid work and instead face workfare and sanctions.
Today as Kilburn Unemployed Workers protest this shoddy deal outside the TUC HQ in London, please contact the TUC via the details below, or through your union networks.
When challenging their support for Traineeships, you might also like to point out that:
- The TUC’s support for Labour’s Job Guarantee means undermining the going rate and minimum wage too.
- The TUC’s support for benefit sanctions is totally unacceptable. It has recommended that ‘claimants who turn down a job guarantee job without good cause should face benefit sanctions’. Let the TUC know that punishing people by taking away their means to survival can never be okay.
Contact the Assistant General Secretary who issued the statement with CBI by email: email@example.com or send him a tweet:
Tweet at Frances O’Grady, the General Secretary of the TUC
Tweet at “Britain needs a Payrise” or post on its Facebook
Post on the TUC’s Facebook page
Or get in touch with the TUC’s press officers who released the statement:
Rob Holdsworth T: 020 7467 1372 M: 07717 531150 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tim Nichols T: 020 7467 1337 M: 07876 452902 E: email@example.com
If you’re a member of a trade union, please download and adapt this motion to challenge the TUC’s support for sanctions and workfare.
Posted: September 27th, 2014 | Author: editor | Filed under: Call to action, International, Unions | 6 Comments »
The government fears workfare could “collapse”. We want to make it do just that. On 4-12 October, take part in the week of action against workfare. The list of events is growing…. read on to find one near you, and if you can’t find one, why not plan your own? We can help – get in touch! There’ll be mass online actions on Mon-Fri of the week of action too. Get involved and help show workfare profiteers and exploiters “If you exploit us we will shut you down!”
4 Oct, SLSF calls anti-workfare picket in Lewisham
Saturday 4 October, Lewisham Clocktower at 1pm.
Join the South London Solfed roaming anti-workfare picket in Lewisham this Saturday, 4th October, in solidarity with Boycott Workfare’s week of action.
We will be targeting a number of organisations on Lewisham High Street who continue to exploit unemployed people as free labour.
More info here.
4 Oct, Stroud Against the Cuts leafleting about workfare
Saturday 4th October, 10am outside the 99p Store
Advice for claimants and information about the affect on us all.
6 Oct, Brighton Benefits Campaign picket of Avanta
Monday 6 October at 11am, Meet at Brighton Station forecourt
Join us in picketing Avanta, private provider and bully of unemployed and disabled people, sending them out as unpaid labour or forcing them into unsuitable badly paid work, and referring them for sanctions.
See the Facebook event.
6 Oct, TUC Backs Workfare: protest at Congress House!
Mon 6 Oct 1 – 2 pm, TUC Congress House, 23-28 Great Russell St, London WC1B 3LS, (nearest tube: Tottenham Court Road), Then 3 – 4 pm at CBI, 78 Cannon St, London EC4N 6HN (tube: Bank)
On 1 Aug 2014, the Trade Union Council (TUC) made a joint statement with Confederation of British Industries (CBI) to back Traineeships for 16 – 23 year olds.
Knowing first hand how unemployed people get harassed into workfare, get declined lunch & travel expenses to such workfares, get sanctioned or threatened with sanctions either during workfares or if they oppose them, we knew (despite TUC denying this) that TUC was now backing Workfare.
Join our protest to end this shoddy deal with Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group (KUWG) – members of Unite Community Union. Listen to your members TUC!
Download the flyer here.
8 Oct, North London, Sanctions Centres or Job Centres?
5 North London Job Centres are confirmed for next Wednesday’s “Sanctions Centres or Job Centres?” protests, Unite Community’s contribution to the Boycott Workfare Week of Action:
Barnsbury Job Centre, 1 Barnsbury Road, N1 0EX: 11am-1pm
Hendon Job Centre, Crown Building. 10 Finchley Lane, NW4 1DP: 9am – 3pm
North Kensington Job Centre, Quayside House Kensal Road, W10 5BL: 12pm-1pm & 3pm-4pm
Walthamstow Job Centre, Dansom House 656a Forest Road, E17 3SH: 9am-11am
Wood Green Job Centre, Granta House 1 Western Road, N22 6UU: 9am-12pm
Join the Facebook event.
8 Oct, Barnet, Rename the Job Centre the Sanctions Centre!
Wednesday 8 October, 9am-3pm, Jobcentre Plus, Finchley Lane, London NW3 8DP
Come and join us in a protest against sanctions on claimants and targets for staff! and take part in a mock ceremony and sign replacement when we re-name the job centre WITH ITS TRUE PURPOSE – THE SANCTION CENTRE
Join the Facebook event.
8 Oct, Kentish Town, Workfare stall
12.30-1.30pm outside Kentish Town Job Centre
Join Winvisible and Single Mothers Self-Defence for their regular stall with a focus on workfare rights as part of the week of action.
9 Oct, Edinburgh Shut down LearnDirect! Let’s make workfare unworkable!
Thursday 9 October, at 12 noon, Learndirect, Conference House, 152 Morrison Street, Edinburgh EH3 8EB
Learndirect are the workfare providers for the compulsory “work-for-your-benefits” schemes Mandatory Work Activity and the new Community Work Placements scheme, which forces jobseekers to work for nothing for six months. Learndirect profit from the forced labour schemes and shamelessly refer jobseekers for sanctions, making people penniless to try and intimidate jobseekers to submit to forced labour.
But resistance to workfare is winning. To date 422 organisations have rejected the compulsory schemes and signed the “Keep Volunteering Voluntary” agreement – including the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Christian Aid, Shelter and the Edinburgh Volunteer Centre. This month Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty approached Cancer Research UK to urge them to withdraw from workfare – they have now told Learndirect in Edinburgh that they will not take any more of their workfare “placements”.
Share the flyer. Join the Facebook event.
10 Oct, Amsterdam: action against workfare during meeting of minister with aldermen
On October 10, the action committee Dwangarbeid Nee (No to Workfare) will demonstrate during a regional meeting of Social Affairs aldermen from the west of the Netherlands. State secretary Jetta Klijnsma invited the aldermen to talk about the labour market. The committee Dwangarbeid Nee seizes the opportunity to demand the immediate abolishment of workfare, or “forced labour” as the unemployed call it.
Read more about the action and the impressive campaign in the Netherlands!
10 Oct, Peckham Job Centre protest
Outside Peckham Job Centre, Friday 10 October, 12 noon-3pm
Please join us to protest against sanctions and workfare. Bring noise, banners, speeches, friends… and ideas! We plan to liven up the street again in a noisy and direct protest to tell Peckham JCP, Southwark council and the DWP that we will not stay quiet whilst Peckham Job Centre continues to sanction job seekers at over double the London average. Come and say NO to cuts and attacks on the poor, and build the fight back!
11 Oct, Bristol – Bristol Day Of Action Against Workfare!
Saturday 11 October at 12:30pm, meeting point tba
Following on from successful actions against workfare in Bristol over the past few years (no more forced unpaid labour at: St Wherburghs City Farm, Homebase, Argos, Holland & Barratt…) We will be taking to the streets again, along with others across the country.
Join the Facebook event.
11 Oct, Sheffield, Demonstration against forced labour/workfare and Exploitation at Savers
Saturday at 12:00pm, Savers Health & Beauty, 8-10 Haymarket, S1 2AX Sheffield
Last month this community branch demonstrated against the exploitation and abuse of workfare victims at Savers store Sheffield. After it was brought to our attention that workers and workfare victims were being mistreated. We had a great response from Savers customers who are mostly as disgusted by savers exploitation and mistreatment of workfare victims and members of staff. This Branch calls on Savers to withdraw from any government schemes that force people to work for benefits. We will return again and again and damage your businesses reputation unless you withdraw. If you Exploit us we will shut you down.
Join the Facebook Event.
11 Oct, Haringey: 6 month workfare: No way! Picket North London Hospice
Saturday 11 October, 12 noon, North London Hospice shop, 19 High Road, N22 6BH – Three minutes’ walk from Turnpike Lane tube station
This Saturday, we’ll be picketing North London Hospice’s Wood Green shop, as part of Boycott Workfare’s week of action against workfare.
Hundreds of people in Haringey are being forced to work for six months with no pay under threat of sanctions. Urban Futures have the contract for Community Work Placements in Haringey and are busy finding placements in charities and “community benefit” projects across north London. But these schemes cannot work without charities making the placements possible – charities like North London Hospice.
We hold the work that North London Hospice does in high regard. Their aims include improving the lives of local people with terminal illnesses. So how can they reconcile their objectives with a scheme that puts people at risk of destitution?
Join and share the Facebook Event
Do you have an event to add to this list? Email firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know!
Posted: June 6th, 2014 | Author: editor | Filed under: Unions | No Comments »
Members of PCS union work for the DWP and job centres so are involved in the day to day delivery of workfare and sanctions. Members have shown they oppose it by voting for national policy against workfare and sanctions. Now Disabled People Against Cuts, Black Triangle and Boycott Workfare are asking them to use their power to help put a stop to these punitive measures.
Disabled People Against Cuts, Black Triangle and Boycott Workfare joint statement on PCS Union and non-cooperation:
1. We note that motion A81 that recently passed at the PCS conference makes reference to the PCS Union working with Disabled People Against Cuts and Black Triangle. (1)
2. We note that motions E340-E342 submitted by DWP branches also called for the PCS to work with Boycott Workfare, but that references to Boycott Workfare were dropped by the NEC from motion A81. (1)
3. Black Triangle and Disabled People Against Cuts wish to express their solidarity with Boycott Workfare who we believe have organised a broad based and successful campaign against workfare and sanctions.
4. We note that the legal advice received by the PCS in 2013 accepted that the tactic of non-cooperation could be used as part of a campaign of industrial action consisting of action short of a strike. (2)
5. We note that the PCS currently have a live mandate for industrial action and will be consulting members on 12th June about coordinated strike action. (3)
6. Disabled People Against Cuts, Black Triangle and Boycott Workfare therefore call on the PCS NEC to consult members on adopting a tactic of non-cooperation with workfare and sanctions.
Support our call for PCS to ballot for non-cooperation on sanctions and workfare:
- Get in contact with your local branches and ask them to raise it with their union.
(2) http://www.pcs.org.uk/download.cfm?docid=C20641E2-9DE4-4FFE-8E11590CCB7E0F51 (Motion A533)
Posted: February 24th, 2014 | Author: editor | Filed under: Action report, Info on schemes, Unions | No Comments »
Last week figures on how many people faced sanctions (benefit stoppages) were published. There were no surprises, only the disturbing reality that more people are facing the hardship, hunger and stress of sanctions than ever before.
What about the union of the job centre workers who are pushing poor people into these devastating situations? Last year its members voted for PCS union to look into means of non-cooperation with sanctions, but its leadership is point blank refusing to even consider this an option. This is despite the fact that over 4000 workfare placements have taken place in the DWP, undermining jobs and wages for PCS members.
Elsewhere, the TUC mustered a cynical statement condemning sanctions – cynical given they also support the use of sanctions (PDF – 3.6, pg 31) and have explicitly called for Labour’s ‘workfare-lite’, the so-called ‘job guarantee’, to be backed with this threat of destitution. Also taking the cynical “sanctions bad, but also necessary” line were charity Gingerbread, which seemed determined to have its cake and eat it, in a press statement which managed to both condemn and advocate sanctions. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: October 23rd, 2013 | Author: againstworkfare | Filed under: Unions | 8 Comments »
“There is clear evidence that the benefit sanctions regime has gone too far and is leading to destitution, hardship and hunger on a large scale.”
Not our words, but the findings of Oxfam’s report Walking the Breadline, which links the rise in the use of food banks to the rise in the number of people having their benefits sanctioned. The DWP have postponed the release of the latest sanction figures, but we know that the number of people sanctioned and using foodbanks stand at record levels.
Many of these sanctions are as a result of workfare, and many are being handed out for the pettiest of reasons. The imposition of a workfare regime has created a situation where the Red Cross are now having to deliver food aid in the UK for the first time since the Second World War.
Back in May the PCS union (the main union for DWP workers) had a real chance to address this state of affairs.
PCS branches put forward motions to their annual conference calling for action to be taken in solidarity with claimants being forced to do workfare and being made destitute by sanctions. Disgracefully, the response of the PCS leadership was to rely on overcautious legal advice to block any discussion of these motions, which angered many. They did however pass Motions A92 and A533.
Motion A92 is designed to instruct PCS members to refuse to sanction PCS members who work part-time in Job Centres, whilst they continue to sanction everyone else. This is because, when Universal Credit is fully rolled out, the same ‘conditionality’ (i.e. sanctions and workfare if you aren’t doing what the Job Centre thinks you ought to be) will apply to everyone, whether they are unemployed, disabled, in part-time work, or self-employed.
Emergency motions submitted by PCS branches which called for action to be taken against all sanctions were either not accepted or guillotined. In the end, motion A533 was also passed: this merely instructed the National Executive committee to “explore the possibility of including non-cooperation with sanctions in the next industrial action ballot”. So far they have failed to do even this.
Perversely, the only action they have taken so far appears to be against Boycott Workfare.
So what have the PCS actually done? After all this pressure from claimants and their own members, the PCS have declared they are responding by “spearheading a campaign against benefit sanctions”. They call on others to take action, but what exactly the PCS think others can or should take is not specified. There is no real PCS counter-narrative questioning the morality or implementation of workfare or sanctions. There is no real strategy for changing the current intolerable situation which sees people made destitute, and PCS members being instructed not to send people to foodbanks.
Their whole campaign is an empty PR exercise, designed to cover up their real lack of action and pacify an increasingly restless membership.
The PCS may claim that they are unable to take action because it would be illegal to do so. But there is a legal basis for action. The PCS may claim that to call for real action is an attack on their members. It is not. It is simply a call for solidarity: for an end to the implementation of policies which are an attack on all of us – and on the very idea of a welfare state.
Sanctions are a form of structural violence targeted at the poorest and most vulnerable. The workfare regime currently being imposed by the DWP is causing destitution, hardship and hunger. It is leading to an increase in homelessness and, tragically, to suicides. The PCS have had plenty of time to “consider the possibility of non-cooperation”. They should now ballot their members on a boycott of workfare and sanctions.
The PCS publicly claims “to stand up for public services and social justice”. The facts, and now its bizarre public attack on this campaign, clearly state otherwise. We’ll let you make your own mind up about what the PCS leadership really stand for. We stand with those who are left with nothing due to workfare and sanctions. Stand with us.
Posted: June 17th, 2013 | Author: againstworkfare | Filed under: Pledge to boycott workfare, Unions | 2 Comments »
We feel we should publicly state the facts as they are at present regarding relations between Boycott Workfare and a number of trade unions. This follows the recent appearance of some misleading reports which suggest that the GMB, PCS, and Unite trade unions are affiliated to the campaign or working with us.
One of the first actions the campaign ever launched was a pledge for unions to sign which states: “We the undersigned commit to refusing to participate in compulsory work-for-benefits placements. We want volunteering to remain just that!”
Some unions have been quick to recognise that workfare is an attack on employed as well as unemployed people. The Bakers and Allied Food Workers Union signed the pledge last year and have called for industrial action to challenge workfare. Many branches have also offered their support and challenged workfare in their workplaces: for example, GMB and UNISON members prevented workfare being used by Brighton City Council.
But the picture elsewhere is much less heartening: the TUC has supported sanctions along with Labour’s form of workfare. The PCS leadership blocked motions to challenge sanctions at their conference, claiming action against sanctions would be illegal and voting only to ‘explore the possibility’ of non-cooperation with sanctions as part of ‘an appropriate and legitimate trade dispute’. Despite recently beginning to recruit unemployed members, Unite’s general secretary last week welcomed a speech in which Ed Milliband promised a cap on the benefit bill, more sanctions and workfare.
The facts are as follows: the GMB have voted to affiliate with Boycott Workfare, but have at no stage been in touch with the campaign to discuss this with us. Whilst we welcome the good news that GMB members have voted to support our campaign, we must point out that we do not operate an affiliation scheme: the GMB is not affiliated with us, nor do we currently work with them. We hope the vote at the GMB congress marks a definitive break in the union’s policy: in the past they have promoted workfare. We hope that the GMB will commit its resources and energy to challenging workfare and we look forward to working with them if they do.
The PCS do not work with Boycott Workfare, or support the campaign. Neither does UNITE. Boycott Workfare, again, is not affiliated with either union. Motions condemning workfare have been passed by them. However, beyond individual branches’ actions, in reality no concrete action against workfare or sanctions has ever been taken by any of these organizations. Aside from the individual branches listed on our website, no unions have ever donated money or resources to the Boycott Workfare campaign. In the coming weeks we will clarify what role, if any, we think Unions have played in opposing workfare and sanctions.
We feel we have to state this, given what appear to be recent attempts to co-opt Boycott Workfare into anti-austerity campaigns that are funded and backed by those whose stated public policy position means they in fact support the use of both workfare and sanctions.
Boycott Workfare is a totally independent grassroots campaign.We are not a front for any political party, or affiliated with any party. We will not be not part of any official ‘anti- austerity’ campaign that does not condemn all sanctions and compulsion – both of which in fact are central to austerity. We will only work with organisations whose actions demonstrate their opposition to all forms of workfare and sanctions.
Workfare replaces paid jobs, it does not create them. Sanctions are used to force people to do workfare: they lead to hunger and destitution. Workfare and sanctions combined are destroying jobs, lives and the welfare state on an unprecedented scale. When Universal Credit is introduced, sanctions will be extended to millions of low-paid workers – including trade union members – who claim in-work benefits. All three political parties support workfare and sanctions.
Actions are needed, not motions.
We thank all those individual trade union members, and branches – and importantly the wider general public – for their continued work and their active, ongoing support of this campaign. We welcome and encourage the participation of all individual union members and branches who want to work with us to end workfare and sanctions. A motion for Union branches to pass opposing workfare can be found here.
Posted: May 2nd, 2013 | Author: editor | Filed under: Call to action, Public Sector, Unions | 3 Comments »
Boycott Workfare call on the PCS to take action on conditionality, workfare and sanctions
The PCS conference takes place in Brighton later this month. Join a rally urging delegates to support a position of non-cooperation with sanctions against welfare claimants at 12.30pm on 21st May.
Public sector workers, including at the DWP, will soon face sanctions under Universal Credit unless we take action now.
We are extremely disappointed that PCS leadership have decided not to allow debate at their conference on two motions which called for the union to move from theoretical to practical unity with claimants in challenging sanctions.
Current welfare policies and reforms represent an unprecedented attack on claimants and on the welfare state itself. Conditionality, workfare and the huge rise in sanctions are driving claimants further into poverty and destitution. At the same time a vicious campaign of hatred driven by the media and political classes has stigmatised those on benefits and poisoned public debate.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: March 2nd, 2013 | Author: editor | Filed under: Call to action, Unions | 8 Comments »
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.
Labour introduced workfare in the UK. It could now right that wrong. (Photo: UK parliament / flickr)
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. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: September 14th, 2012 | Author: editor | Filed under: Name and shame, Unions | 2 Comments »
350 workers sacked at a pizza factory – to be replaced with 100 workfare workers (Photo: eggplant / flickr)
Yet more evidence has emerged that workfare is replacing paid jobs. This week the 2 sisters food group announced the creation of 100 new jobs at their Nottingham Pizza Factory thanks to the ‘introduction of new business
‘. This might seem like good news until you discover that the jobs aren’t really jobs and the new business isn’t really new business.
The jobs are actually ‘pre-employment training’ for the unemployed, organised with the Jobcentre “to give them an idea of what it’s like to work in the food sector“. In other words this is a workfare scheme.
And the new business? 2 sisters also own the R F Brookes factory in Leicester, where 350 workers have been made redundant with the production of pizza toppings being moved to Nottingham “as a result of several recent strikes“. The president of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union, Ian Hodson says that 2 sisters announced 193 redundancies and cut redundancy payments, and that when their members took strike action they made a further 157 redundant as a punishment. Read the rest of this entry »