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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.

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.


Anti workfare flying pickets rock Salvation Army in Edinburgh

Posted: March 4th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Action report, Charities | 13 Comments »
Four Salvation Army shops blockaded in one day by Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty!

Four Salvation Army shops blockaded in one day by Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty!

Thanks to Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty for this inspiring report of their action on 3rd March… a hint of what’s to come in the week of action?

Anti workfare campaigners swooped on four Salvation Army shops in Edinburgh on 3rd March, blockading them all and turning away customers and a delivery lorry. Salvation Army managers were visibly rattled as a giant banner proclaiming IF YOU EXPLOIT US WE WILL SHUT YOU DOWN blocked the entrance to their shops.

At the Bruntsfield Place shop the Salvation Army manager threatened: “I’m one of the more serious managers. I’ll get a group of people to come and kick your heads in if you don’t move from in front of my shop.” The demonstrators from Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty maintained their blockade of the entrance and shortly afterwards turned away a lorry from Nathans Wastesavers textile recycling company. Animated debate continued in the street outside the shop as a pro-workfare passer-by was berated by another passer-by who recounted his experiences in the local Salvation Army hostel, where he said the management took half of residents’ benefits to pay for their accommodation.

SUCCESSFUL
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Stop workfare in its tracks – Take action 29 March – 6 April

Posted: March 3rd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Charities, Pledge to boycott workfare, Welfare to work industry | 10 Comments »
blockade of salvation army shop

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

Tens of organisations have already quit workfare. The government will not reveal which organisations are still using it for fear the schemes will collapse. Its contractors complain that they have lost hundreds of placements due to public pressure.

But they’re trying it again with a new scheme – “Community Work Placements” – launching in April 2014 which will force claimants to work for six months without pay. Six months – 780 hours – is more than twice the maximum community service sentence. Workfare does not help people find jobs and being unemployed is not a crime.

This new workfare scheme is part of a raft of draconian measures, misleadingly called “Help to Work”, which are designed to increase sanctions (benefit stoppages) and undermine wages still further.

For the workfare schemes to happen, they need places to send people, but tens of large charities have already quit. Oxfam stated that the schemes were incompatible with its goal of reducing poverty in the UK. Liverpool Volunteer Centre has condemned the scheme in the strongest possible terms.

Our action can stop companies, charities and councils from exploiting forced unpaid work and make sure this new scheme falls flat on its face. Wherever you are, however you can contribute, take action on 29 March-6 April.

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2014: Two weeks in and already winning!

Posted: January 12th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Charities, Public Sector | 3 Comments »
A park in Scarborough

120 people were sent on Mandatory Work Activity Placements for Scarborough Borough Council, but the scheme has now been cancelled!

Less than two weeks into 2014 and we’re already having an impact! Scarborough Council, one of the worst workfare-using councils in the UK, has cancelled its involvement. Volunteer centre Knowsley CVS has taken the principled stand to have nothing to do with workfare schemes. On Friday, the DWP’s social media strategists were forced to abandon use of their hashtag #takeoverday to promote ‘work experience’ when people literally took it over to campaign against sanctions and workfare!

Over Christmas, The Mirror and The Guardian published our research into UK councils using workfare. Scandalously, councils have benefited from at least half a million hours of workfare labour since 2011. We highlighted some particularly shocking examples, including Scarborough Borough Council, which had taken 120 Mandatory Work Activity placements in its Parks Department.

Apparently the Council didn’t appreciate the national publicity, and following its first meeting in the new year, the scheme appears to have been cancelled practically overnight [Warning: link contains embarrassing self-congratulation by members of the same political party which introduced workfare to the UK]. Cuts to the Parks Department were proposed in 2012. This success should mean jobs are now a little more secure. Read the rest of this entry »


Seducing the voluntary sector: Or, never take sweeties from the men at the DWP

Posted: November 13th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Charities, Info on schemes | 7 Comments »

Salvation Army International and UK HQs were paid a surprise visit to launch the week of action. [Photo: Sinister Pics]

Salvation Army is one of the charities propping up workfare and sanctions – let charities know it will damage their reputation if they get involved [Photo: Sinister Pics]

Community Work Placements are the workfare part of the ‘Help to Work’ scheme. This was announced by George Osborne in September, and will begin in April next year. The other parts are daily attendance at job centres (for 35 hours per week) and compulsory training.

This means that once again we’re seeing ads for workfare subcontractors that target the Community & Voluntary Sector. While some charities (e.g. YMCA, Salvation Army, The Conservation Volunteers & Groundwork) are dedicated workfare exploiters, many others say they do not support workfare, but still end up helping to deliver it. The supply chain is so (deliberately) complex, it can disguise what’s going on.

Currently EOS, Maximus, Learn Direct, Reed in Partnership, ESG, G4S (tax dodging supremos) and Interserve (they rely on prayer & financial support from Christians) are all inviting bids from voluntary sector ‘partners’ to provide Community Work Placements in a ‘real working environment’ for up to 30 weeks, for up to 30 hours per week. In other words, forced unpaid labour for people who have not found ‘sustained employment’ while on the Work Programme.

The criteria for being sent on a Community Work Placement are ‘lack of motivation‘ (for example a reluctance to be exploited in no pay, low pay jobs) and/or ‘lack of work experience‘. Claimants will have to do these placements alongside ‘supported job search’: the exhausting and pointless process of endlessly looking for non-existent employment opportunities. As blogger Johnny Void says: “This new scheme represents 780 hours unpaid work, over two and a half times higher than the maximum community service penalty that can be handed out by the courts.  And this is just for the crime of being unable to find a job.” 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:


Age UK’s Workfare Warehouse

Posted: August 1st, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Charities | 6 Comments »
Age UK shop

Age UK: still using workfare

Supposedly, Age UK pulled out of workfare in December.  However, since then we have had a number of reports from people doing Mandatory Work Activity at Age UK East Sussex  in oppressive conditions at their Newhaven warehouse. We have been told they take on about 15 placements every week! With about 10 of these being bullied off or dropping out due to the nature of the placements over the 4 weeks. These people are likely to have then had their benefits stopped for at least 3 months as a result of Age UK East Sussex. On top of this it appears there are issues with health and safety and reports of people being injured from the work and then told not to come back.

Here is what someone who has been at Age UK East Sussex had to say:
“Abuse of workfare placements at Age UK East Sussex continues. AGEUKES is a charity in financial trouble according to the accounts that are published on their website. The money losses are down to mis-management. Paid staff have been laid off and the use of zero hours contracts and placements is being increased to save money.
Placements are promised a structured program to learn skills but are just used as general dogs bodies. They are sent out to deliver leaflets and put up signs in the street. They are sent out on vans to do manual lifting. Activities which are not covered by either the charity or Pinnacle’s insurance. People are bullied into doing jobs that are demeaning. The paid staff were not expected to do some of the things Pinnacle people have to do. Example: sorting rubbish with no proper personal protective equipment.”
The welfare-to-work company organising the workfare placements at Age UK is Pinnacle People: Age UK East Sussex’s Commercial Director Richard Scott-Clark is the person arguing in favour of Age UK’s involvement with them in East Sussex.  He opposed trustees when they wanted to end the workfare placements.
If you want to show your anger at how Age UK East Sussex have been treating claimants and staff they can be contacted here.  Or you could email Richard Scott-Clark: richard.scott-clark@ageukeastsussex.org.uk, or contact him on the phone through the Newhaven furniture warehouse: 01273 646 8000.
Or alternatively just contact Age UK:
Tweet them here


Find their facebook here


Take action on the charities creating hunger and homelessness

Posted: July 11th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Charities | 2 Comments »
Take action against the charities which continue to exploit the unemployed and increase poverty

Take action against the charities which continue to exploit the unemployed and increase poverty

One in five people sent on mandatory work activity in charity shops face destructive sanctions (benefit stoppages) of three or six months. Sanctions are a major reason for the soaring rise in the use of foodbanks as hunger is made a daily reality in the UK. The charities still involved in workfare are profiting from making people poorer and giving moral cover to the companies involved as well. Let’s tell them it’s time to pull out!

Last month, a poll of charity workers showed just how unpopular workfare is with the majority of people in charities: 92% thought that the government should publish the list of workfare providers that it is withholding.

Since the start of the year, thanks to your action, five charities have said they will no longer take part in workfare schemes: Sense, PDSA, Capability Scotland, Sue Ryder and the Red Cross. The Children’s Society has also pledged not to use workfare.

This means the workfare schemes which rely on charity placements are on the rocks! Already before the latest withdrawals, the government complained: “The high profile withdrawal of placements from a number of larger charities meant a sharp reduction in placements.”

Let’s help banish workfare from charities: contact these workfare exploiters today.

RSPCA

Fellow animal charity PDSA has already realised that it needed to show a bit more kindness to the human beings working in its shops. Time for RSPCA to do the same and stop using workfare!

Head office: 030 0123 0100
Facebook: RSPCA
YouTube: www.youtube.com/rspcauk
Flickr feed: www.flickr.com/photos/rspca
Twitter:






YMCA

The YMCA released a statement in March defending their use of forced unpaid workers, and ignoring the fact they are responsible for pushing people into destitution and possible homelessness through sanctions which can last up to three years. Persuade them to join the list of charities who will no longer have anything to do with workfare.

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

Email: shop@ymca.org.uk or enquiries@ymca.org.uk
Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/ymcaengland
Find contacts for your nearest YMCA shop: http://www.ymca.org.uk/find/ymcashops
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/THEYMCA
Tweet their President, Bishop John Sentamu, has spoken out against workfare in the past:

Twitter:

Salvation Army

The government has praised the Salvation Army for ‘holding the line‘ on workfare. When new figures emerged two weeks ago showing just how disastrous the Work Programme is for claimants, the Salvation Army released a pro-Work Programme report and have publicly claimed that ‘The Work Programme is working‘. They have boasted about the fact they even force sick and disabled people to do their workfare schemes.

Salvation Army UK can be contacted 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.

Encourage the Salvation Army’s International Headquarters to step up the pressure on the Salvation Army in the UK on facebook here and on Twitter:

To tell Salvation Army branches round the world what is being done in their name in the UK find twitter details here.

British Heart Foundation

Mark Thomas has 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 committment 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.”

Mark Thomas has 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.”

Following occupations and pickets in across the UK British Heart Foundation announced they were “moving away” from workfare. Recently they declared they had withdrawn from the Mandatory Work Activity scheme. But they are openly declaring on their website that they are still participating in the Work Programme – despite the fact that in December this scheme was extended to give providers the power to force many sick and disabled claimants on Employment and Support Allowance 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:

Papworth Trust

Papworth Trust told civilsociety.co.uk:
“Papworth Trust believes that by being involved in mandatory work activity, we can make sure that each work placement is as effective as possible for each disabled or disadvantaged person.”

Now tell them what you think of their use of disabled people on workfare!

A list of phone and fax numbers can be found here.
Email: info@papworth.org.uk
Youtube: www.youtube.com/user/papworthtrust
Facebook: Papworth Trust
Twitter:

And if you’ve got a bit more time, why not get in touch with some of the high street brands profiting from workfare or the green charities exploiting forced labour too? Remember there’s loads of action on the streets this Saturday too!


Workfare in the Fresh Air

Posted: July 10th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Charities | No Comments »

By now, most charities with a shred of decency have given up on workfare in disgust.  But the baton is being carried forward in a big way by the green-minded ones.  So two environmental charities are the focus for today’s online action: Groundwork and The Conservation Volunteers.banner boycott

Groundwork is involved in workfare throughout the UK, including Mandatory Work Activity and the Work Programme. In London, they’ve been in partnership with Homes for Haringey for some time and they have ‘a close relationship’ with Haringey council.  The Conservation Volunteers run three Mandatory Work Activity contracts and have employed thousands of unpaid workers since the 1980s.

They both think that by remaking the natural environment, we remake ourselves. Or take The Grow Organisation – a small Norfolk company involved in the Work Programme. They have  the same idea: ‘We exist to grow people’, they claim; ‘Cutting Grass, Cutting Crime, Cultivating Futures’ they vaguely promise; ‘Improving ourselves.  Improving our communities’.

And it’s bracing stuff: as TCV’s advert for volunteers says, ‘you should be prepared to work outdoors in sometimes poor weather’.

But it’s hard to see how anyone’s community is being improved by people working to ‘gather up recycling materials’ round the back of a food preparation plant, as TCV explained they have people doing. Workfare at these charities stretches to construction, hospitality and industrial cleaning, as well as the green fields fun they want us to imagine. And they don’t only make people work for them: they organise placements elsewhere as well.

The environment is a useful alibi for workfare. How can working to save the planet be a bad thing? It’s also an easy way to argue that the unpaid work people are forced to do is for community benefit – which makes it easier to force people to do it. That’s why £19-a-play golf courses can benefit from unemployed people’s forced unpaid labour provided by The Conservation Volunteers (formerly BTCV).  Elsewhere, Boycott Workfare have heard that people are being told to dig holes in a field for 8 hours or day, or repair fences on animal show farms.

They hope we’ll ask: can cost-free labour be so bad if it makes recycling cheaper for us all, reclaims green spaces and is enforced by people who ‘want a better quality of life for everyone’? They hope we won’t notice that they’re involved in schemes that don’t help people find work, which people only do under the threat of sanctions – just the same as every other company exploiting people through workfare.  Workfare users Marks & Spencer hope the same thing: they’re in partnership with Groundwork.

But their message is the same one always pedalled by the DWP: you are where you are because of something wrong with you; if you believe you can get a job, you will. The smell of new-mown lawn ought only to make that more obvious.  Be grateful that people take the time to improve your ‘prospects’ while you work for free.

TCV 

The Conservation Volunteers (formerly BTCV) are the most unrepentant of charitable workfare exploiters. Remind them that they can’t get away with having ‘volunteers’ in their name until they stop forcing people to work for them!

By phone: 01302 388 883
By email: information@tcv.org.uk
On Facebook: The Conservation Volunteers
On Twitter: 
Or find your local TCV here

Groundwork

They think they can help people out of bed in the morning through workfare.  They’re complacent: wake them up!

By phone: 0121 236 8565
By email: info@groundwork.org.uk
On Facebook: Groundwork UK
On Twitter:
Or find Groundwork near you here

Look out for more online actions tomorrow as part of the week of action against workfare.  See if there’s an event panned near you!


What they didn’t tell you at the Age UK’s For Later Life Conference

Posted: April 30th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Charities, Name and shame | 1 Comment »

Age UK shop

Age UK: still using workfare

Workfare: silence is consent

Does Age UK support workfare or not? They certainly didn’t want to discuss the issue at their For Later Life Conference although they had plenty to say about poverty, inequality and equal rights in ‘tough times’.

Back in 2012, Age UK head office said there was ‘no involvement’ in workfare schemes and that they were now advising their stores to wind up their association with government employment programmes. But in recent weeks Boycott Workfare has had a spate of tweets from people saying they’re being forced to ‘volunteer’ at Age UK or face sanctions. Age UK in East Sussex appears to be taking part in MWA (Mandatory Work Activity), which requires people to work unpaid for 4 weeks or lose benefits.

Contact Age UK to raise your concerns now!
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