Boycott Workfare is a UK-wide campaign to end forced unpaid work for people who receive welfare. Workfare profits the rich by providing free labour, whilst threatening the poor by taking away welfare rights if people refuse to work without a living wage. We are a grassroots campaign, formed in 2010 by people with experience of workfare and those concerned about its impact. We expose and take action against companies and organisations profiting from workfare; encourage organisations to pledge to boycott it; and actively inform people of their rights.
Workfare: 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 on 1 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.
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.
While millions of people struggle to eat or heat their homes, and thousands of families face eviction, foodbanks and homelessness due to sanctions, bedroom tax and loss of disability benefits, Capita cashes in with conferences for Lord Freud (Minister for Dismantling Welfare) and his workfare collaborators.
You could pay £350 – £575 (plus VAT) to join all those snouts in the workfare trough at the Park Plaza Riverbank Hotel. Or you can let them know what you think via twitter, email, phone – follow the links below.
The conference is using the hashtags #capitaconf and #welfarereform if you’d like to join in the discussions today (or you can check out @capitaconf for their feed). You could also use the DWP’s #job2014 hashtag. The DWP are making a big effort to improve their social media presence – the least we can do is increase their footfall @DWPgovuk
The aim of the conference is to get ‘partners’ who make money from it ready for the next stage of ‘benefit reform’, with a special focus on ‘shifting the culture’. Let’s shift it in another direction!
In addition to the DWP’s own Lord Freud, (one of the chief architects in paying the private sector to dismantle welfare rights aka the great welfare rip off) the organisations below are supporting the event.
Private and voluntary sector organisations making big money from the outsourcing of welfare – let them know (politely) what you think… Read the rest of this entry »
This August will see the start of yet another role out of a scheme of unpaid labour aimed at the poorest. “Traineeships” are the grand plan of Skills Minister Matthew Hancock to provide free workers to companies for up to 5 months at a time to help us “secure an apprenticeship” afterwards ( which themselves have a minimum wage of only £2.65 an hour!). Although starting with 16-19 year olds it will eventually involve people up to the age of 24.
The government state they want traineeships to “simplify the system” for companies and “bring together, or cease, other similar programmes”. Although they do not say which schemes the traineeships will replace, it is most similar to the current work experience scheme. However, traineeships will not just be restricted to those on JSA, but also school kids when the compulsory age of education moves up to 18.
Like with the work experience scheme the placements can be with companies. However, whereas the Work Experience scheme placements were 2-8 weeks, with traineeships the length will more than double to 6-22 weeks (5 months). This will make it easier for companies to exploit us as they won’t have to train new people as often. Read the rest of this entry »
Today the Taxpayers’ Alliance has released a bizarre report entitled ‘Work for the Dole’, in which they argue for more austerity and further massive cuts in public spending, calling for people to effectively be made destitute. Overlooking the strange fact that they appear to be arguing the UK at present does not have workfare – when it clearly does- it is a timely reminder of what we are all up against. The Taxpayers’ Alliance call for all sanctions to be even tougher, and as to be expected they blame the unemployed for being unemployed rather than a lack of jobs. Furthermore the report does not advocate job creation, just more workfare and sanctions to be used to deter people from claiming social security.
Unsurprisingly this report ignores the economic reality of the UK employment market, bizarrely claiming that the Government should use workfare to change people’s ‘behaviour’. The report is a classic example of a ‘blind faith based policy’, as opposed to a policy proposal reflecting the UK’s economic, social or political realities. But then it is based on data from American schemes implemented during 1997. That was 16 years ago.The world economy was booming and very different back then. The evidence (ignored by Taxpayers’ Alliance) from existing schemes in the UK is that they simply do not work. The evidence (again ignored by the Taxpayers’ Alliance) from international schemes is that they can in fact harm people’s chances of finding work.
The Taxpayers’ Alliance seem unconcerned about the massive subsidy to the private sector these failing schemes represent. The ‘Welfare to Work’ companies which set up the placements currently pocket over £400 for every month of forced labour – far more than those forced to work receive in social security. The failing Work Programme is costed at £5 billion. That’s before we even consider the subsidy to business that forced labour schemes represent, or the lost taxes from wages that would otherwise have been paid.
Unlike the Taxpayers’ Alliance, who have strong links to the Conservative Party, Boycott Workfare is a real grassroots organisation that is totally independent. Whilst our campaign, your campaign, has won many important victories, there are many more still to be had. Some leaders in the Trade Union movement act as if their families or membership are immune from workfare and welfare reform. They are not. It has been left to all those who support our campaign – you- to provide the ethical, moral and political opposition to workfare. We’re all doing a great job, and should be proud.
This delusional report demonstrates that the workfare lobby is getting desperate. Workfare is a threat to the disabled (ESA), those employed part-time or full-time, the unemployed, organised labour, and to wages in general. Given the nature of what we all face, Boycott Workfare doesn’t pull any punches. Over the coming weeks and months Boycott Workfare will state the facts exactly as they are in relation to workfare and who is pulling their weight against workfare, and who is not. Do the right thing. Do the moral thing. Support us, and support yourselves. Boycott Workfare. Boycott Exploitation.
An employee for the HR company Transline Group who finds staff for Amazon, tweeted her thoughts on the unemployed and the power she has to ruin lives, “I get so much pleasure knowing what i can do if people mess me around” and have their “benefits stopped forever” – the photo shows more of her vile views. In doing so, she has revealed what many of us who have experienced A4e or SEETEC or REED know is true. Our lives are controlled and they relish in using sanctions to bully and punish people, whilst providing big businesses with cheap or unpaid labour.
Although the employee in question has now been suspended this raises questions of what is going on? Are Transline a subcontractor for the work programme as well as managing recruits at an Amazon store? If not what is their relationship with the local work programme provider?
Earlier this year in email correspondence passed onto Boycott Workfare, regional manager of Maximus, Jamie Guest, said “We have placed people into work in Amazon Distribution Centres in Slough, Milton Keynes and Hemel Hempstead”. This was after someone had already been pressured about taking a low paid job there with unspecified hours with the ‘justification’ that “you’re not even working 16/20 Hrs per week” – at Amazon you’re not even guaranteed one hour. This appears that Amazon who are renowned for using zero hour contracts and firing people every 3 months are getting the many staff they need, due to the high turnover, from the work programme where people have no choice – although through a confusing chain of companies.
This all means that claimants can be referred for sanction by people such as @DietQueen (the sanction happy tweeter in the photo) for not going to interviews, or taking jobs at Amazon, with no guarantee of hours or a ‘job’ longer than 3 months. Meanwhile the Work Programme ‘supply chain’ could be cashing in on the ‘job outcome’ of someone forced to work on a zero hour contract. At present Boycott Workfare cannot tell you how many people are being sanctioned or if anyone has been sent to Amazon on workfare, or elsewhere, as the government are currently refusing to make this information public.
Boycott Workfare would ask people not to target the person in question. Given the facts we would ask people to instead concentrate their anger at Amazon and Transline Group, or at anyone from this growing list of workfare providers.
Thank you to @robotincognito for the screen grabs and finding out the story!
Also, here’s a reminder of the DWP’s rules on zero hour contracts: “Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants are not required to apply for zero hours contract vacancies
and they will not face sanctions for turning down the offer of a zero hours contract.”
A mysterious source has revealed the mobile numbers for some of the top executives profiting from forced unpaid work at Seetec. This workfare company pockets over £400 for every person sent on Mandatory Work Activity while claimants retain only their Jobseekers’ Allowance of £286.80 for 4 weeks’ work. These executives are currently pushing for more people to be sanctioned. They are helping push ever increasing numbers of people into hunger and destitution. These are the executives – whose wages are paid solely by the taxpayer – who are bidding for even more of your money from the state, to force people into workfare.
Seetec has the contract for delivering Mandatory Work Activity in London and East England and has numerous contracts for the disastrous Work Programme. We’ve already heard they’re not big fans of Boycott Workfare, complaining that placements are more difficult to find as a result of your campaigning!
One in five people sent on Mandatory Work Activity has their benefits stopped. Sanctions can now last for up to three years. These managers ruin people’s lives on an industrial scale. We think pointing this out to them might just ruin their day:
With tickets costing £414 it is unlikely that benefit claimants themselves will be represented at the conference. Instead it will be workfare providers such as A4e, G4S and Working Links who will be using yet more taxpayer’s money to boost their profiles at the two day knees up.
Luckily claimants can join in online as delegates will be tweeting using the hashtag #w2w2013. As part of the Week of Action Against Workfare why not join the conversation on Tuesday 9th July. Let’s make sure these poverty profiteers know that whatever new ways they come up with to harass claimants, if they continue to exploit us, we will shut them down.
The conference is being organised by the Centre for Social Inclusion (CESI) who can be contacted on twitter @CESIEvents or @InclusionCESI.
Sadly it is not only welfare to work companies involved in the conference but several charities as well. One of them, the Child Poverty Action Group, is even listed as an official supporter of the event. The charity claim they did not pay for this, but are listed as supporters because they have produced a booklet which will be handed out on the day. As part of the online action why not tell them what you think of them helping to give this conference charitable cover on twitter @CPAGUK and on facebook.
Details of the conference can be found here. More online action every day this week and loads of events planned too!
Lord Freud – the ex-banker with an 8 bedroom mansion driving the welfare abolition agenda (Photo: CBI/Flickr)
David Freud, or Baron Freud of Eastry, is the coalition’s welfare reform minister. He’s been instrumental in bringing in privatization of the welfare system, increasing conditions on those claiming benefits and advancing the rotten cause of workfare at every step. This is why Boycott Workfare paid him and Minister Mark Hoban a visit last week when they wanted to talk about how wonderful the new ‘universal credit’ system was going to be. It’s also why UK Uncut stopped by his house in April to give him their very own eviction message.
Freud has been at the forefront of the ideological attacks and demonization of unemployed people and those struggling to make ends meet. Last November, he complained that “people are able to have a lifestyle off benefits and actually off conditionality.” In May, he was criticized for refusing to comment on the suicide of Stephanie Bottrill, who cited the government’s bedroom tax as the reason why she could no longer cope.
He had no answers to what the effect of the tax would be on the 220,000 families who face the changes to housing benefit and dismissed the extra charges as “relatively small”. When asked how social housing tenants would make ends meet he suggested they “could go out to work”, enforcing the myth that those in social housing or claiming housing benefits are not in work already. He also repeated his advice that separated parents who don’t want to pay the tax shouldn’t keep a bedroom for their children to sleep in. Instead they should downsize and put their kids on a sofa bed.
Freud was also a key adviser to the previous Labour government on the introduction and extension of workfare, before he joined the Tories and was made a Baron. His advisory report on workfare in 2007 recommended contracting out the ‘management’ of claimants to private companies on a massive scale. At the time, he noted that:
‘there is no conclusive evidence that the private sector outperforms the public sector on current programmes’. (p6)
What he was sure about was that:
‘this will be an annual multi-billion market. Such scale would attract commitment from a wide range of private service providers and voluntary groups.’ (p8)
Workfare thinktank Policy Exchange got together with the DWP yesterday to announce the results of their call for ideas for bullying part-time workers off in-work benefits. When Universal Credit is launched, all claimants unable to secure full time jobs will have to continually look for ‘more or better paid work’ or face sanctions. But Boycott Workfare were there to make sure the event didn’t go to plan. One Policy Exchange organiser was overheard bemoaning “It’s just such a shame that the event has been ruined.” Now to ruin their plans to extend devastating sanctions to the working poor!
Work Programme: proving there’s money to be made out of the unemployed, but none for the unemployed themselves. Photo: Howard Jones
Another week, another admission from politicians that the government’s Work Programme is failing (but obviously without any moves to bring it to an end). This open letter of complaint highlights just how useless the Work Programme really is, and concludes “I think the only solution to my complaints is for your company (and the Work Programme in general) to cease to exist.” For more stories of people’s experiences, read the comments on the blog where this letter was originally posted.
To whom it may concern
I am writing to lodge a formal complaint against Avanta. I do not wish to target any individual branch or person in my complaint but, rather, your organisation as a whole. My reasons for this are that I believe any branches or individuals are only acting in the interests of your company and their actions are a reflection of what is expected of them.
I will state, however, that my branch is the [removed] branch – but I’m fully aware my complaints are not limited to this one branch.
I am extremely dis-satisfied with what is supposed to be a service intended to help myself, and other jobseekers, back into work. There is nothing about Avanta which proves to me that Avanta are interested in anything more than filling their own pockets.
My complaints are as follows, and in no particular chronological order: