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.
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:
GovKnow’s Employment, Apprenticeships & Skills conference was about using welfare reforms to create incentives to work. It aimed to show employers where to look for cheap, compliant and mandated workers and to show educators and recovery organisations how to create those workers. It showed all those attending how to rebrand unpaid work as training, learning and recovery.
One protester spoke for five minutes until Mark Hoban had to leave the room; she was then evicted. When Hoban returned to the stage, another protester took up where she had left off. As he was evicted another one popped up again!
This is not the first time that industry conferences have been challenged. Others have been invaded, relocated and disrupted too. These events are all about the money to be made out of unemployment and out of the unemployed. It’s clear there’s no money to be made by the unemployed in the form of employment.
Three protesters were evicted from the conference this morning for disrupting Hoban’s speech. Challenged on his profit at expense of taxpayer while robbing the poorest, he had to leave the room. Video to follow! Tweet #employ2013 @GovKnow
Employment, Apprenticeships & Skills Conference 2013 16th May 2013
This conference is about the use of welfare reform to create incentives to work. The conference planning committee has already ruled out the option of well paid work.
Instead, the focus is on stepping up efforts to force people to work longer, harder, with greater insecurity and fewer rights, for very much less money.
The conference is also about ‘creating employees that business needs’ – in other words compliant, frightened, non unionised, isolated, grateful, desperate, aspirational, eager to please and above all, endlessly cheerful, positive and upbeat workers – no matter how exploited.
You can find details of the agenda here. Special highlights include:
how to pay low wages and still get highly skilled workers
government incentives for taking on those who are too sick to work
finding disabled people who are especially willing to work for nothing
diversity pays! Watch your wage bill plummet as disadvantaged groups clamour for zero hour contracts
focus on recovery: people who are hungry and homeless are a real bargain
Aktive Arbeitslose challenge sanctions and share mutual support with unemployed people in Austria.
Boycott Workfare is proud to be taking part this week in a conference in Vienna, hosted by the Austrian group ‘Aktive Arbeitslose‘. As well as an exciting chance to share ideas, tactics and experiences across borders, it’s also an opportunity to look more deeply at the EU and its involvement in workfare. What we found is revealing but perhaps unsurprising.
As high unemployment, austerity, and cuts ravage Europe, and millions of people are plunged into poverty, the workfare industry continues to promote poverty and a europe-wide race to the bottom. But people across Europe are refusing to run that race.
Wondering what this has got to do with EU? Follow the money: In 2010 A4e alone had already received £60 million from the European Social Fund (ESF).
For today’s online action, we will turn our eyes towards the future and step up efforts to get another ‘flagship’ scheme grounded before it even sets sail out of the harbour. Not content with the devastation sanctions are already causing, the DWP and their thinktank friends Policy Exchange have been seeking ideas on how to extend workfare and ‘conditionality’ – let’s call it profiteering, time-wasting, potentially life-sapping harassment – to working claimants when Universal Credit kicks in. And we have this weekend to tell them: don’t even think of it.
According to Lord Freud, the banker-turned-welfare-minister: “The fact that those in work will come under the ambit of the JobCentre Plus for the first time as a result of universal credit gives the government radical new opportunities.” The ComDems have learned their lessons from New Labour in the spin of framing retrogressive steps as ‘radical’. They are boldly going where no poverty profiteer has gone before.
However, the government is well aware that the usual divisive rhetoric about benefits robbing ‘the taxpayer’ will be more difficult to direct against people who are already working and paying taxes. Also, many of the workers they aim to harass are organised, belong to unions and have access to resources such as free legal advice. The Cait Reilly case upset IDS so much he threw a spectacular hissy fit. There’ll be many more challenges if the DWP insists on sticking its nose where it’s not meant to go.
Therefore, the DWP and Policy Exchange are asking for suggestions on how to widen the range of their nets to self-employed, part-time and low-paid workers. In a document with the catchy title of “Extending labour market interventions to in-work claimants – call for ideas”, the DWP requests feedback from “employers, behavioural economists, social psychologists, think tanks, welfare to work providers, academics, charities, application designers and those at the sharp end of delivering existing services”. Of course, this call-out doesn’t include those at ‘the sharp end’ of DWP schemes.
Alongside this, the Policy Exchange has formed a policy and academic group dedicated to this project. These lovely folks kindly invite comments ‘on a personal basis’ for Matthew Oakley at email@example.com.
We can ensure that they come to work on Monday to an overflowing inbox. Many websites allow you to download free PDFs of classics. Perhaps the DWP and Policy Exchange folks might want to read some. Dickens might be a good place to start, which will show just how ‘radical’ their plans are.
Suggestions, they want? Those of us likely to be on the sharp end of this stick could tell them what we think. Let ‘em have it!
Workfare: doesn’t work and not fair. Photo: Howard Jones
Yesterday, aside from a few votes against, Labour lined up with Conservative and Lib Dems to enable the workfare bill to go through by abstaining. Not only did politicians enable a retroactive law be enacted, they also deprived 225,000 people of justice, effectively robbing £130 million in welfare payments people were lawfully due.
But don’t get mad, get even. A4e is one of the biggest beneficiaries of Government welfare policy. In 2011 the company turnover was £180 million, 100% of which came from the public coffers. Out of this the bosses shared out £11 million between them. Today is their turn.
A4e have a catastrophic record of failing to meet even the paltry minimum targets set by the Department for Work and Pensions for finding people jobs on the workfare scheme, the Work Programme. You have more chance of finding a job without their bullying ‘back to work’ tactics. Read the rest of this entry »
Workfare: doesn’t work and not fair. Photo: Howard Jones
Last week saw the Labour Party announce its own form of workfare: the Job Guarantee. Labour, who introduced workfare and welfare reform into the UK whilst in government, now guarantees a number of things: It guarantees that yet again politicians will give billions of taxpayers’ money to subsidise big private businesses – probably the likes of failing and government contract reliant A4E, and workfare-users ASDA – helping them to drive up their profit margins. It guarantees to further undermine real job vacancies as companies replace job roles with subsidised compulsory short-term placements.
Labour, like the coalition government, also now guarantee to undermine the idea of a living wage, which just two months ago Ed Milliband appeared to champion. After all if a company can get staff forced to work for it, both provided by and subsidised by the state at minimum wage, why pay the living wage? Indeed, earlier announcements about the scheme suggest that it will include 10 hours unpaid, so will also be far below minimum wage. In addition, Labour’s ‘guarantee’ will only last for six months. With a revolving door workforce on tap, why would an employer create permanent jobs? As this campaign has revealed, workfare replaces paid employment, and undermines the wages of people already in work, who have seen their overtime and hours reduced: Debenhams is the latest to use workfare to staff its shops during the busy festive season.
With each placement lasting only six months, Labour guarantees to use its scheme to massage the unemployment figures, not giving those who finish their placements anything to go on to, but effectively resetting the clock on their long term unemployment. If you refuse to take part, then Labour guarantees harsh sanctions. Read the rest of this entry »
Yesterday the news we already knew. The Work Programme isn’t working. It’s a £5 billion pound failure. Not one of the 18 contractors reached the target set by the government of getting 5.5% of clients a job for at least six months. Only 3.5% of people referred to work programme found jobs lasting six months. But that’s not even the whole story. Workfare industry lobbyists the CESI have calculated that the real figure of people getting any kind of employment on the scheme in its first 12 months, is in fact just 2.1%. The government’s target for minimum performance by providers is 5.5%. Even these pro-workfare industry lobbyists have now stated that:
“This suggests that the Work Programme as a whole is underperforming against contractual expectations, even when accounting for changes in the economy.”
The cost of this £5 billion failure can also be measured in human misery. You have a one in ten chance of being sanctioned on the Work Programme but less than a one in twenty chance of finding work. Read the rest of this entry »