Before it even starts, the Week of Action has had a major success: Holland & Barrett who have been using workfare on a huge scale (1100 placements a year amongst a workforce of 3500) have said that “the 60 people currently undertaking the work experience scheme will be the last to complete the eight week placement. After this time Holland & Barrett will not participate further in that scheme.”
Unable to acknowledge people’s ethical concerns about them using an unpaid workforce on a massive scale, they have made the hilarious claim that the decision is due to the threat to customer and staff safety from our peaceful protests planned this weekend! These follow regular pickets called by Sol Fed who co-ordinated a national campaign against the company’s involvement in workfare.
But Holland & Barrett aren’t totally off the hook yet. They continue to use the current 60 workfare placements until these finish. Their announcement indicates that they intend to replace workfare with apprentices, which would allow them to pay a wage of just £2.60 an hour, far below the living wage.
Nevertheless, their announcement shows that our protests can push back workfare in the UK. Holland & Barrett is just one of hundreds of businesses, public sector employers and charities profiting from replacing paid work with workfare. Protests will continue this week to target other brands still involved. These include British Heart Foundation, who have boasted that they have at least one workfare placement in every store, Argos, Superdrug, ShoeZone, Asda, Tescos, Wilkinsons, The Works, the list goes on.
See the list of actions planned for the Week of Action 7-14 July here. If there’s nothing near you, why not add something to the list?