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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.

Workfare: it’s far from over…. Argos, Scope and Oxfam

Posted: February 18th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Charities, Name and shame | Tags: , , , | 29 Comments »

Not to be outdone by Tesco’s sense of entitlement to profit from forced labour, Argos is also defending its widespread use of workfare, and has issued this shameless response to complaints raised by members of the public:

“We can confirm that Argos does not have a policy to recruit colleagues through the governments Work Experience Programme, but we do make use of it to offer work experience… Christmas is our busiest time of year and we are pleased to provide the opportunity for work experience during this time.”

Not much overtime for Argos employees over Christmas then. Despite increasing calls for Tesco’s to quit workfare and action which shut one of their shops for an hour today, they are still clinging on to the boost that forced unpaid labour gives their profit margins.

Elsewhere, great news that Scope have suspended workfare, let’s keep up the pressure for them to pull out completely. This takes us onto Oxfam. Last year Oxfam informed us:

The Mandatory Work Activity is not compatible with Oxfam’s stance on benefits… In addition to this, there are ‘sanctions’ attached to the scheme which could result in participants having their benefits removed… which would create situations where people were being driven into poverty. This is not compatible with Oxfam’s aims and beliefs.

However, Oxfam’s name has since come up on Freedom of Information requests about workfare. We would suggest that this would be an ideal time for Oxfam to publicly confirm their opposition to workfare given their stated mission to work “with others to overcome poverty and suffering” and to ensure that their stores are sticking to their policy.

Our campaign is just beginning. Workfare could affect everyone in every workplace, everywhere. After all, as Tesco’s shows, if you can get staff for no wages then why hire them?

More and more groups and across the U.K are joining the national day of action. You don’t need loads of people or resources to join them. Even handing out leaflets outside a local store will add up to a massive impact. Get involved and let us know if you’d like to announce an action in your town.

Thanks for stepping up the pressure again. Keep it up!


29 Comments on “Workfare: it’s far from over…. Argos, Scope and Oxfam”

  1. 1 avril coleman said at 8:05 am on February 19th, 2012:

    Surely if these businesses need more manpower, they could recruit these people and employ them properly. Why should they be forced to work without any entitlements! Why should the tax payer again be forced to pay peoples wages,(ie benefits), these businesses don’t pay their taxes, now they’re not paying wages. How long is the government going to back this? Mr. Cameron you had better think again about many of your half baked ideas!!

  2. 2 Shirley said at 8:36 am on February 19th, 2012:

    Oxfam? Seriously, OXFAM!!! Its one thing to volunteer for Oxfam – I do – but its something entirely different if you are forced to. Hmm, time to contact them to make sure they’re not part of his hideous plan.

  3. 3 doreen ross said at 8:43 am on February 19th, 2012:

    think a distinction needs to be made as to what constitutes voluntary work /permitted work/ and this work we are all getting mad about. i can see ppl who want to do voluntary work to keep themselves occupied being classed as doing work for nothing but their benefits just the same as the workfare thing. voluntary or charity work is and always has been just that , voluntary..a small job chosen to be done for nothing. these ppl are needed and always have been.
    workfare is not voluntary. even though its still done for nothing and a new hat put on it.

  4. 4 Phil Osborn said at 9:53 am on February 19th, 2012:

    The logical outcome from the workfare programme can only mean increased profits for the companies involved and increased unemployment to the country as a whole. This scheme makes absolutely no sense outside of the vindictive, greedy, callous, immoral and cynical minds of this government. In this year of celebration of the works of Charles Dickens they are hell-bent of recreating the social divisions he so wonderfully exposed.

  5. 5 Eric Greenwood said at 10:01 am on February 19th, 2012:

    Apparently there is an advert on the job centre’s site about superdrug.
    http://jobcentreplus.jobhits.co.uk/RETAIL-ASSISTANT-id-EAN-29944 Yet another one. RETAIL ASSISTANT in FISHPONDS ROAD BS16 – Directgov jobs and skills search – Job details jobcentreplus.jobhits.co.ukThis is a Work Experience Opportunity for 18-24 year olds. Retail placement available with Superdrug on Fishponds Road. Duties as required by the Store Manager.

  6. 6 G Nickerson said at 10:10 am on February 19th, 2012:

    I am surprised that this has taken so long to be an issue.I can confirm that Renfrewshire Council have been using a similar scheme involving “work experience” for at least the last 7 years.
    This involves unpaid work for up to 6 months with the carrot of maybe being taken on after that period.

  7. 7 Siôn Jones said at 11:13 am on February 19th, 2012:

    Why not organise free eat-ins for hungry, unemployed people at Tesco stores, where instead of closing the stores, people go in en masse, and help themselves to food and eat it on the spot? If enough people did it at one time, it would cause havoc. It Might be considered stealing, but it would be morally superior to using slave labour, and precipitate a national debate.

  8. 8 ROY MCINTOSH said at 11:37 am on February 19th, 2012:

    The political parties should be remembered as implimenting this in the first place and not many, if any of the political parties have really spoken out against it so they are just as evil!!!

  9. 9 Niall said at 11:37 am on February 19th, 2012:

    In what context has Oxfam come up in FoI requests? Are you sure they are still using forced labour? What you say is a bit vague.

  10. 10 Janette Gordon said at 11:39 am on February 19th, 2012:

    Keep up the good work.

  11. 11 Chris Grayling is a Lying Bastard | the void said at 2:14 pm on February 19th, 2012:

    [...] that their use of workfare has not been mandatory.  Some companies and charities alike, including Argos and the Salavation Army are unrepentant over their use of forced labour.  Resistance is growing [...]

  12. 12 Jonno said at 4:46 pm on February 19th, 2012:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2103252/Back-work-tsar-centre-fraud-probe-claims-funding-went-jobs-lasting-just-day.html

    Emma Harrison owner of A4E the controversial ‘training’ provider and Camerons families Tsar is being investigated for fraud…

  13. 13 JoshCalvert said at 4:54 pm on February 19th, 2012:

    So hang on a sec… are Argos saying that they don’t intend to recruit anyone at all through Workfare but they’re happy to take the free labour, ta very much Mr Cameron? No paid Christmas jobs available at Argos last December then? Sickening.

  14. 14 Rosa Rubicondior said at 8:49 pm on February 19th, 2012:

    What did Oxfam say when you put this allegation to them?

  15. 15 Revealed: The other companies that benefit from free ‘work experience’ | Liberal Conspiracy said at 8:58 pm on February 19th, 2012:

    [...] is now being put on other companies to follow [...]

  16. 16 Martin said at 9:07 pm on February 19th, 2012:

    The comment by Argos is very telling – it’s not an opportunity for a way to break out of unemployment – it’s simply a way for Argos to avoid taking on temps during the Xmas rush and/or to avoid paying their employees overtime. The seasonal Xmas temping is capable of taking people off the dole queues for a two month period and thus reducing the Govts unemployment stats – instead their Workfare policy ensures that unemployment remains high, because it allows people to remain unemployed whilst allowing private companies to line their pockets at the taxpayers expense. Surely no-one on the left or right of the political spectrum can consider that to be acceptable?

  17. 17 Douglas Thain said at 9:30 pm on February 19th, 2012:

    workfare can only work if the unemployed and their families allow it to work. they need to support each other they are voters and there is nothing that polictions fear more than voters. Placements have to benifit the people that are going on to them. by improving their chances of being employed. i spent years on placements and stupid training courses. But we did not have the benifit of the internet or social media. to higlight and name and shame the bussinesses and training orgs that abuse people. organise by unemployed if large groups of peole refuse to go on placement’s with the ones that are abusing things for example. some of the courses i had to go on Joinery course given rectagle of wood make it square same with metalwork course. landscaping course weeks picking up stones so that people from the parks dept can sow grass. another placement 6 weeks puting stationary into boxes for delivery. usless explotation. flush them out name and shame. 3 million people and their families and friends. a lot of voters organised petition should get their attention. but there are people that have never worked since leaving school some for years. they have to be given the choice and chance to benifit from being on placements if the want to. it got to the stage i walked into the benifit agency and told them to stuff their cources. they couldnt argue i had done them all. i then asked them to do there job creat an action plan to get me back into work. what type of work that i was qualified to do and employers in the area that could provide me with employment. they had to phone or send out letters when and if any vacancies came in.

  18. 18 pedro said at 2:13 am on February 20th, 2012:

    It’s quite simple really: Don’t do the work, then don’t receive welfare.
    I am sick and tired of hearing from the bleeding heart loony left on sites like this, moaning about their entitlements.
    Interesting to note the left wing organisations who represent only their own bloated marxist egos, listed on this site.
    Unions are yesterday, representing barely 14% of the workforce.
    There are jobs out, unfortunately the young of today have no idea whatsoever.
    A good reason why most of the jobs go to ‘foreigners’ who are prepared to get off their backsides and work.
    Welfare should be for the very needy only – not to support lifestyles that included plasma TV’s, smokes, cheap beers and bloody holidays.

  19. 19 ruse 23 said at 9:04 am on February 20th, 2012:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2103522/Suspend-work-tsar-MPs-demand-action-fraud-probe-job-placement-scheme.html

    ‘Suspend back to work tsar’: MPs demand Cameron acts after police launch fraud inquiry over job placements

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2103522/Suspend-work-tsar-MPs-demand-action-fraud-probe-job-placement-scheme.html#ixzz1muYJvMGs

  20. 20 AC said at 10:46 am on February 20th, 2012:

    Surley it’s fair for someone on the long term unemployed list to so some work in proportion to the amount of benefits they have recieved?

    Therefore I have no issue with people having to work for a Charity like Oxfam or even doing menial jobs which benefit society, which don’t get done.

    What I do object to however is that the scheme is being used by companies, which are making huge profits, to avoid creating real jobs and avoid paying salary and National Insurance to those employees.

  21. 21 Gill Cookson said at 11:08 am on February 20th, 2012:

    I was horrified by the suggestion Oxfam is involved so I asked them. This is the response from the Head of Volunteering:

    Our stance on the schemes is as follows:

    ‘Oxfam does not offer placements for participants in the Mandatory Work Activity, or compulsory elements of ‘work for your benefits’ schemes. We do this for two reasons: firstly because these schemes impact unfairly on the support people receive and so are incompatible with our goal of reducing poverty in the UK, and secondly because these schemes involve forced volunteering, which is not only an oxymoron, but undermines people’s belief in the enormous value of genuine voluntary work.’

    We have not been involved with these schemes since their inception since March of 2011 when they were first introduced.

    We have communicated with our network of 700 shops several times on this issue and have provided tools to help them to stop current Oxfam volunteers being placed on the schemes. However, unfortunately, some unscrupulous providers have given false information to some shops about the some people they are seeking to place, and as such I cannot guarantee that there are absolutely no placements in any of our shops at any time. However, I am writing to complain about this to the Department of Work and Pensions this week and hope that these providers will be forced to stop contacting our shops as a result.

  22. 22 Paul said at 4:06 pm on February 20th, 2012:

    If I were the MD at Argos there would be one job vacancy up for grabs. Whoever wrote that press release deserves to looking forward to joining workfare.
    “Insensitive, immoral, cynical, inflammatory etc.”.
    An amazing admission that they openly exploit the scheme at their busiest time without ever intending to be offering a position to a potential “colleague”.
    Unbelievable incompetence!

  23. 23 Paul said at 4:20 pm on February 20th, 2012:

    Unbelievable press statement from Argos.
    “Insensitive, Cynical, Immoral, Idiotic, Exploitative etc.”
    Could any sane organisation have issued such a damning statement about themselves?
    Argos admit that during their busy period they use workfare for the “needed” additional “colleagues” knowing full well that the “colleague” has no prospect of an interview, let alone a job.
    Surely, this is tantamount to admitting they actually abuse the system.
    Argos “colleagues” be aware your caring company would rather take on free labour than allowing you the opportunity of some overtime. But then they would, wouldn’t they?
    I expect Argos to be looking for a Press Officer soon, applications invited.

  24. 24 Beverley said at 4:55 pm on February 20th, 2012:

    I think its really good what you are doing and I support your campaign wholeheartedly and will attempt to get my union branch involved. However, I think you may need to make the distinction between charities and mulitnational, g-zillion pound corporations. This is unless charities are doing something new in this respect.

  25. 25 sarcboy said at 1:54 am on February 21st, 2012:

    As someone pointed out on another site…..IF you work as a volunteer for 15 or more hours you lose any benefit so er……why then are the govt forcing people to work for 40 hours or more for sweet FA….answer cos someome somewhere is getting rich on it…Its the only reason that bastard party exists……….DONT use any shop or company that is signed up to this bullshit and lets tell em all too.
    And just in case there are any trolls out there ready to snipe….if the work is there then they should fully employ people after all this govt keeps banging on about creating jobs and its growth that will get us out of the crap they created so why aint they doing that then…..answer ….follow the money..someone is getting rich out of it..same with the nhs..it isnt reform its a yard sale and only tory donating robbers are invited hence the summit today….no naysayers allowed in…..

  26. 26 Cheap-work conservatives: arbeit macht frei | Edinburgh Eye said at 11:57 am on December 3rd, 2012:

    [...] the run-up to Christmas this year, Argos will be busy: but instead of hiring temporary staff, they’re just recruiting free labour from [...]

  27. 27 Boycott Workfare » Blog Archive » Superdrug out – let’s make it more! Day 4 of the Workfare Week of Action said at 9:28 am on March 21st, 2013:

    [...] Multiple reports of Argos using workfare placements so that paid staff hours are being reduced and fewer Christmas temps employed have [...]

  28. 28 Boycott Workfare – Keep up the Momentum | Jolande's Controversial Stuff said at 9:53 am on March 21st, 2013:

    [...] Multiple reports of Argos using workfare placements so that paid staff hours are being reduced and fewer Christmas temps employed have [...]

  29. 29 Birmingham Trades Council » Superdrug out – let’s make it more! Day 4 of the Workfare Week of Action said at 2:37 am on March 22nd, 2013:

    [...] Multiple reports of Argos using workfare placements so that paid staff hours are being reduced and fewer Christmas temps employed have [...]


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