At the National Union of Teachers’ (NUT) conference in April, a motion was passed congratulating Boycott Workfare and other groups for our “successful campaigning against workfare which has helped persuade a number of major companies to pull out or suspend involvement in such schemes.” Agreeing that “these schemes largely serve to provide participating companies with cheap labour”, NUT policy now reads:
“No to workfare and the work programme. For all placements of unemployed people on work experience schemes to be genuinely ‘voluntary’, without threat of loss of benefits, and to at least pay the minimum wage.”
This follows a commitment from public services union, PCS, to offer its support to anti-workfare campaigning in February, when PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka said:
“The campaigns against workfare are exposing the true nature of these schemes that are providing a pool of free labour for big businesses that could afford to pay proper wages.
“Instead of exploiting our young people and seeking to blame them for mass unemployment, the government should be helping to create long-term paid jobs and training to get people off benefits and into meaningful work.”
The Bakers Food & Allied Workers Union has also signed the pledge to boycott workfare at a national level, joining many Trades Councils and union branches to have already done so. The pledge reads: “We the undersigned commit to refusing to participate in compulsory work-for-benefits placements. We want volunteering to remain just that!”
If you are a union member, please bring motions to your union branch and take it to regional and national level. Workfare is being rolled out in five different schemes, often implemented at a local level. It is up to all of us to challenge it in our workplaces and communities, and we can stop it.