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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.

Let them eat inquiries

Posted: April 17th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Sanctions | 4 Comments »
Job centres have become "sanctions" centres

Job centres have become “sanctions” centres

It is no longer a secret that benefit sanctions are causing ill health, hunger, homelessness and deaths.  The disastrous impact of sanctions and the deaths of David Clapson and others have now been widely reported.   More than 200,000 people signed the petition calling for an inquiry into sanctions which led to the Work and Pensions committee agreeing to look at the issue.  As we predicted their response is woefully inadequate.
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Fast food workers are hungry for justice and a living wage!

Posted: April 14th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Guest blog, Unions | 2 Comments »

fast-food-rights-logo-square-ii-2This is a guest post from the Bakers’, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU). They are organising actions around the UK on Wednesday against low wages and zero hour contracts in the fast food industry.  BFAWU was one of the first unions to sign up to the Boycott Workfare pledge, after workers at a 2 Sisters Food Group factory in Nottingham were sacked and replaced with people on workfare back in 2012.  Unlike some others, BFAWU has consistently campaigned against workfare as well as the precarious work, poor conditions, and low pay that workfare supports.   See here for more details of BFAWU actions on Wednesday.    

On 15 April 2015, thousands of fast food workers will lead a mass movement of around 60,000 low waged workers striking across the United States to raise the issue of poor wages and the lack of trade union rights within their industry. At the same time, fast food workers and activists in 33 other countries around the world will also be taking action against low pay. Here in the UK, the Bakers’ Food and Allied Workers’ Union’s Fast Food Rights campaign, which works in conjunction with the US workers’ movement, is calling for an end to the use of zero hours contracts and demanding an increase in the minimum wage to £10 per hour.

Protests have been organised across the country against employers who are wilfully exploiting their workforce in order to boost their already significant profits. Fast Food Rights actions will take place in London, Glasgow, Sheffield, Manchester, Darlington, Leeds, Birmingham, Leicester, Cardiff and Southampton (For details: fastfoodrights.wordpress.com)

One fast food worker on a zero hours contract said,

“I’m joining the 15 April global day of action because zero hours contracts and low pay are no way to live. What the American fast food workers have done shows we can fight for better. It is great that the bakers’ union has taken up the fight for £10 an hour and union rights for fast food workers here, and that’s why me and my workmates have joined the union.”

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Win, win & win on workfare

Posted: April 1st, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Pulled out! | 3 Comments »
Know your rights sanctions advice

Get in touch to order our new sanctions leaflets to give out in the week of action on 25 April-2 May – info@boycottworkfare.org

Just over three months into 2015 and your campaigning against workfare continues to pay off.

Win: In January, the charity Wandsworth Oasis publicly stated that they have now pulled out of workfare. Then in March, following your campaigning, charity Starter Packs Glasgow announced that they too had pulled out of workfare. It would also appear that the charity Changing Lives may have quietly used workfare and then quietly pulled out. Maybe they know this is a campaign that can…

Win. The charity Papworth Trust have taken the step of emailing Boycott Workfare to say…

“…that as of 31 March 2015 Papworth Trust will no longer be delivering Mandatory Work Activity as we have not renewed our contract with the Department for Work and Pensions.”

Although they remain a subcontractor for the work programme, they now say they won’t mandate people to work experience on the scheme. For a charity of this size to decide not to renew a workfare contract is another massive blow to the DWP, and another success for this campaign. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised given workfare’s culture of bullying, sanctions and fraud is finally becoming common knowledge.

However, your campaigning successes do not stop there. Read the rest of this entry »


Week of Action vs. Workfare and Sanctions 25 April – 2 May

Posted: March 15th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action | 21 Comments »

workfare and sanctions face demolitionNo workfare. No sanctions. Whoever wins we will resist!

As the general election campaign gets underway we are already seeing politicians calling for more of the same policies. More workfare. More sanctions. Yet we know that these policies have been a total disaster. It is shameful that workfare and sanctions are supported by all the main political parties. This is why we are holding a week of action in the week before the election. We need your help to expose and challenge workfare and sanctions policies and the political lies that underpin them.

Workfare undermines paid jobs and wages and results in sanctions. It does nothing to improve the chances of people finding a job and exploits those forced to carry it out. Last year over half a million people had their benefits sanctioned. The number of benefit sanctions imposed by the DWP now exceeds the number of fines imposed by the courts. People are being left with nothing for up to three years. There is now overwhelming evidence of the harm being caused by sanctions. Sanctions are damaging the health of claimants and leading to hunger, homelessness and deaths.

Your actions have already had a huge impact in challenging these policies. Read the rest of this entry »


#GE2015 More workfare, less pay

Posted: February 22nd, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Info on schemes, Sanctions | 5 Comments »
Solidarity protest at Arbroath Job Centre to support Tony Cox and affirm claimants' right to be accompanied

Solidarity protest at Arbroath Job Centre to support Tony Cox and affirm claimants’ right to be accompanied

This week the Conservatives announced in their manifesto they would introduce a new ‘community’ workfare scheme, specifically targeted at young people.

This is odd because chancellor George Osbourne had already launched just such a workfare scheme last year – and neither David Cameron, Osbourne, nor the media appear to remember it.

What does this workfare reboot really tell us? That workfare as a policy must be in enormous trouble if it has to be rebranded and relaunched on a yearly basis. Successful polices don’t need constant spin and retreads. And this tells us that the public is just not buying workfare. But then why would they when it replaces  jobs?

But then this latest ‘new’ workfare announcement is just more poorly thought out PR masquerading as a manifesto policy. A large number of workfare schemes already exist, and it is a proven fact that they do not work. They are very expensive failures. The Work Programme for example is a £5 billion failure, while the existing Community Work Placement scheme costs £235 million alone and is faltering badly with over 500 charities pledging not to take part in the scheme – and with more signing up every week.

More recently, the DWP evaluated the London Mayor’s ‘Day One Support for Young People’ (DOSfYP) workfare scheme. The DOSfYP scheme, like this new community workfare scheme presently touted by the Tories, was also targeted at young people. It cost £12 million and its chief outcome was to deter young people from claiming JSA – while making no difference to young people’s employment chances at all (see p. 28 of the evaluation here).
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25 Feb Day of Action to support activist arrested at jobcentre for representing a jobseeker

Posted: February 14th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action | 6 Comments »
SUWN protest

Support Tony Cox from the Scottish Unemployed Workers’ Network, who was arrested after assisting a claimant at Arbroath Jobcentre.

Solidarity with unemployed activist arrested for representing a jobseeker – call out by Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty.

Take part in a day of action at job centres Britain-wide, 25 February 2015.

Scottish Unemployed Workers Network activist Tony Cox was arrested on 29th January after Arbroath Jobcentre management called police to stop him representing a vulnerable jobseeker. We urge you to join a Day of Action on 25th February at Jobcentres round Britain to show your solidarity.

We must fight back against this clear attempt to intimidate claimants and deny us the right to be accompanied and represented. Tony will be in court in Forfar on 25th February facing charges of “threatening behaviour, refusing to give his name and address and resisting arrest”. That same day we call on people to descend on jobcentres round Britain to show their solidarity with Tony and distribute information to claimants urging them to exercise their right to be accompanied and represented at all benefits interviews.

As we face unprecedented sanctions and benefits cuts, it’s more important than ever that we support each other and stand up to the DWP bullies. The Scottish Unemployed Workers Network, Dundee Against Welfare Sanctions and other groups have established a strong presence at the Jobcentres in Dundee and in nearby towns and cities like Arbroath, Perth and Blairgowrie, supporting claimants in opposing sanctions and harassment.
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Take action this week to stop workfare in North London Hospice shops

Posted: January 31st, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Charities | No Comments »
Pickets and protests meant North London Hospice promised to pull out of workfare. But  they still have 50 placements and have taken on at least one new placement too!

Pickets and protests meant North London Hospice promised to pull out of workfare. But they still have 50 placements and have taken on at least one new placement too!

Please support Haringey Solidarity Group’s call for action this week!

  • From Mon 2 Feb – in a “communications conga” – social media / email / phone action
  • Sat 7 Feb, 6.15pm – join our protest at North London Hospice’s Dancing Strictly fundraising event in North Finchley to ask “Waltz going on with workfare?”

“If we want them to tap dance, then they will tap dance”

- a Whitehall official on government plans for benefit claimants (Sunday Times, 2012)

Since August last year, Haringey Solidarity Group has been campaigning for North London Hospice to stop taking on people on 30-hour a week workfare schemes in their shops. (For more info, see our full web article ‘Why North London Hospice should keep its word and pull out of workfare‘). These six-month Community Work Placements (CWP) are backed by the threat of sanctions, i.e. having your benefits cut off for four weeks or more.

We tried contacting the hospice, to let them know that CWP is not voluntary, and we leafleted passers-by outside their shops. Finally, in December, North London Hospice’s Chair of Trustees wrote to us, stating their intention to stop using workfare once current placements came to an end. He refrained from giving a date for their withdrawal from the scheme, leading some of us to fear that their “intention” could mean another six months’ misery for claimants on CWP.

Then, just a couple of weeks ago, we found out that, contrary to the letter, North London Hospice had taken on a new placement. Furthermore, it has been over a month and a half since their letter to us, and not one of the shop managers we have spoken to is aware of the proposed withdrawal from the scheme, and the chair of trustees has to refused to give any indication of a date for withdrawal.

So our campaign against workfare at North London Hospice continues.
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Call Out for Mustard Tree Protest this Saturday!

Posted: January 30th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

WP_001680Take part in the our second Manchester Boycott Workfare action against Mustard Tree
31 January 12pm at Mustard Tree, 110 Oldham Rd, Ancoats, Manchester, M4 6AG

After a great turn-out at our last protest, Mustard Tree have said they are discussing their use of workfare with their Board of Trustees. Let’s make sure they realise that it is unacceptable to take any part in workfare – an exploitative programme that causes poverty and destitution.

Workfare is forced, unpaid work: people have to ‘volunteer’ or face loosing their right to benefits. It makes a mockery of the concept of volunteering, it undermines real voluntary work, and it does nothing to help people into work (as even DWP research has shown).

The sanctions given for not completing a workfare placement result in hunger, severe poverty, distress and also contribute to homelessness. And it is homeless people who are among the most likely to be sanctioned and devastated by the consequences. It is almost beyond belief that a charity like Mustard Tree that works to support homeless people uses workfare. It needs to end immediately.

Come out and stand in solidarity with homeless people and everyone exploited by workfare. Show Mustard Tree that we will not tolerate this exploitation in our city: there can be no place for unpaid and forced labour anywhere, let alone in a homeless charity.


2014 was a year of successful action. What should 2015 hold?

Posted: January 25th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action | 5 Comments »

tea and leaflets outside cardiff job centre

Share your ideas about how to take on workfare and sanctions in 2015

In 2014, your actions helped push workfare closer to collapse. The disgusting new Community Work Placement scheme struggled to get off the ground; 500 charities and voluntary organisations pledged to avoid workfare and Keep Volunteering Voluntary; and direct action and pressure across the UK brought an end to hundreds of placements.

Read more about how we all helped push workfare closer to collapse.

What does 2015 hold?

Over the next few weeks, we’re having a proper think about the most effective ways to take on workfare and sanctions in 2015. We’d like your ideas and creativity to help us plan ahead!

Please email info@boycottworkfare.org or comment on this article by Wednesday 4th February. We’ve got some thoughts on the questions below and would love to hear your thinking on any of them too. Please feel free to think wider as well! Read the rest of this entry »


Challenging the Sanctions Inquiry

Posted: January 20th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Sanctions | 6 Comments »
Job centres have become "sanctions" centres

Job centres have become “sanctions” centres

Last year David Clapson died because benefit sanctions left him unable to pay for electricity to refrigerate his insulin. His story meant hundreds of thousands of people signed a petition opposing the current sanctions regime. The petition had an impact and an inquiry into sanctions was announced.

Championed by Debbie Abrahams MP, who has previously stated, “I support the principle of a sanctions regime. If somebody consistently fails to turn up for work experience or a Work programme scheme, sanctions should be applied”, the inquiry looks set to stay within a framework which assumes some sanctions are necessary or even beneficial. Though it’s clear the inquiry won’t come to the conclusion it should – that all sanctions should be abolished – we think it’s important that our voices are heard.

On January 7th, the government held the first of its three evidence hearing sessions for the inquiry. It was important because some views that the DWP doesn’t agree with, some very good arguments against the sanction system itself, went on record, as well as some of the usual toxic workfare rhetoric.

Boycott Workfare has also submitted evidence to the sanctions inquiry. In contrast to the narrative that the DWP, the media or workfare industry representatives use to justify sanctions, we think another story needs to be heard. Our story of sanctions is that they are part of a shift from a supportive welfare state to a punitive workfare state. We highlight how many sanctions are not only petty and unfair, but how they also cause harm to mental and physical health and deliberately threaten and impose poverty and destitution.
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