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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.

Take action: Challenge the TUC’s support for workfare

Posted: October 6th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Unions | No Comments »

traineeshipsChallenge the TUC’s support for workfare, on the first day of online action for the Boycott Workfare week of action

On 1 August 2014, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) made a joint statement with Confederation of British Industries (CBI) to back Traineeships for 16-23 year olds and “show support” for the businesses that benefit from the unpaid labour on this scheme.

Traineeships involve training and “work placements” for up to six months – all unpaid. The TUC’s Assistant General Secretary Paul Nowak hails Traineeships as “an important first step towards the world of work”. But in giving a green light to a new layer of unpaid work in the economy, the TUC is in fact helping to shrink opportunities for young people, undermine the going rate, and replace paid work with workfare.

Traineeships mean that young people are now expected to work unpaid for six months before even qualifying for an interview for an apprenticeship. The lucky few who make it through the interview can look forward to a minimum wage of £2.73 an hour, as an apprentice.

TUC A5 Protest

If a young person does not take part in the training, they face punitive sanctions. The work placement segment itself may not be backed with the direct threat of sanctions, but, between the economic coercion of a jobs market with so few footholds and the draconian job centre regime, few people will feel able to turn them down.

Instead of demanding decent wages, the TUC is supporting McDonalds, Toyota, Virgin Media, BT, Vodafone, Phones4U, Siemens, Capita, local councils and many more being supplied with unpaid staff for up to 6 months on benefits alone, without any obligations to hire them!

The TUC plans to march behind the slogan “Britain needs a payrise” on 18 October. It seems to have chosen to ignore the millions of us who do not have paid work and instead face workfare and sanctions.

Today as Kilburn Unemployed Workers protest this shoddy deal outside the TUC HQ in London, please contact the TUC via the details below, or through your union networks.  

When challenging their support for Traineeships, you might also like to point out that:

  • The TUC’s support for Labour’s Job Guarantee means undermining the going rate and minimum wage too.
  • The TUC’s support for benefit sanctions is totally unacceptable. It has recommended that ‘claimants who turn down a job guarantee job without good cause should face benefit sanctions’. Let the TUC know that punishing people by taking away their means to survival can never be okay.

Contact the Assistant General Secretary who issued the statement with CBI by email: pnowak@tuc.org.uk or send him a tweet:

Tweet at Frances O’Grady, the General Secretary of the TUC

Tweet at “Britain needs a Payrise” or post on its Facebook

Post on the TUC’s Facebook page

Or get in touch with the TUC’s press officers who released the statement:

Rob Holdsworth    T: 020 7467 1372    M: 07717 531150     E: rholdsworth@tuc.org.uk
Tim Nichols   T: 020 7467 1337   M: 07876 452902   E: tnichols@tuc.org.uk

If you’re a member of a trade union, please download and adapt this motion to challenge the TUC’s support for sanctions and workfare.


Leaked email: Whose job is next?

Posted: October 5th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Info on schemes, Welfare to work industry | 8 Comments »

As the week of action against workfare begins, Boycott Workfare can reveal an email sent by a subcontractor for the new Community Work Placements, a six month workfare scheme. It exposes how workfare is being marketed to employers as a way of replacing paid jobs. It also exposes the smoke and mirrors involved, with people mandated to workfare referred to both as “unpaid employees” and “volunteers”.

leaked email

If you are in paid work, that list of potential roles should worry you: at the moment these are paid jobs. After Ixion Holdings have offered “large numbers of [volunteers] to cover the same job role or to cover different departments”, why would any unscrupulous employer keep paying people to do them?
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Claimant Segmentation Survey – The facts & your rights

Posted: October 3rd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Info on schemes | 1 Comment »
you don't have to take part in the survey

you don’t have to take part in the survey

At the start of September, the government announced it would be using ‘attitude tests’ to assess claimants’ attitudes towards work and their ‘behavioral norms’. This test is in fact a survey – or rather data mining exercise – and would take place in 27 Jobcentres, targeting 27,000 claimants. It is supposed to record the effects on people of signing on every week versus every fortnight. In other words, it is designed to find out what kind of person deserves more hassle from the Jobcentre, based on their attitude.

These surveys are completely unethical. Attempting to classify people according to their feelings about work is being used to stigmatise and pathologize certain claimants. The tests are part of the DWP’s efforts to pretend that unemployment and a low wage economy are a result of individuals’ bad attitudes, rather than a deliberate policy. Esther McVey talks about ‘psychological resistance to work’.  The test assesses people’s attitude to work through just 20 widely varying and unrelated questions, placing claimants into in the following four bizarre rigid categories:

1 Willing but nervous Jobseeker
2 Eager Jobseeker
3 Ambivalent Claimants with few barriers
4 Other Jobseekers

Here at Boycott Workfare we always try to keep on top of these events and find out what people’s rights are when each new shameful and wasteful tax payer funded scheme is rolled out by the DWP and the welfare to work industry. So the guidelines – your rights – regarding the Claimant Segmentation Survey scheme are as follows.

If you have made a new claim, or are signing on as your claim continues then it is important that you know you do not have to take part in this ‘attitude test’ at all.

These are the facts:

  • If you are asked to agree to take part in the Claimant Segmentation Survey you can disagree to take part (see picture ) – it is an entirely voluntary survey.
  • Refusal to take part or answer will not affect your benefits in any way: you cannot get sanctioned for refusing to answer any of the test questions or for refusing to take part in this test [Link 3]:

“There is no obligation to answer these questions and it has no bearing on your entitlement to benefits whatsoever.”

  • Your advisor has to ask for your consent before going through the questions, because they ‘are collecting additional information beyond what is necessary for the claims process for the purposes of research’.

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5 ways we’re winning against workfare. And a few ways to get rid of it altogether.

Posted: September 29th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action | 5 Comments »

McDonalds shuts its shuttersWith the week of action against workfare coming up on 4-12 October, we wanted to share some of the things your action and active support has already achieved. With so much impact already, the week of action is the next step where you can help put an end to workfare altogether.

We have helped each other to defend our rights

The job centre and workfare providers rely on misinformation, lies and bullying to push people around. That’s why finding out and claiming our rights is so important. We find out our rights, spread the word and have helped cancel workfare placements for many who have contacted us. Our Welfare Action Gathering in February brought together tens of groups of people from around the country who take action against workfare and who support each other to get their rights on workfare, rights at the job centre and in navigating Atos’ tests.

Over 20,000 people support this campaign. The more people who know their rights the more people can say no to workfare – or help expose who is using workfare…

Our actions make workfare exploiters pull out

Workfare relies on placement providers – every time we get them to pull out is another step to ending workfare. Many big names including Argos, Holland & Barrett and PDSA have pulled out.

A highlight this year: George Osborne was publicly humiliated after a visit to promote his new 6-month brand of workfare (CWP) backfired when Byteback IT pulled out just a week later, following a backlash against workfare from the public.

The list goes on, and we’ve been keeping track of it here (where you’ll also find the crowd-sourced list of the organisations still exploiting people on workfare).

We have shrunk the number of workfare placements
Read the rest of this entry »


Workfare action coming up across the UK…

Posted: September 27th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, International, Unions | 6 Comments »

learndirectThe government fears workfare could “collapse”. We want to make it do just that. On 4-12 October, take part in the week of action against workfare. The list of events is growing…. read on to find one near you, and if you can’t find one, why not plan your own? We can help – get in touch! There’ll be mass online actions on Mon-Fri of the week of action too. Get involved and help show workfare profiteers and exploiters “If you exploit us we will shut you down!”

4 Oct, SLSF calls anti-workfare picket in Lewisham
Saturday 4 October, Lewisham Clocktower at 1pm.

Join the South London Solfed roaming anti-workfare picket in Lewisham this Saturday, 4th October, in solidarity with Boycott Workfare’s week of action.

We will be targeting a number of organisations on Lewisham High Street who continue to exploit unemployed people as free labour.

More info here.

4 Oct, Stroud Against the Cuts leafleting about workfare
Saturday 4th October, 10am outside the 99p Store

Advice for claimants and information about the affect on us all.

6 Oct, Brighton Benefits Campaign picket of Avanta
Monday 6 October at 11am, Meet at Brighton Station forecourt

Join us in picketing Avanta, private provider and bully of unemployed and disabled people, sending them out as unpaid labour or forcing them into unsuitable badly paid work, and referring them for sanctions.
See the Facebook event. 

6 Oct, TUC Backs Workfare: protest at Congress House!TUC A5 Protest
Mon 6 Oct 1 – 2 pm, TUC Congress House, 23-28 Great Russell St, London WC1B 3LS, (nearest tube: Tottenham Court Road), Then 3 – 4 pm at CBI, 78 Cannon St, London EC4N 6HN (tube: Bank)

On 1 Aug 2014, the Trade Union Council (TUC) made a joint statement with Confederation of British Industries (CBI) to back Traineeships for 16 – 23 year olds.

Knowing first hand how unemployed people get harassed into workfare, get declined lunch & travel expenses to such workfares, get sanctioned or threatened with sanctions either during workfares or if they oppose them, we knew (despite TUC denying this) that TUC was now backing Workfare.

Join our protest to end this shoddy deal with Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group (KUWG) – members of Unite Community Union. Listen to your members TUC!

Download the flyer here.

8 Oct, North London, Sanctions Centres or Job Centres?

5 North London Job Centres are confirmed for next Wednesday’s “Sanctions Centres or Job Centres?” protests, Unite Community’s contribution to the Boycott Workfare Week of Action:

Barnsbury Job Centre, 1 Barnsbury Road, N1 0EX: 11am-1pm
Hendon Job Centre, Crown Building. 10 Finchley Lane, NW4 1DP: 9am – 3pm
North Kensington Job Centre, Quayside House Kensal Road, W10 5BL: 12pm-1pm & 3pm-4pm
Walthamstow Job Centre, Dansom House 656a Forest Road, E17 3SH: 9am-11am
Wood Green Job Centre, Granta House 1 Western Road, N22 6UU: 9am-12pm

Join the Facebook event.

8 Oct, Barnet, Rename the Job Centre the Sanctions Centre!
Wednesday 8 October, 9am-3pm, Jobcentre Plus, Finchley Lane, London NW3 8DP

Come and join us in a protest against sanctions on claimants and targets for staff! and take part in a mock ceremony and sign replacement when we re-name the job centre WITH ITS TRUE PURPOSE – THE SANCTION CENTRE

Join the Facebook event.

8 Oct, Kentish Town, Workfare stall
12.30-1.30pm outside Kentish Town Job Centre

Join Winvisible and Single Mothers Self-Defence for their regular stall with a focus on workfare rights as part of the week of action.

9 Oct, Edinburgh Shut down LearnDirect! Let’s make workfare unworkable!
Thursday 9 October, at 12 noon, Learndirect, Conference House, 152 Morrison Street, Edinburgh EH3 8EB

Learndirect are the workfare providers for the compulsory “work-for-your-benefits” schemes Mandatory Work Activity and the new Community Work Placements scheme, which forces jobseekers to work for nothing for six months. Learndirect profit from the forced labour schemes and shamelessly refer jobseekers for sanctions, making people penniless to try and intimidate jobseekers to submit to forced labour.

But resistance to workfare is winning. To date 422 organisations have rejected the compulsory schemes and signed the “Keep Volunteering Voluntary” agreement – including the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Christian Aid, Shelter and the Edinburgh Volunteer Centre. This month Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty approached Cancer Research UK to urge them to withdraw from workfare – they have now told Learndirect in Edinburgh that they will not take any more of their workfare “placements”.

Share the flyer. Join the Facebook event.

10 Oct, Amsterdam: action against workfare during meeting of minister with aldermen

On October 10, the action committee Dwangarbeid Nee (No to Workfare) will demonstrate during a regional meeting of Social Affairs aldermen from the west of the Netherlands. State secretary Jetta Klijnsma invited the aldermen to talk about the labour market. The committee Dwangarbeid Nee seizes the opportunity to demand the immediate abolishment of workfare, or “forced labour” as the unemployed call it.

Read more about the action and the impressive campaign in the Netherlands!

10 Oct, Peckham Job Centre protest

Outside Peckham Job Centre, Friday 10 October, 12 noon-3pm

Please join us to protest against sanctions and workfare. Bring noise, banners, speeches, friends… and ideas! We plan to liven up the street again in a noisy and direct protest to tell Peckham JCP, Southwark council and the DWP that we will not stay quiet whilst Peckham Job Centre continues to sanction job seekers at over double the London average. Come and say NO to cuts and attacks on the poor, and build the fight back!

More info.

11 Oct, Bristol – Bristol Day Of Action Against Workfare!
Saturday 11 October at 12:30pm, meeting point tba

Following on from successful actions against workfare in Bristol over the past few years (no more forced unpaid labour at: St Wherburghs City Farm, Homebase, Argos, Holland & Barratt…) We will be taking to the streets again, along with others across the country.

Join the Facebook event.

11 Oct, Sheffield, Demonstration against forced labour/workfare and Exploitation at Savers
Saturday at 12:00pm, Savers Health & Beauty, 8-10 Haymarket, S1 2AX Sheffield

Last month this community branch demonstrated against the exploitation and abuse of workfare victims at Savers store Sheffield. After it was brought to our attention that workers and workfare victims were being mistreated. We had a great response from Savers customers who are mostly as disgusted by savers exploitation and mistreatment of workfare victims and members of staff. This Branch calls on Savers to withdraw from any government schemes that force people to work for benefits. We will return again and again and damage your businesses reputation unless you withdraw. If you Exploit us we will shut you down.

Join the Facebook Event.

11 Oct, Haringey: 6 month workfare: No way! Picket North London Hospice
Saturday 11 October, 12 noon, North London Hospice shop, 19 High Road, N22 6BH – Three minutes’ walk from Turnpike Lane tube station

This Saturday, we’ll be picketing North London Hospice’s Wood Green shop, as part of Boycott Workfare’s week of action against workfare.

Hundreds of people in Haringey are being forced to work for six months with no pay under threat of sanctions. Urban Futures have the contract for Community Work Placements in Haringey and are busy finding placements in charities and “community benefit” projects across north London. But these schemes cannot work without charities making the placements possible – charities like North London Hospice.

We hold the work that North London Hospice does in high regard. Their aims include improving the lives of local people with terminal illnesses. So how can they reconcile their objectives with a scheme that puts people at risk of destitution?

Join and share the Facebook Event

Do you have an event to add to this list? Email info@boycottworkfare.org to let us know!


Take part in the Boycott Workfare week of action! 4-12 October 2014

Posted: September 6th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action | 2 Comments »

protesters outside bhf

Forcing people to work for free through the threat of removing people’s benefits (sanctions) is unfair, unjust and wrong. In the week of action, tell the companies and charities who are profiting from this exploitative regime what you think of their involvement! Email, Tweet, use Facebook, phone them, protest, organise a flashmob: for a week of piling the pressure on workfare exploiters.

We know these tactics work! Just look at how quickly Byteback IT had to pull out when you told them what you thought after George Osborne made the mistake of visiting them. This is just one of the latest in a whole list of businesses and charities that have also pulled out of workfare following our pressure.

The latest workfare scheme, “Community Work Placements” (CWP), forces people to work for nothing for up to six months – twice the length of the maximum community service sentence for committing a crime. But there is growing resistance from the voluntary sector which the scheme needs to work: over 400 charities have signed up to Keep Volunteering Voluntary and 22 councils have pledged to boycott workfare. They know that workfare does not help people find jobs and being
unemployed is not a crime.

Resistance is paying off: the launch of the CWP scheme was massively delayed. Instead of using ‘big name’ national charities, the DWP has had to resort to small local charities and businesses to provide these Workfare placements. So local actions are all the more important! See Boycott Workfare’s list of Workfare users to find one near you.

All this means it is getting harder and harder for the government to find new employers willing to risk taking on Workfare placements. In fact the government is desperately doing all it can to avoid revealing the organisations using Workfare out of fear the schemes will collapse!

People pressure has ended Workfare in the place where it all started – New York – now let’s end it here!

Workfare undermines real paid jobs and wages; results in sanctions for thousands; does nothing to improve the chances of finding a job; and exploits those forced to take up these placements. Our actions can stop companies, charities and councils from exploiting this forced unpaid work. Wherever you are, however you can contribute, take action on 4-12 October.

Whatever you’re planning – let us know and we’ll help spread the word!

Join our Facebook event here and see the latest list of actions.


The list of shame: Court tells DWP to reveal workfare users

Posted: July 23rd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Name and shame | 11 Comments »
Osborne visited Byteback to promote his new workfare scheme. Following a huge public response, a week later that company pulled out!

Two weeks ago, Osborne visited Byteback to promote his new workfare scheme. But following a huge public response, a week later that company pulled out!

“It is to be expected that some charities find it difficult if not impossible to defend themselves against the actions of Boycott Workfare.”Upper Tribunal Judge Wikeley (reaffirming the First Tier Tribunal decision)

The DWP has lost its appeal to try and keep the list of those using workfare out of the public domain. The Upper Tribunal judgement was dismissive of the DWP’s arguments, making it clear that the DWP is just playing a delaying game – anything to slow down the release of the list of all the businesses and organisations  profiting from the use of workfare.

But that’s because there’s a lot at stake. In the DWP’s own words: “put simply, disclosure of the information in relation to the MWA scheme would have been likely to have led to the collapse of the MWA scheme” (point 12 of the decision).

It’s great news. Once again the DWP has been wrong-footed: the great work of everyone campaigning against workfare continues to pay off. The judge defended people’s right to challenge schemes with effective democratic action.

However its not over just yet: there are still a few more delaying tactics available with further avenues for appeal that the DWP might use.  Frank Zola, one of the people who put in the original requests for the names of workfare placement providers, says:

“The decision of the Upper Tribunal, on the names of Mandatory Work
Activity (MWA) hosts, has taken two and half years and throughout this
period the ICO issued 3 similar decision notices that the DWP should
disclose the names of MWA workfare hosts and the Work Programme . It
seems clear to me that the DWP has been using these appeals to frustrate
the public’s right to know who hosts workfare placements, more as an
affront to the right-to-know principles of the Freedom of Information
Act and the rights of campaigners, bloggers and members of the public
to free speech and legitimate democratic protest.”

Luckily, we don’t have to wait for the government to name and shame workfare exploiters. Everyday people forced onto workfare schemes are exposing who is profiting. The list is growing. Have a look, pick a few and let them know why they’ve made the wrong decision. This information is a tool to take workfare apart with.

And with or without the full list, we are successfully stopping the spread of workfare. Two weeks ago, Chancellor George Osborne visited Byteback, an IT firm in Bristol, to showcase his flagship new brand of punitive 6-months’ full-time workfare, “Community Work Placements” (CWP). A week later, Byteback had heard from enough members of the public to realise it had made the wrong decision and pull out. It thanked people for explaining the issues around workfare, and said:

“From tomorrow, we will have no further involvement ever with this scheme. We had the best of intentions, both of us started this company as a result of a similar scheme back in 2002. Clearly we were wrong to get involved with workfare.”

That’s a PR disaster for workfare, and just one more blow to CWP, which already has more than 400 charities and 22 councils boycotting it, and missed its deadline for roll out by a mile.

We’re winning and workfare is being pushed back, but there are still those willing to profit from people forced to work without pay. It’s up to us to name and shame them, and make them know that the public won’t tolerate exploitation, job replacement and sanctions.

Let workfare users know what you think and take part in the next workfare week of action on 4-12 October – more on this soon!


Part of an organisation? Pledge to Boycott Workfare

Posted: July 15th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Pledge to boycott workfare | No Comments »

transparent-red-no-circle-md copyThe government continues to try and push workfare with numerous work for benefits schemes in spite of a groundswell of opposition across the UK.

Already nearly 400 voluntary sector organisations have pledged to Keep Volunteering Voluntary, and over 20 councils have pledged to avoid workfare too. It’s important that other sectors also firmly turn their back on workfare: will your organisation sign the pledge to Boycott Workfare too?

Why organisations should sign:

  • There is huge public opposition to workfare schemes, with thousands boycotting those involved. Signing the pledge will reassure people that your organisation is not taking part.
  • Workfare schemes are backed by a punitive regime of benefit stoppages, sanctions, which have driven the need for foodbanks in the UK and put people at risk of destitution for up to three years.
  • Replacing motivated and decently paid workers with people facing destitution from often arbitrary sanctions will not be of benefit to your organisation or the claimant.
  • Evidence shows workfare does not help people find work.
  • Signing the pledge will make it clear in advance that your project won’t participate in or police any of these schemes.

Let’s pre-empt any expansion of workfare – and bring it to its long overdue end!

Get your organisation to sign the Boycott Workfare pledge:

“We the undersigned commit to refusing to participate in compulsory work-for-benefits placements. We want volunteering to remain just that!”

Email info@boycottworkfare.org to add your organisation to the growing list below!

Union member? Approach your employer to sign the pledge with support from your trade union branch! Please download the Union motion – boycott workfare to bring to your trade union branch and a leaflet to bring to meetings and events.

See the full list of organisations that have already signed the pledge here. 


Take action: CESI Festival of Workfare exploiters and apologists #intowork2014

Posted: July 7th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Welfare to work industry | 3 Comments »
banner inside conference occupation

Previous CESI workfare conferences in Birmingham and Manchester have been met with protests, disruption and occupations.

This annual gathering of organisations profiting from workfare – or hoping to – is being held at the Arena Convention Centre in Liverpool on Tuesday 8th & Wednesday 9th July.

If you’re near Liverpool, take part in the protest as the conference opens on Tue 8 July at 9am-12noon.

Wherever you are, why not let the private companies, charities and think tanks involved know what you think online #intowork2014. If you only have a minute – use our handy tweet buttons below!

The conference is being organised by CESI (Centre for Economic & Social Inclusion) – self appointed ‘thought leaders’ in the welfare to work industry. People who make their money supporting policies that mean forced unpaid labour and poverty for many, but escalating profits for the few.

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Sanctions and Workfare: Incompatible with Human Rights.

Posted: July 5th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action | 8 Comments »

“This case is another massive blow to this Government’s flawed and tawdry attempts to make poor people on benefits work for companies, who already make massive profits, for free”

So said Public Interest Lawyers yesterday after the High Court ruled that the government’s emergency retrospective legislation, introduced in 2013 – so as to apply thousands of unlawful sanctions to claimants – is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

The retrospective legislation was introduced in order to rewrite history, when the Court of Appeal had originally found thousands of benefit sanctions on workfare schemes unlawful. In response the government came up with emergency legislation, which was designed to retrospectively render lawful benefit sanctions that were issued under the 2011 regulations. This deprived some of the poorest people in the UK of £130million in social security payments that they were lawfully owed. The emergency legislation meant that all previously imposed sanctions were made valid in one block – even sanctions that would have been unlawful under the old regulations anyway.  This means that ongoing appeals against sanctions, which would have succeeded before the retrospective legislation was enacted, were bound to fail.

Now, however, the High Court has found that this retrospective legislation was incompatible with the right to a fair trial. Significantly, the Court called this move “draconian” stating that it was “not explained or justified”.
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