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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: Charities and sanctions don’t mix

Posted: May 1st, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Charities | No Comments »

KVV logoThis week’s the Week of Action vs Sanctions and Workfare with daily online actions. If you haven’t had a chance to do so yet, please take a minute to:

Today we’re supporting the Keep Volunteering Voluntary campaign’s call for people to contact the charities and voluntary organisations you support to invite them to pledge to shun workfare too. Read on for more info, and follow Keep Volunteering Voluntary on twitter and facebook.

There are a lot of organisations who have said they won’t take workfare, but still a lot who do. We want all voluntary work to be freely chosen, not a means for private companies to make profits or Jobcentres to force people off benefits. Keep Volunteering Voluntary (KVV) have set up a pledge and already over 450 organisations have signed!

You can help to encourage organisations to sign up to Keep Volunteering Voluntary in several ways. Firstly check whether they are already on the list of sign-ups.

  • If you use or support a charity, try to find out whether they use workfare, and in any case ask them to sign up to KVV.
  • If there is a local charity shop, go in and talk to the people there: find out whether there is anyone there on workfare, and ask the organisation to sign up to KVV.
  • If you work or volunteer at a voluntary organisation, try to get them to sign up.
  • If a place you work or volunteer at has any links with a voluntary organisation, try to contact them too.

Download or order leaflets from Keep Volunteering Voluntary to take into charity shops, or adapt this template letter as an email to send to a voluntary organisation.

Some responses you may get and some tips on how to reply:

“We’ve already signed up.” – great, well done!
“We don’t have anyone on workfare.” – so you won’t mind signing up to KVV then.
“We’re helping the unemployed gain experience.” – that’s not of much value if they don’t want to be there.
“What’s wrong with (unpaid) volunteers.” – there’s no objection to genuine volunteers, but to compulsory schemes and coercion.
“The people on placement want to be here.” – that’s fine, but they shouldn’t be threatened with sanctions.

If you can get any kind of statement from an organisation, that’s always useful – a way in to further dialogue, or good publicity for the campaign. Let Boycott Workfare know and we’ll pass it on to KVV as well.

Some charities – such as Age UK – have a national office but each local area branch is ‘independent’ and may sign up separately. So if you see a local branch signed up but not your area, that’s an added incentive for your local to sign up too.

Without charities’ support, workfare schemes will collapse. That’s why every extra new organisation to sign up is so important – helping build consensus in the voluntary sector that workfare is completely at odds with its aims and values.

Perhaps you’d like to take the opportunity to contact some persistent workfare-using charities with your concerns too?

And don’t forget to check out the list of actions taking place across the UK today and tomorrow as part of the Week of Action vs Workfare and Sanctions.

Unanswered Question Time: Break the Election Silence on Workfare and Sanctions

Posted: April 30th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action | 5 Comments »
Graph of sanctions increases, from David Webster's evidence to the sanctions inquiry

Graph of sanctions increases, from David Webster’s evidence to the sanctions inquiry

It is a disgrace that the three main political parties (and UKIP) support workfare and sanctions.  This consensus has allowed the introduction of policies that are causing ill health, hunger, homelessness and deaths.  All three parties have some responsibility for this and they all have questions to answer.

So today we’re asking you to take action online and help us break the election silence on workfare and sanctions.  It is unlikely that these issues will even get a mention during tonight’s Election Leaders Special edition of Question Time.

Help us to make sure these issues do get talked about, and tweet up a storm about workfare and sanctions using the #bbcqt hashtag.  And tweet your unanswered questions to @Ed_Miliband @nick_clegg and @David_Cameron…

Here’s the low-down on the political parties that support workfare and sanctions:
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Mind Control

Posted: April 29th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Psychological coercion, Sanctions | 6 Comments »
Tweet by dwp zealot

Psychobabble in a Jobcentre near you

On top of punishing claimants with sanctions that leave people destitute, the Government now has plans to use psychological treatments to force people into work.

George Osborne’s budget announced measures to ‘improve employment outcomes’ for people with mental health conditions. These include online cognitive behavioural therapy (change the world by changing how you think) for people on ESA or JSA and putting psychologists in JobCentres.

Unemployment is being redefined as a psychological disorder and the main purpose of psychological therapy will be to force people off benefits.  Or to promote yet another specious reason to cut people off benefits.

Meanwhile, the Tory Manifesto states that claimants who ‘refuse a recommended treatment’ may have their benefits reduced. This is an assault on the human rights of people on benefits and an attempt to co-opt medical professionals as state enforcers.

We’re hearing more and more reports of the misuse of psychology to coerce, bully and punish claimants into ‘getting the right mindset’: “all new starts must attend an initial two week course to develop their confidence”.
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Sanction B&M Stores: our labour, their profits

Posted: April 28th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Personal accounts | 3 Comments »
Workfare exploiters B&M Stores

If you exploit us, we will close you down

Take action against persistent workfare exploiters B&M Stores as part of the Week of Action vs Workfare and Sanctions!

B&M Stores has won an award from the workfare industry for their support for forced unpaid labour. The harsh reality of their involvement is exploitation of claimants – people working for nothing under the constant threat of sanctions – and workfare being used to reduce overtime and replace paid staff.

“B&M stores started using workfare Jan 2013. Receiving free labour and stopping overtime for employees with contracts. The people forced to do this free labour are not happy and neither are the other workers.”

Boycott Workfare has had several reports of reduced hours for paid staff as well as the practice of employing paid staff on a trial basis, sacking them after 12 weeks, and replacing them with workfare placements.

“Just to let you know B&M Stores have taken on new staff under a workfare scheme. This was 1 month after staff hours were cut by 50%. This meant my hours were cut from 20 to 10.”

B&M Stores made over £100 million profit last year but still they use forced unpaid labour.

B&M Stores have over 400 stores from Perth in Scotland to Portsmouth in the South of England. They have expanded by using workfare grabs from any local JobCentrePlus. It has been reported that in one B&M Store “older or long term staff were sacked and a new wave of 20 workfare placements taken on.”

What you can do:

Thanks to your efforts, more and more businesses and charities are withdrawing from workfare.  Keep up the pressure and let B&M Stores know:  ‘if they exploit us, we will close them down!’

Use twitter, facebook and direct action to expose B&M Stores and call for a boycott of their stores.  Workfare exploits claimants and means poorer pay and conditions for all workers.


Email customer services

Phone: 0151 728 5400 (remember to speak politely)


Visit their Corporate Website

You could also let workfare apologists ERSA know what you think about awards that celebrate companies that profit from exploiting claimants.

Actions against CWP in Haringey

Posted: April 27th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Action report | No Comments »
North London Hospice shop

North London Hospice shop

Here’s a brief post about some actions in north London last weekend, part of the week of action against workfare and sanctions.

Haringey Solidarity Group (HSG) picketed a North London Hospice (NLH) shop two days running on Saturday and Sunday.  Though smaller numbers than usual, it was an effective picket, handing out leaflets and talking to passers-by on a busy high street.  There are still many people unaware of what workfare really means for claimants, and they are rightly disgusted when they hear of people forced to work for benefits and the punitive sanctions.

Though NLH show signs of pulling out of the Community Work  Placement scheme, HSG will continue their actions until there is a definite commitment from NLH.  They are also leafleting local Job Centres each day this week as part of the week of action – see here for details of when and where.  And have a look at HSG’s website for more info on NLH and workfare provider Urban Futures.

Take action: No voice for workfare profiteers

Posted: April 27th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Welfare to work industry | 4 Comments »

ERSA twitter screenshotTake action online against the workfare industry conference as part of the Week of Action vs Workfare and Sanctions!

Today, Monday 27 April, the welfare-to-work industry is holding its AGM.  The ERSA – the organisation that does spin and lobbying for workfare exploiters – is meeting to discuss the year in workfare and new ways of making the sector respectable.

We don’t know the location yet.  Since our noise demo massively disrupted their conference at the end of 2013, they’ve been cagier about where they meet.

For the first online action for the week of action against workfare, we want to target the ERSA and spotlight the violence they do to claimants through workfare, ‘training’, and sanctions.   Their work relies on coercion, threats, and the imposition of poverty. So at the AGM we’ll find the Employment Related Services Association talking over new ways of presenting the same lies about workfare.
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Sanction Greenwich & Bexley Community Hospice Shops

Posted: April 25th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Charities | No Comments »
interior of charity shop

Sanction Greenwich & Bexley Hospice Charity Shop!

Kicking off the Week of Action vs. Workfare and Sanctions, there are actions today in Bexley, Haringey and Leeds. Please show your support on Twitter and Facebook (details below)…

Saturday 25th April 12 noon Meet up outside Greenwich & Bexley Hospice Community Shop, Bellegrove Boutique, 12-15 Bellegrove Parade, Welling, Kent, DA16 2RE

We’re taking action to expose GBC hospice’s persistent use of workfare and the very poor working conditions that people on forced placements with GBC experience.

If you shop in one of GBC Hospice sixteen charity shops, you won’t be served by someone on workfare. That’s because they keep Community Work Placement conscripts hidden away from the public. As one person told Boycott Workfare:

“None of us are allowed to serve the public, we’re probably not seen as good enough for that. In fact we’re kept well away from the public, hidden at the back in their warehouse area sorting out the crap for them to sell there, or to send to other hospices.”

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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:

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 –

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 »