Posted: August 23rd, 2013 | Author: boycottworkfare | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »
‘How to Avoid Workfare’ leafleting in Bristol
We’re excited to hear about a number of new welfare support and action groups that have been set up recently across the UK. There has also been a public meeting in Stroud on the benefit cuts and what we can do.
These groups provide a space for claimants to support each other with benefit problems they are facing and take action together to try to resolve that issue, as well as organising actions against welfare cuts in general.
London Coalition Against Poverty and Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty both have a great deal of experience in running these sorts of groups. Take a look at their websites for resources, especially this inspiring booklet from LCAP which has tonnes of useful information on starting a group.
The last workfare week of action saw thousands of ‘how to avoid workfare’ leaflets being handed out at job centres across the UK. Through informing people of their rights and forming support groups so that we can make sure these rights are upheld and extended, we can effectively challenge the government’s various workfare schemes and their welfare cuts.
We are currently organising a UK gathering for welfare action groups and individuals looking to start a group to come together and share ideas and experiences. Save the date 18th January 2014. Get in touch with us if you’d like to be involved in making this happen email@example.com and if you or your group would be interested in running a skillshare on the day. Keep your eyes peeled on this blog for further information.
Why not get involved in one of the groups listed below? Or drop us an email if you would like to set up a group in your area and would like to discuss how we can support you, advertise your group and link you up with others in your area.
New welfare support and action groups:
Birmingham Claimants Union
Brent Housing Action
Bristol Claimants Union meet 12.30pm every Friday at Easton Community Centre
Housing Action Southwark and Lambeth
Established welfare support and action groups:
Brighton Benefits Campaign
Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty
Hackney Welfare Action
Islington Poverty Action Group
Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group
Leicestershire Solidarity Group
Leeds Unemployment Action
Liverpool Claimant Network
Posted: August 23rd, 2013 | Author: boycottworkfare | Filed under: Call to action | No Comments »
Disabled People Against Cuts have called a week of action from 29 August – 4 September. Read their call out below.
Disabled People Against Cuts are organising a week of action against the government’s neoliberal policies from 29th August, culminating in a mass day of action in London on 4th September.
Save the dates and get in touch with DPAC if you or your group wants to get involved in making it happen.
Boycott Workfare will be with DPAC at the Department of Work and Pensions meeting point on 4th September.
Read DPAC’s call out for Reclaiming Our Futures here:
Our rights are being stripped away day by day by the neo-liberal policies being imposed on us all by the Condems leaving us without any hope for our futures or our children’s futures.
DPAC say this is not fair, not acceptable and we must fight back against the continuing attacks. We will be having a week of actions nationally and virtually from August 29th and culminating on September 4th with mass events and actions in London.
Thursday 29th August – launch on anniversary of coffin delivery to Atos, make Crossrail fully accessible protest, plus more….
Friday 30th August – local protests –go to local MPs, Atos offices, schools and colleges that are creating barriers to inclusion..plus more…
Saturday 31st August – disability, art and protest exhibition and gig
Sunday 1st September –
The Social Model In The 21st Century – Why Is It Still relevant?
Monday 2nd September – Media direct actions, picking up the pace as we come to the end of the week of action, despite everything we do it is getting more and more difficult to get media space to present the facts whereas there is plenty of space given to misrepresentation of stats and government lies
Tuesday 3rd September – ‘I Dare’ day – to reinforce that we want Rights not Charity and a society where we are able to operate on our own terms as disabled people.
Wednesday 4th September – Grand Finale events in London and public launch of the Manifesto ‘Reclaiming our Futures’
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: August 21st, 2013 | Author: boycottworkfare | Filed under: Uncategorized | 3 Comments »
With football clubs under fire for not paying staff the minimum wage, Boycott Workfare can reveal some of them are using workfare to avoid paying staff at all. Portsmouth FC, which went into administration following relegation, bankruptcy and debts of millions, is now owned by the fans in the shape of the Portsmouth Supporters Trust. Ironically one of its sponsors is ‘Jobsite.co.uk‘. The club is open about its use of workfare through the Mandatory Work Activity (MWA) scheme, telling a local paper:
“So far there have been 35 people working here over the past six weeks .They’re contracted to do 6.5 hours a day and since they’ve been here, for the past six weeks they’ve done more than 3,000 hours of painting and maintenance and general cleaning. It’s incredible.
Some of the painting we would do every year, but we’re painting things that haven’t seen a lick of paint in maybe 25 years”
The general up keep and maintenance of the club is done by people forced to work for free under threat of losing their barely subsistence benefits for a minimum of 3 months, and up to 3 years. Turns out the self-proclaimed ‘community club’ are more than happy to exploit the local unemployed community by using them to do jobs – without wages. By doing workfare at Portsmouth FC, the unemployed are effectively being used to pay off the club’s debts.
But Pompey is not the only club involved. On the Boycott Workfare facebook there has now been reports about more MWA at Leciester City Football Club and mandatory Work Programme placements at Bristol Rovers Football Club and Bristol City Football Club. On top of this tender documents that companies used when bidding for their MWA contracts back in 2011 name local clubs Handsworth FC, Hurlford United FC and Lanark Juniors FC as possible workfare users.
Someone on facebook described the conditions at Leciester City Football Club where her friend has been forced to work:
“Apparently at leicester fc grounds,there is at least one person with special needs on a MWP, and i am told they are treated badly, only being given a 30 Min lunch break. The have also reported being spoken to derisorily by the supervisor at LCFC stadium, and being forced to wipe down chairs for six hours one day-clearly punitive & not about gaining experience or improving skills.”
Football is not unique in the sporting world and people using our Name & Shame form have also been sent to Keighley Cougars Rugby League Club and the Leicester Riders Basketball Club to do 4 week long MWA placements.
These clubs and sports are enjoyed by many, but they should not be using forced free labour where people face losing everything if they do not do as the clubs demand – and Pompey, not having got round to painting your stadium for 25 years is not an excuse!
If you suspect that your local sports club are using workfare report them on our Name and Shame form. Why not contact them using their twitter and facebook pages to express your concern at their involvement in workfare schemes which increase poverty and undermine paid jobs.
Posted: August 13th, 2013 | Author: boycottworkfare | Filed under: Name and shame, Welfare to work industry | Tags: amazon, transline | 4 Comments »
It was a matter of time. Amazon – which tags its workers, use zero hours contracts, practices tax avoidance, and received loans totaling £2.5 million from the UK government – look like they could also be involved in some way with the benefit sanction ridden work programme.
An employee for the HR company Transline Group who finds staff for Amazon, tweeted her thoughts on the unemployed and the power she has to ruin lives, “I get so much pleasure knowing what i can do if people mess me around” and have their “benefits stopped forever” – the photo shows more of her vile views. In doing so, she has revealed what many of us who have experienced A4e or SEETEC or REED know is true. Our lives are controlled and they relish in using sanctions to bully and punish people, whilst providing big businesses with cheap or unpaid labour.
Although the employee in question has now been suspended this raises questions of what is going on? Are Transline a subcontractor for the work programme as well as managing recruits at an Amazon store? If not what is their relationship with the local work programme provider?
Earlier this year in email correspondence passed onto Boycott Workfare, regional manager of Maximus, Jamie Guest, said “We have placed people into work in Amazon Distribution Centres in Slough, Milton Keynes and Hemel Hempstead”. This was after someone had already been pressured about taking a low paid job there with unspecified hours with the ‘justification’ that “you’re not even working 16/20 Hrs per week” – at Amazon you’re not even guaranteed one hour. This appears that Amazon who are renowned for using zero hour contracts and firing people every 3 months are getting the many staff they need, due to the high turnover, from the work programme where people have no choice – although through a confusing chain of companies.
This all means that claimants can be referred for sanction by people such as @DietQueen (the sanction happy tweeter in the photo) for not going to interviews, or taking jobs at Amazon, with no guarantee of hours or a ‘job’ longer than 3 months. Meanwhile the Work Programme ‘supply chain’ could be cashing in on the ‘job outcome’ of someone forced to work on a zero hour contract. At present Boycott Workfare cannot tell you how many people are being sanctioned or if anyone has been sent to Amazon on workfare, or elsewhere, as the government are currently refusing to make this information public.
Boycott Workfare would ask people not to target the person in question. Given the facts we would ask people to instead concentrate their anger at Amazon and Transline Group, or at anyone from this growing list of workfare providers.
Transline can be contacted on Twitter (@translinegroup), on Facebook or by phone: 01422 349423. Amazon can also be found on Facebook and on Twitter (@amazonuk).
Thank you to @robotincognito for the screen grabs and finding out the story!
Also, here’s a reminder of the DWP’s rules on zero hour contracts: “Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants are not required to apply for zero hours contract vacancies
and they will not face sanctions for turning down the offer of a zero hours contract.”
Posted: August 5th, 2013 | Author: editor | Filed under: Call to action, Charities, Personal accounts | No Comments »
Tell British Heart Foundation what you think of them using workfare!
Last year, the Minister for Employment boasted that he had reduced the 8-page Health and Safety guide for the “Work Experience” workfare scheme to one paragraph. Story after story shows that when people are made to work without pay for fear of losing benefits, companies and charities think they can get away with putting people at risk.
We were recently contacted by a mother concerned about her teenage son’s placement at British Heart Foundation. She told us:
About a month ago my son was placed on the Work Experience Scheme with a British Heart Foundation Furniture Store where he works 4 days a week. I was surprised as I had read they didn’t take people unless they were happy to volunteer. I don’t believe these JSA claimants have much choice in the matter.
My main concern is one of Health and Safety. As far as I can work out the only thing my son is doing is moving furniture – anything from chairs to wardrobes. He is also moving these between floors. He hasn’t had any training in the proper moving and handling procedures. He is not in contact with members of the public or learning any retail skills like the cash handling. If he is unable to move furniture due to size he is either sent home or mills around… there seems to be no alternative work should this occur. The only benefit seems to be to British Heart Foundation who are monetarily rewarded. My son is now beginning to suffer shoulder problems. These young JSA claimants do not have the confidence or knowledge to challenge the work ethics of their placements.
This placement if for 8 weeks and he still has to be looking for work and its seems that if he stops going he will lose benefits. Work experience placements in school are monitored but it doesn’t appear that is the case with JSA work placements. I think other parents should be aware that Work Experience may not be experience at all.
British Heart Foundation have used workfare on a massive scale – at one point their website stated that they had 1500 placements at any one time. Following occupations and pickets across the UK, they announced they were “moving away” from workfare. But they are openly declaring on their website that they are still participating in the Work Programme – despite the fact that in December mandatory work placements on this scheme were extended, so that many sick and disabled claimants on Employment and Support Allowance can be forced to work for nothing, or face sanctions.
BHF state on their site: “Our supporters are welcome to contact us directly if they have any questions about our participation in the scheme. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org“. Don’t disappoint them, get in touch!
BHF Retail HQ – 01372 477 300
Head Office – 020 7554 0000
Customer Service Centre – 0300 330 3322
Posted: August 1st, 2013 | Author: boycottworkfare | Filed under: Call to action, Charities | 6 Comments »
Age UK: still using workfare
Supposedly, Age UK pulled out of workfare in December. However, since then we have had a number of reports from people doing Mandatory Work Activity at Age UK East Sussex in oppressive conditions at their Newhaven warehouse. We have been told they take on about 15 placements every week! With about 10 of these being bullied off or dropping out due to the nature of the placements over the 4 weeks. These people are likely to have then had their benefits stopped for at least 3 months as a result of Age UK East Sussex. On top of this it appears there are issues with health and safety and reports of people being injured from the work and then told not to come back.
Here is what someone who has been at Age UK East Sussex had to say:
“Abuse of workfare placements at Age UK East Sussex continues. AGEUKES is a charity in financial trouble according to the accounts that are published on their website. The money losses are down to mis-management. Paid staff have been laid off and the use of zero hours contracts and placements is being increased to save money.
Placements are promised a structured program to learn skills but are just used as general dogs bodies. They are sent out to deliver leaflets and put up signs in the street. They are sent out on vans to do manual lifting. Activities which are not covered by either the charity or Pinnacle’s insurance. People are bullied into doing jobs that are demeaning. The paid staff were not expected to do some of the things Pinnacle people have to do. Example: sorting rubbish with no proper personal protective equipment.”
The welfare-to-work company organising the workfare placements at Age UK is Pinnacle People
: Age UK East Sussex’s Commercial Director Richard Scott-Clark is the person arguing in favour of Age UK’s involvement with them in East Sussex. He opposed trustees when they wanted to end the workfare placements.
If you want to show your anger at how Age UK East Sussex have been treating claimants and staff they can be contacted here
. Or you could email Richard Scott-Clark: email@example.com, or contact him on the phone through the Newhaven furniture warehouse: 01273 646 8000.
Or alternatively just contact Age UK:
Tweet them here
Find their facebook here
Posted: July 31st, 2013 | Author: editor | Filed under: Call to action, Welfare to work industry | Tags: Seetec | 2 Comments »
A mysterious source has revealed the mobile numbers for some of the top executives profiting from forced unpaid work at Seetec. This workfare company pockets over £400 for every person sent on Mandatory Work Activity while claimants retain only their Jobseekers’ Allowance of £286.80 for 4 weeks’ work. These executives are currently pushing for more people to be sanctioned. They are helping push ever increasing numbers of people into hunger and destitution. These are the executives – whose wages are paid solely by the taxpayer – who are bidding for even more of your money from the state, to force people into workfare.
Seetec has the contract for delivering Mandatory Work Activity in London and East England and has numerous contracts for the disastrous Work Programme. We’ve already heard they’re not big fans of Boycott Workfare, complaining that placements are more difficult to find as a result of your campaigning!
One in five people sent on Mandatory Work Activity has their benefits stopped. Sanctions can now last for up to three years. These managers ruin people’s lives on an industrial scale. We think pointing this out to them might just ruin their day:
Graham Martin, Chief Operating Director at Seetec - 07773 773102 firstname.lastname@example.org
Andrew Emerson, Executive Director at Seetec – 07977 002278 email@example.com
Mark Smith, Operational Director for Mandatory Work Activity, 07870 244087 firstname.lastname@example.org
Raymond Gray, Head of Quality at Seetec, 07885 881938, email@example.com
Please contact these Seetec bosses and help make sure they can’t go on ignoring the consequences of their workfare profiteering.
- Why not highlight your concern about the jobs that are being replaced, the fact volunteering is being undermined or the devastating impact of sanctions?
- If you don’t want them to call you back, you can dial 141 first.
- No credit? You could try an online free text service or there’s always email!
- They’re paid by the public, so it’s totally legitimate for the public to contact them with our concerns.
- Please remember that making threatening or obscene phone calls is a criminal offence.
Posted: July 28th, 2013 | Author: againstworkfare | Filed under: Uncategorized | 4 Comments »
Jamie Wilson and Cait Reilly began their legal challenge against the Department for Work and Pensions’ workfare schemes at the High Court in 2012. Jamie, a mechanic, was sanctioned for six months because he refused to work unpaid cleaning furniture for 6 months for 30 hours a week. Cait was forced to end her time volunteering at a local museum and stack shelves in Poundland for two weeks.
At 10:30 this Monday morning the Supreme Court will begin hearing the DWP’s appeal and Cait and Jamie’s cross-appeal in Cait Reilly and Jamie Wilson v Secretary of State . The legal atmosphere will be odd: the DWP’s appeal is completely academic because it has enacted law which says that it won in the first place anyway.
In February 2013, the Court of Appeal held that the 2011 Regulations under which most workfare schemes were operating were unlawful, and quashed them. The Court’s ruling said that the Regulations were far too vague: they didn’t relate to the schemes that existed
After that judgement, no-one could be be forced to participate in workfare – except MWA, which wasn’t covered by the regulations – until new regulations were drawn up. (These were made the same day the Court of Appeal handed down judgement.) It looked like £130 million of unlawfully applied sanctions would have to be repaid.
But the government responded by passing retrospective legislation which re-wrote history and re-made the Court of Appeal’s judgement in their favour. By ensuring that no-one could reclaim money taken away from them by unlawful sanctions, the government denied claimants access to justice and violated their human rights. After this hearing at the Supreme Court, that legislation will be subject to judicial review.
The Supreme Court hearing is important, though. Public Interest Lawyers, representing Jamie and Cait, will argue that the government’s approach to workfare continues to be unlawful. If the Supreme Court agrees, the new Regulations, like the old ones, may be quashed and the government might be forced to take a different approach, publishing details of all workfare schemes.
During the cross-appeal, PIL will argue that the government has a responsibility clearly and publicly to tell claimants what is involved in each different workfare scheme and what the criteria are for deciding who is eligible. Without this information, it is extremely difficult to to make a decision about whether or not to take part in workfare, or to know whether the decision is even one you can make. At the moment very little publicly available information exists that you can use to challenge your eligibility for workfare schemes – as anyone who’s ever been forced onto one knows. The bits of information available have been collected over a long time, by many people making Freedom of Information requests. (At the Appeals Court, the DWP wasn’t even able to show that its own internal guidance was detailed enough or up-to-date.) At the moment it is unclear how to appeal against sanctions or against referrals to workfare schemes; it is almost impossible to know whether or not the things you’re forced to do while on workfare are the kind of things you can ‘legitimately’ be forced to do.
These arguments for the publication of information about workfare were part of the first appeal, but the Court paid them little attention. PIL will draw upon a mass of examples to show that people have a public law right to know at least enough about the law that effects them to be able to challenge its application (for example, see here, paragraphs 34-36).
This right is underlined by judgements in the Court of Human Rights. These are the concern of the second part of Cait and Jamie’s cross-appeal, since the Court of Appeal didn’t find that workfare breaches article four of the European Convention on Human Rights (‘no one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour’). It sidestepped the question, also having no problem with unpaid work in general. PIL will argue that workfare does breach article four rights. None of the information about workfare is accessible, so none of its requirements or its consequences are foreseeable and nothing about it is set out with precision. It therefore cannot be work that is ‘part of normal civic obligations’ (which is exempt from article four). Also, since the 2011 and 2013 Regulations are outside the powers of the government (PIL will argue), workfare is also not a part of domestic law, further strengthening the argument that it is a breach of article four rights.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: July 26th, 2013 | Author: boycottworkfare | Filed under: Call to action | 6 Comments »
Click to see full sized or to print, contact us for leaflets/stickers and more at firstname.lastname@example.org
With up to a million sanctions set to be inflicted on unemployed people this year, Boycott Workfare is joining the call for a week of action against Jobcentre Plus.
As the DWP enforces ever more draconian conditions for claiming unemployment benefits, Jobcentre staff are under huge pressure to sanction benefit claims. This is leading to an unbearable situation for claimants, with hundreds of thousands of people plunged into immediate destitution for increasingly petty breaches of Jobseeker’s Agreements.
Meanwhile Jobcentre workers are placed on Performance Improvements Plans – meaning their own job is threatened – should they not sanction enough claimants. Despite sanction league tables being leaked to The Guardian newspaper, DWP Ministers still dishonestly claim that there are no targets set for the number of claims sanctioned.
The leadership of the PCS, the union which represents most DWP staff, has repeatedly dithered about taking action against this regime which forces workers to bully and harass claimants or face joining them in the dole queue. Fortunately not all PCS members are so reluctant to fight for both their own working conditions and to put an end to the brutal treatment of people whose only crime is to be unemployed, sick or disabled.
The Civil Service Rank and File Network has called for a week of action against Jobcentre Plus beginning on August 5th and to include pickets, demonstrations and occupations of Jobcentres.
Boycott Workfare are joining the call to take action and help bring an end to sanctions, workfare and harassment of claimants. Picket and even occupy your local Jobcentre, or set up an info stall outside to inform claimants of their rights. For leaflets, including copies of the infographic pictured above contact: email@example.com
The action taken by Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty against Leith Jobcentre is a brilliant example of the kind of protest being advocated.
Posted: July 18th, 2013 | Author: boycottworkfare | Filed under: Action report | 2 Comments »
‘How to Avoid Workfare’ leafleting in Bristol
Another successful Workfare Week of Action had a massive response, and grew as the week went on, with people all over the UK organising protests and pickets at workfare exploiters and Job Centres. In Manchester, people picketed the ‘welfare to work’ conference’s lavish dinner at the Hilton. Online actions saw the conference’s twitter feed hashtag #w2w2013 hijacked , causing many delegates and organisations to vent their frustration at being exposed as workfare profiteers. Conference delegates were however sadly not at their best for pushing new ways to profit from poverty: the hotel they were staying in had three unexplained fire alarms go off during the night!
Marks and Spencer became a focus of the UK wide protests after it was revealed that they are involved in workfare on a huge scale, as well as their continued involvement in Scotland where single parents are forced to work in their stores or face sanctions. Shoppers were outraged to hear M&S were using forced unpaid labour. Protests were held inside and outside their stores in Swansea, London, Hastings, Sheffield, Leeds, Glasgow, Brighton and Birmingham. Homebase, who claimed they were ending workfare placements, were also picketed in London after it was discovered that people were working unpaid in the Willesden store.
Importantly, thousands of ‘How to Avoid Workfare’ leaflets were given to people at Job Centres around the country. With a focus on informing people of their rights, numerous welfare infostalls and leafleting sessions at Job Centres were set up and met with a great response. Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty’s action specifically targeted sanctions which are set to reach 1 million for this year. With the intensified threat of sanctions, sharing rights information and showing solidarity with people at Job Centres is a really important way to combat the government’s new hit squads - and to bring down workfare. Groups have made plans to continue such events beyond the Week of Action.
Elsewhere, pressure on the Salvation Army was kept up with a group in London leafleting a Sunday service in order to speak with a shocked congregation about the charity’s involvement with schemes that cause poverty. The week ended with the good news that the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union have joined the fight to actively work with this campaign to stamp out workfare.
Check out the links to action reports and photos from actions across the UK: Read the rest of this entry »