Translate This
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.

Flagship workfare scheme floundering due to voluntary sector opposition

Posted: June 2nd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Charities, Info on schemes, Pledge to boycott workfare, Public Sector | 1 Comment »
On Saturday, this demo in Sheffield persuaded tens of people to boycott workfare users TCV.

On Saturday, this demo in Sheffield persuaded tens of people to boycott workfare users TCV.

Today, 2 June, is the deadline by which Community Work Placements – the flagship policy announcement at last year’s Conservative Party conference – were required by contract to be up and running (see 1.22 &1.23 here). Community Work Placements are six month forced unpaid work placements for unemployed people which require local council and charity participation to claim to be of “community benefit”.

However, thanks to massive opposition to this draconian new workfare scheme, CWP is floundering. Here’s how: 350 voluntary sector organisations have so far signed up to the Keep Volunteering Voluntary agreement not to take part since the campaign launched a month ago. The list includes household names Shelter, Oxfam, Crisis, Scope and many others.

These organisations point to the impact of benefit sanctions on food poverty and homelessness and believe mandatory work undermines the value of freely given volunteering.  Over 15 councils have also pledged not to take part, many through signing Unite the Union’s new pledge. Read the rest of this entry »


Boycott Workfare visit the Netherlands!

Posted: May 26th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, International | 2 Comments »

 

Boycott Workfare banner drop in Leiden

Boycott Workfare banner drop in Leiden

Update! Join in a quick online solidarity action with Doorbraak targeting the owner of the strawberry farm using the contact form on his website and tweet his mate Jan Broertjes the mayor of Midden-Drenthe who also supports workfare. More details on the poverty profiteering happening there in the blog below.


Two members of Boycott Workfare recently visited the Netherlands after an invitation from anti-workfare activists based there to share what we have been doing in the UK. We spent two days with Doorbraak, the group which organised the visit, giving talks in the evenings in Amsterdam and Leiden. In Amsterdam we stayed at one Doorbraak member’s home which was just on the edge of the Jordaan district where unemployed people rioted back in the 1930s.

Doorbraak, which translates in English to ‘breakthrough’, was formed back in 2007 by people who had been involved in migrant struggles. They wanted to start a new group which brought together different groups of people on the different issues we face and ‘turn the world upside down, organise from the bottom up!’ (which rhymes in Dutch). Over the last 3 years they have been taking action against workfare in Amsterdam and Leiden, after militant research they had conducted about the crisis and how it was affecting people uncovered this issue. For some activists in the group who had been very involved in migrant struggles, they were now also acting from their own direct experiences.

Read the rest of this entry »


How voluntary organisations messed up the launch of Help to Work

Posted: May 2nd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Action report, Call to action, Charities | 16 Comments »

no one wants workfare (IDS and war memorials, CWP)On Monday, David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith launched a new workfare scheme called Compulsory Work Placements – part of a bundle of punitive measures called Help to Work. It ran into a lot of trouble on launch day and hasn’t been doing well since then.

Over 150 voluntary organisations have signed up to the Keep Volunteering Voluntary campaign to say they won’t take part in any workfare scheme, including Oxfam, Anti-Slavery International, Unison, Unite, and NCIA.  And the government won’t be able to fall back on the public sector: Liverpool City Council say they won’t be taking part.

The pledge was launched on the same day as Help to Work. Already more than twice as many organisations have said they’ll never take part in CWP as the 70 that the government claims are signed up to deliver it.  It’s not clear how those 70 organisations are going to be able to arrange for more than 120,000 people to do 780 hours of unpaid work.  They’d have to accept more than 1,800 placements each.

And it turns out that even the unpaid work the DWP especially suggested unemployed people should do – like cleaning war memorials – won’t work.   No-one in government bothered to check this with the War Memorials Trust. They say that they can’t actually take part in CWP, because each memorial is the responsibility of one of a hundred thousand custodians, who’d have to be asked individually.  And anyway, the work is usually done by ‘specialist contractors or conservators’.
Read the rest of this entry »


Osborne’s flagship sinking as voluntary sector rejects role in scheme

Posted: April 28th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Charities | 5 Comments »
Logo of Keep Volunteering Voluntary campaign - hands raised

Follow the new Keep Volunteering Voluntary campaign on Twitter and Like it on Facebook to help spread the word!

Today’s new workfare scheme will fall apart if voluntary sector organisations refuse to take part. Help make it happen my contacting charities and groups you support to ask them to sign up to Keep Volunteering Voluntary!

Osborne’s headline policy of “Community Work Placements” is already in jeopardy as it is launched today, having failed to generate enough voluntary sector participation. Instead, organisations such as Oxfam and the umbrella body National Association for Voluntary and Community Action are marking the date by launching the “Keep Volunteering Voluntary” campaign.

Community Work Placements are six-month unpaid work placements for unemployed people, part a set measures branded as “Help to Work”. The £300 million Help to Work programme is aimed at 200,000 Jobseekers Allowance claimants. Studies into existing UK workfare schemes in the UK have found them to have zero effect on helping people find work.
Read the rest of this entry »


Fans’ success – Dulwich Hamlet Football Club end workfare!

Posted: April 23rd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Guest blog, Pulled out!, Uncategorized | No Comments »
Dulwich Hamlet FC end workfare

Out of workfare!

Pressure by Dulwich Hamlet football fans has resulted in the club pulling out of using workfare in its grounds. Boycott Workfare were contacted through a Name and Shame form by someone who was forced to work at DHFC as part of Mandatory Work Activity. They told us how they had received a 3 month sanction after they asked questions about the health and safety forms Seetec told them to sign.

Dulwich Hamlet FC fans were quick to respond – as soon as we told them about this they contacted their club to find out what was going on and call for an end to workfare at their club. After talks with the new management, who had inherited the workfare contract from the previous owners, fans managed to get the following statement that workfare would no longer be used:

It has become apparent that the previous owners were using mandatory work activity programmes, and that local ’long-term unemployed’ people have been assisting on site without payment. We want to support the community in as many ways as possible, but do not feel this is a suitable option. Dulwich Hamlet are willing to speak to any service providers regarding apprenticeships and training programmes”

We welcome that Dulwich Hamlet FC acknowledge that forced unpaid work under threat of benefit sanctions is at odds with supporting the community and that they will not be involved in such schemes. Apprenticeships and training programmes involve poverty wages. To truly support the local community, paying at least a living wage for all work at the club is a good place to start.

Boycott Workfare have received numerous reports of workfare being used in football clubs, and other sports clubs. We encourage others fans to follow the impressive example set by Dulwich Hamlet FC fans in their dedication to workfare free football.

Here, one fan outlines the situation at Dulwich Hamlet FC and their personal response to hearing about its use of workfare:
Read the rest of this entry »


Workfare and housing

Posted: April 15th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Info on schemes, Public Sector | 1 Comment »
Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group attempt to resist the eviction of a private tenant. Photo by Louppy Hart

Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group attempt to resist the eviction of a private tenant. Photo by Louppy Hart

As we struggle to access our subsistence benefits – trying to navigate around workfare, benefit sanctions, and disrespect encountered in the job centre – often, simultaneously, we are struggling to keep a roof over our heads. Welfare and housing are closely connected, the poor state of both of them is causing poverty and suffering. The homelessness charity Crisis recently highlighted how benefit sanctions are causing homelessness. Huge cuts to housing benefit mean that often people have to use money from their meagre Job Seekers Allowance or Employment Support Allowance in order to cover rent, leaving even less money for food and other basic necessities. And then there are the exceptionally vile landlords (including ‘social landlords’) who discriminate against people claiming benefits making finding and keeping a home even more difficult.
Read the rest of this entry »


Target Marks & Spencer: they’re forcing their supplies to take workfare

Posted: April 8th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action | 9 Comments »

Percy Pig Says No

Take action today to tell M&S that cutting costs and reducing jobs through forced, unpaid labour is unacceptable.

Last October, M&S told its suppliers it wanted to cut costs by 2% in its food business. M&S are also putting pressure on their suppliers to make 2% of their workforce come from workfare.

We’ve seen a newsletter from Tangerine Confectionary which says they aim to have ‘2% of [their] workforce’ come from ‘work placements and training’ by this October. This will get them a ‘Silver award’ from M&S, because this target is part of M&S’s ‘environmental and ethical programme‘! (see p. 39)

from Tangerine's newsletter, March 2014

from Tangerine’s newsletter, March 2014 – click to enlarge

M&S are deeply involved with the government’s workfare schemes. We know M&S organises its own work experience – last year M&S announced 1400 new placements in their stores, on an unpaid work scheme they run with the Princes Trust.

They also take placements from people on the Work Programme, and their outlet stores are involved in Mandatory Work Activity. They run another workfare scheme in Scotland, too, profiting from the unpaid work of single parents.

Boycott Workfare has heard from several people who’ve been on workfare at M&S. They’ve told us that they were promised a job at the beginning of the four week placement. But these jobs were never there. That’s why we occupied their Hackney store last summer.

People on these schemes work for free for M&S under threat of sanctions, directly and indirectly. They’re lied to and exploited.

Tell M&S it’s wrong to use forced, unpaid labour, and wrong to demand their suppliers do as well.

Facebook: Marks & Spencer

Twitter:

By email: using this form

By phone: on one of these numbers


Week of action success as workfare users step back from new punitive scheme

Posted: April 7th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Action report | 3 Comments »

A massive thank you to everyone who tweeted, picketed, blockaded, occupied, or sent messages to workfare exploiters this week. With just weeks to go until Osborne’s punitive new six month “Community Work Placement” (CWP) scheme is due to launch, its future is looking pretty uncertain. Freedom of information responses suggest that the guidance  is behind schedule and the government have yet to even confirm some providers. Now our action has created some even bigger hurdles: major workfare users Salvation Army, TCV and YMCA say they will not offer placements on the CWP scheme.

Salvation Army felt the pressure this week with pickets at their stores in Cardiff and South London, a huge banner unfurled at their head office, and a three hour blockade which shut down one of their workfare-using shops in Edinburgh. YMCA faced a surprise visit to their head office, where an alternative YMCA song “Forced to work at the YMCA” was performed. Promising a meeting with a manager responsible for their workfare policy, they soon began telling people who contacted them that they too would not be involved in 6-month workfare – especially interesting since their excuse for continuing to use other workfare schemes is that they can’t impose policy like this on their branches.

The “green” charities who make thousands of workfare placements possible also faced the heat with massive online pressure. The Conservation Volunteers, who have previously boasted of the 20,000 workfare placements they have hosted, will not take part in CWP. Groundwork – a major workfare user – decided to lie to the charities’ press about their involvement, claiming that they had not bid to run a CWP contract, despite boasting about doing so here.

Coverage in the charities’ trade press in England and Scotland, and in Christian media will mean that other organisations see the cost to their reputation of getting involved in any workfare scheme. With impressive and diverse actions in Cardiff, Glasgow, Weston Super Mare, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Brighton, London and Swansea during the week, and hundreds of people taking action online, any would-be workfare exploiter has reason to think twice. When even the Evening Standard is condemning CWP, this exceptionally punitive brand of workfare looks pretty doomed.

In a week which also saw mass mobilisations against zero hour contracts, Atos and the Bedroom Tax, we know that what we all do makes a difference. So however you supported the week of action, thank you!

Amidst all the success of the week, this twitter exchange between a workfare manager and his friend provided a sobering reminder of what we’re up against. As the friend put it “4 weeks free labour – nice! Just keep getting new ones for zip all”. Salvation Army, TCV and YMCA may be out of the 6-month CWP workfare but they’re still propping up other workfare schemes and forcing people into destitution through sanctions, so if you haven’t yet had a chance, please keep up the pressure with the actions below:


Join the physical or online blockade of the Salvation Army!

Posted: April 4th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Charities | 5 Comments »
blockade of salvation army shop

Workfare: If you exploit us we will shut you down!

Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty will be holding another of their regular and extremely successful blockades of the Salvation Army on Saturday morning from 11am onwards.

Join in with an online blockade of the Salvation Army’s social media and let them know what you think of their prolific and unashamed use of forced unpaid labour.

Make your feelings known and you may even get to join the prestigious ‘Banned by the Salvation Army over workfare related comments’ facebook group.

Although the Salvation Army are steering clear of the government’s latest workfare programme, the 6 month long Community Work Placements, they are still major users of workfare, taking part in Mandatory Work Activity and the Work Programme. The Salvation Army have expressed their support for workfare for sick and disabled people using the disturbing phrase “emancipation through employment”. Their enthusiastic support of workfare has won them praise from the government last year that they were ‘holding the line’ as other organisations were dropping out of the schemes due to public outrage.

We will keep the pressure on until they fully withdraw from all workfare schemes which threaten people with benefit sanctions of up to 3 years, causing hunger and homelessness.

Contact the Salvation Army UK on Facebook and on Twitter: 

They can be telephoned on (020) 7367 4500 or emailed at: info@salvationarmy.org.uk

The Salvation Army’s youth section are on facebook here.


Online Action: Sign up to Universal Automation

Posted: April 3rd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action | 1 Comment »

UnivAuto

Even though the failure that is Universal Jobsmatch could come to an end in 2016 (although some form is meant to continue!) it is still being pushed now. People are being bullied into using it, made to apply for scams, zero hour contracts and below minimum wage jobs, whilst it’s also being used to sanction us for the smallest errors. One person contacting us was sanctioned for not applying to a job advert with a broken link!

Today, as part of the week of action, we call on people to take action against Universal Jobsmatch using Universal automation:

As the Job Centre clamp down on our time more and more, Universal Automation can help us resist this as our weekly job search is done in record time! Also if you have time, skills or general user feedback get involved to support the project.

This email to Universal Automation also shows the effect of people applying for lots of jobs advertised by exploitative employers ;)