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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.

Keep up the pressure on YMCA!

Posted: March 31st, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Action report, Call to action | 9 Comments »
Boycott Workfare inside YMCA HQ

Boycott Workfare inside YMCA HQ

Today boycott workfare paid a visit to the London headquarters of workfare exploiter YMCA. They’ve defended their use of unpaid, forced work in previous statements and we’ve called them out on it. Mandatory Work Activity forces people to work without wages under threat of sanction, and doesn’t help them find a job anyway. Whereas the Salvation Army have stated they will not get involved in the new 6 month long Community Work Placements starting later this month, the YMCA have yet to make a public statement on the issue.

The YMCA wants to have its cake and eat it. Their president, Bishop John Sentamu, has spoken against workfare. Yet, the organisation still takes part in some of the harshest schemes.  They’re also involved in delivering traineeships – workfare by another name.

We say volunteering should remain just that, and that people shouldn’t be “made to volunteer” under threat of sanction.

The fight against workfare is more important than ever, with 74,000 people being sanctioned every month. Sanctions are one of the main reasons people are turning to food banks to feed themselves, and you can now be sanctioned for up to three years. This is forcing people to make the choice between heating their homes or eating.

Join us in a day of action against the YMCA’s use of workfare. Tell them what you think about them using forced unpaid work in their charity shops. Don’t let them ignore the devastating effect that sanctions are having on people up and down the country.

Facebook: YMCA England


Phone them on 020 7186 9500 or their shops hotline on 0845 601 0728.

Find contact details of your nearest YMCA shop here

But please note: Whilst it’s well worth trying to speak to a manager or senior individual if possible please bear in mind most people taking calls/emails will be low paid retail/admin staff and could even be on workfare themselves. Be aware that is an offence to make telephone calls or send communications which are threatening, indecent or offensive.

Subway: Traineeships are Workfare

Posted: March 29th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action | No Comments »

fast-food-rights-logo-square-iiToday is the Fast Food Rights Day of Action! In solidarity with the Bakers Food & Allied Workers Union, target Subway, who are using traineeships to avoid paying wages.

In return for no money, for 21 hours a week, for five months, ‘You’ll become a member of the team and will assist with food preparation, serving customers and ensuring the shop and kitchen areas are kept clean and tidy. Despite huge profits, billion pound fast food multi nationals like Subway use unpaid labour and zero hour contracts, leaving young workers especially vulnerable and exploited.

Traineeships are not apprenticeships. They are a form of workfare: forced, unpaid labour under threat of sanctions.  They fall under an ‘exemption to the National Minimum Wage’ and are specifically designed to enable employers to take on young people aged 16-24 without paying them.  The only obligation an employer has, having used you as free labour for five months, is to give you an interview – either a job interview or an ‘exit interview’.

Subway Unpaid traineeships  are being organised via GP Strategies Training Limited – one of a range of ‘training providers’ who make money out of traineeships.

As the Government guidelines say: ‘Traineeships are delivered by training providers and funded by the government, with employers providing the valuable work experience placement and interview as part of the programme.’

With £12 million currently set aside for traineeship delivery, the only people who aren’t making money out of this are the young people forced to work for nothing – this list of other companies who are also using traineeships to avoid paying people is just now advertising 580 traineeships.

Let Subway know that workfare can’t be disguised so easily.

 or Facebook them

Support #FastFoodRights: 

Leaflet to help shut down new workfare scheme

Posted: March 25th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Info on schemes | 3 Comments »


During the Week of Action against Workfare (29th March – 6th April) actions will take place across the UK to stop workfare and the new 6 month workfare scheme being introduced called ‘Community Work Placements’. Actions are already planned in Brighton, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Liverpool. We have also created the above leaflet that we encourage people to hand out at Job Centres – along with our ‘Know Your Rights’ info. As placements are meant to begin in late April this leaflet will help us find out the first places taking this latest, and longest, workfare scheme, helping us put an end to the ‘Community Work Placements’ before they have even properly get started. The recent statement by the Salvation Army where they announce they will not get involved in the new scheme (but sadly keep their involvement in all the others *boos*) demonstrates the effect exposing and taking action against workfare users has.

Here you can get the pdf of the leaflet (print on A4 and cut in half to get two A5 leaflets). If you are unable to print your own flyers get in touch with with the amount you want and an address and we will send you them (along with know your rights leaflets if you wanted). Send us photos or reports of how the leafleting has gone and any information you find out from speaking to people!

Big blow to the DWP’s latest plans for mass workfare

Posted: March 23rd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action | 13 Comments »

[Photo: Sinister Pics]

Despite being one of workfare’s most ardent supporters, even Salvation Army aren’t prepared to touch the government’s latest mass workfare scheme [Photo: Sinister Pics]

In an important success even before the workfare week of action starts on 29th March, the Salvation Army have said they will play no part in the upcoming Community Work Placement scheme. Last year the charity was praised by the DWP for ‘holding the line’ on workfare. This recent loss of nerve can only be a direct result of repeated action taken to challenge the Salvation Army’s support for forced work.  The inspiring recent direct action from Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty, widespread public criticism and constant pressure online has shown what the public think of charities that claim to help unemployed people and then force them to work for free.

The decision is a major blow for the DWP’s latest plans for mass workfare. Community Work Placements are soon to be inflicted on ten of thousands of people leaving the Work Programme and involve six months’ unpaid full-time work for charities and community organisations.  Those who refuse to carry out forced labour will be punished with poverty, hunger and destitution as benefits are sanctioned. But major charities, such as Oxfam, Shelter and Marie Curie, have very publicly distanced themselves from forced work. A recent Freedom of Information request revealed that the provider guidance for the scheme is not yet ready, suggesting its April start date is somewhat optimistic.
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Anti workfare flying pickets rock Salvation Army in Edinburgh

Posted: March 4th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Action report, Charities | 13 Comments »
Four Salvation Army shops blockaded in one day by Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty!

Four Salvation Army shops blockaded in one day by Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty!

Thanks to Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty for this inspiring report of their action on 3rd March… a hint of what’s to come in the week of action?

Anti workfare campaigners swooped on four Salvation Army shops in Edinburgh on 3rd March, blockading them all and turning away customers and a delivery lorry. Salvation Army managers were visibly rattled as a giant banner proclaiming IF YOU EXPLOIT US WE WILL SHUT YOU DOWN blocked the entrance to their shops.

At the Bruntsfield Place shop the Salvation Army manager threatened: “I’m one of the more serious managers. I’ll get a group of people to come and kick your heads in if you don’t move from in front of my shop.” The demonstrators from Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty maintained their blockade of the entrance and shortly afterwards turned away a lorry from Nathans Wastesavers textile recycling company. Animated debate continued in the street outside the shop as a pro-workfare passer-by was berated by another passer-by who recounted his experiences in the local Salvation Army hostel, where he said the management took half of residents’ benefits to pay for their accommodation.

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Stop workfare in its tracks – Take action 29 March – 6 April

Posted: March 3rd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Charities, Pledge to boycott workfare, Welfare to work industry | 10 Comments »
blockade of salvation army shop

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

Tens of organisations have already quit workfare. The government will not reveal which organisations are still using it for fear the schemes will collapse. Its contractors complain that they have lost hundreds of placements due to public pressure.

But they’re trying it again with a new scheme – “Community Work Placements” – launching in April 2014 which will force claimants to work for six months without pay. Six months – 780 hours – is more than twice the maximum community service sentence. Workfare does not help people find jobs and being unemployed is not a crime.

This new workfare scheme is part of a raft of draconian measures, misleadingly called “Help to Work”, which are designed to increase sanctions (benefit stoppages) and undermine wages still further.

For the workfare schemes to happen, they need places to send people, but tens of large charities have already quit. Oxfam stated that the schemes were incompatible with its goal of reducing poverty in the UK. Liverpool Volunteer Centre has condemned the scheme in the strongest possible terms.

Our action can stop companies, charities and councils from exploiting forced unpaid work and make sure this new scheme falls flat on its face. Wherever you are, however you can contribute, take action on 29 March-6 April.

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Picket of Brighton Grosvenor G Casino

Posted: March 1st, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action | No Comments »

Grosvenor G Casino picket

Here’s a call for action from Brighton Benefits Campaign

Tonight we will be picketing the Grosvenor G Casino here in Brighton.

Not content with profiteering from the punters, Grosvenor G are maximizing their profits through massive state handouts: in-work benefits for their low paid workers, and now unpaid labour in the form of workfare.

Unemployed people taken on under the guise of ‘work experience’ have been expected to work until the early hours or face sanctions. Grosvenor G have even taken their tips!

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Peacocks exposed: Apply for a job – get workfare!

Posted: February 26th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Name and shame, Personal accounts | 13 Comments »
group of protesters outside peacocks

Hundreds of leaflets were given out and there was a great response from passers-by to the demos on 1st March!

Another high street chain has now been exposed as using workfare: Peacocks have taken on workfare placements instead of hiring staff. 

Two stores faced protests on 1 March and their Facebook moderators have been very busy deleting people’s messages for days now. London Boycott Workfare invites other groups to pay a visit to your local store too and put the pressure on for Peacocks to pay its staff! Download our leaflet template here.

This person’s story shows how this practice means job applications are ignored when free labour is on offer instead. Another report has come in that the Sutton store has 10 workfare placements at one time. Please find out what’s going on at your local store too and let us know!

Can’t make it to a store in person?

Peacocks’ code of conduct claims: “Employment is Freely Chosen. There is no forced, bonded or involuntary prison labour. This includes forced labour due to peer pressure…”

Let Peacocks know what you think about their use of workfare on their social media channels:
Facebook | Or via their website |

Or contact the company which owns them – Edinburgh Woollen Mill:
On Facebook |

I started claiming in last August, and since then have been sent on several work placements.

In December of last year I had an interview for Christmas temp work at Asda (though in the end I didn’t undertake it). One of the interviewees was someone who had been on a work placement there. At the start of the placements, people are told they will take you on a temporary contract after completing the placement, but this person had to go through the same process as everyone else.

In December I also undertook a work placement within a local Holiday Inn branch that was tied into a ‘Sector Based Work Academy’ I was referred onto and that was organised by a local college and I believe jobcentre supported. They have also now however been placed onto the ‘work experience’ list available from my jobcentre.

A few months later, I was asked to put my name down for work experience again. Our local branch of Peacocks hadn’t long reopened. They had been advertising vacancies for some time and so within the first week of the shop being open I had put my CV into the store for consideration.

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The truth is, it’s up to all of us!

Posted: February 24th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Action report, Info on schemes, Unions | No Comments »

No Benefit Sanctions No WorkfareLast week figures on how many people faced sanctions (benefit stoppages) were published. There were no surprises, only the disturbing reality that more people are facing the hardship, hunger and stress of sanctions than ever before.

What about the union of the job centre workers who are pushing poor people into these devastating situations? Last year its members voted for PCS union to look into means of non-cooperation with sanctions, but its leadership is point blank refusing to even consider this an option. This is despite the fact that over 4000 workfare placements have taken place in the DWP, undermining jobs and wages for PCS members.

Elsewhere, the TUC mustered a cynical statement condemning sanctions – cynical given they also support the use of sanctions (PDF – 3.6, pg 31) and have explicitly called for Labour’s ‘workfare-lite’, the so-called ‘job guarantee’, to be backed with this threat of destitution. Also taking the cynical “sanctions bad, but also necessary” line were charity Gingerbread, which seemed determined to have its cake and eat it, in a press statement which managed to both condemn and advocate sanctions. Read the rest of this entry »

Come to the Welfare Action Gathering on 15th February!

Posted: January 27th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action | 13 Comments »

Come to an info and skill-sharing day in London on 15 February, 10.45am-5.30pm, Maiden Lane Community Centre – 20 minutes walk or a short bus ride from Kings Cross Station, off York Way (156 St. Paul’s Crescent, London, NW1 9XZ. Venue wheelchair accessible.)

We’ll have people at the bus stop to help point you in the right direction, but here’s some info on how to find it!

From Kings Cross on foot: Come out of Kings Cross station and follow it around to the left until you reach York Way. Walk past the bus stops, up York Way, over the canal and passing the Guardian on your right. Keep going for about a mile. When you reach the junction with Agar Grove, turn left down Agar Grove, take the first left and it’s the white building at the end of the road.

From Kings Cross by bus: Come out of Kings Cross station and follow it around to the left until you reach the bus stops on York Way. From Stop G, take the 390 bus about a mile to the Agar Grove/Maiden Lane stop. At the junction with Agar Grove, turn left down Agar Grove, take the first left and it’s the white building at the end of the road.

From elsewhere in London: Use the TfL Journey planner to plan your journey. The postcode for Maiden Lane Community Centre is NW1 9XZ. The nearest stations are Kings Cross, Camden Road, and Caledonian Road.

Action photo - Welfare Action gathering - 15 Feb
Getting your welfare rights is about a lot more than just knowing your welfare rights. Across the UK, people are getting together to support each other and pushing back workfare, standing up to sanctions, wrong decisions, and insecure housing.

Meet others from across the UK, hear inspiring stories, learn info about our rights and share tactics that work. This isn’t a day for speakers from the front. Party political representatives aren’t invited. It’s about people at the grassroots getting together and working out how we can support each other and throw even more spanners in the government’s plans!

If you are in a local group where people share mutual support on welfare or housing (or plan to start one), we should be able to help with your travel costs. Please get in touch as soon as you can so we can sort it out.

Planning on coming? There’ll be tea, coffee and a free lunch! Please let us know you’re coming so we know how many people to cook for!

Want to know what to expect? Check out the agenda below. There’s an open space session in the afternoon if you’d like to offer a workshop too!

10.30 Tea and coffee
10.45 Sharing stories – top tactics, issues and new ideasOne of the most important things about the day will be hearing from others.

This session will kick off discussions about what people do and how they do it. We’ll learn about what’s going on and what’s on the horizon, share strategies and start making links for action and ideas.

12.00 Break
12.10 Getting your rights on JSAGetting your rights on JSA is about a lot more than just knowing your rights.

This workshops aims to highlight some of the key rights, but also share some of the tactics groups and individuals have used to avoid getting screwed at the Jobcentre.

Fighting for housing rightsHear from campaigns that have been organising around the bedroom tax and benefit cap in their local communities, find out how to set up an eviction resistance network, learn about our basic housing rights, and discuss how we can push for quality, secure, and truly affordable housing for all.
13.10 Lunch
14.10 Universal Automation Universal Automation is a Chrome browser extension that automatically searches and applies for jobs on Universal Jobmatch, the government-run job search website which benefit claimants are forced to use.

Find out more and how to use it in this info session!

Building strong mutual support groupsFor long established mutual support groups to those who are just starting out – join this workshop to share experiences, reflections, tips, and questions on how to run a sustainable and successful local group to enforce and extend our welfare rights.   Fuel Poverty ActionWith 10% increases in energy prices, many more of us are having to choose between heating and eating.

This workshop will cover support, solidarity and resistance, understanding and negotiating on bills and debt, and more on Fuel Poverty Action’s pre-payment meters campaign.

14.55 Dealing with the Work Capability AssessmentLearn together how we can effectively navigate  our way around Employment and Support Allowance for those claiming and those wanting to provide support.  This will cover how to start a claim for ESA, methods of attempting to avoid Atos, and how to support each other through Atos to ensure we get the benefits that are rightfully ours. Bringing workfare downTens of organisations have pulled out of workfare and the government fears the schemes’ ‘collapse’.

This session will share some of the top tactics for people facing workfare, as well as discuss strategies that will help bring down workfare this year!

16.05 Break
16.20 Open Space SessionA chance for us to explore great ideas or important questions people have brought to the day, and link up to make things happen!
17.00 Making stuff happenWe’ll hear the ideas and plans from the open space, discuss how we stay in touch beyond the day, ideas for UK-wide action and ways we can build our capacity to support each other.
17.30 Finish!