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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.

UK councils use half a million hours of workfare

Posted: December 28th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Info on schemes, Name and shame | 10 Comments »
Public sector workers, including at the DWP, will soon face sanctions under Universal Credit unless we take action now.

Boycott Workfare’s research revealed half a million hours of unpaid work in councils

New research by Boycott Workfare, covered in The Mirror and The Guardian, reveals that UK councils have used over half a million hours of unpaid work through the government’s workfare schemes, which compel people to work without pay on threat of benefit sanctions. Click here to see if your council is involved!

In a Freedom of Information request to all councils in the UK, 38% of the 271 councils who responded and held the information had taken a workfare placement at some point in the last two years. These placements include schemes with direct benefit losses, benefit losses if you drop out after starting, or referral to a scheme with direct benefit losses if you refuse to take part. Also, with all these schemes, Boycott Workfare has heard of people being told it is compulsory by their job centre advisor, even if officially you can choose to take part.

In total 1,929 placements were reported to have taken place across the 106 councils involved since June 2011, with 15 councils reporting use of the schemes but not saying how many placements they had taken. This is over 500,000 hours of unpaid work.  Half of these reported placements were on the Work Experience scheme, but nearly 300 placements were on Mandatory Work Activity where people can receive a benefit sanction for up to 3 years for refusing to take part in the 4 week placements. Almost 300 people were also sent to work at councils through the Work Programme (or Northern Ireland’s equivalent Steps to Work) where placements were lasting up to 26 weeks.

Read the rest of this entry »


100,000 people given historic sanctions

Posted: December 15th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Info on schemes | 6 Comments »

In August 2012 it was ruled in the high court that the letters given to claimants mandating them onto workfare schemes of up to 780 unpaid hours did not communicate to people what was required of them on these schemes. This meant all the bretroSanctions2enefit sanctions that had been awarded through a range of different workfare schemes were unlawful and had to be repaid. The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) went about appealing this ruling, but in February 2013 the decision was upheld.

After this the DWP rushed through the retrospective Jobseekers (Back to Work) Act, making the unlawful withdrawal of benefits from an estimated 179,000 people now apparently legal – although obviously this Act did not change the fact that people were not fully aware of what was required of them at the time. This Act was supported by the Labour Party and deprived people who would have suffered significant hardship of a total of £130 million that was unlawfully stolen by the government.

It now turns out that the cruelty of this Act did not stop there. Since the first court case decision in August 2012 they had stopped sanctioning for cases that would be affected by the courts decision, and had started to stockpile these decisions. The introduction of the Jobseekers (Back to Work) Act allowed them to start sanctioning all these stockpiled sanctions. At the time they rushed through the act 63,000 sanctions had been stockpiled, and by the time they started to sanction people in July 2013 this could have reached over 100,000 sanctions.

Over the last 3-6 months people have been notified of these sanctions with letters such as the one shown. As can be seen there can be a year long gap between the alleged event and you being notified of the sanction making it almost impossible to appeal as it is unlikely you have knowledge of what you did on that day* (and neither do the work programme providers!).

Not only were all 3 main political parties involved in depriving the poorest people of £130 million that was rightfully theirs, but are now chasing another 100,000 claimants for money through these historic sanctions with little hope of claimants forming a strong case of appeal*. All benefit sanctions are wrong, but this retrospective law shows how happy the government are to even sanction illegally – as they’ll just change the law later and sanction people a year down the line.

There is currently a petition calling for an end to all benefit sanctions and Boycott Workfare are hosting a Welfare Action gathering on Sat 15th Feb to bring together people involved in, or wanting to set up, groups that are locally trying to stop and overturn sanctions, as well as organising against other welfare cuts. Follow this link for more information on the gathering – it will take place in central London and a programme will be up soon. Get in touch at info@boycottworkfare.org if you would like to come and also if you need help with travel.

*Appealing on the grounds that you have no record of events a year later could possibly work, but we have not heard of it. Let us know how it went if you have tried it. However if you have other grounds of appeal because you still have evidence or recollection, then use that instead. It can be worthwhile appealing as 53% of reconsideration requests and appeals against JSA sanctions are successful.


Day 5: Action on workfare and sanctions

Posted: December 6th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action | 2 Comments »
a person holds a placard outside M&S

The Cardiff action paid M&S a visit!

The week of action has seen a very loud noise demo at the workfare industry’s annual conference, hijacking its hashtag and actions in Cardiff, Wrexham, and even one in Germany! There’s loads more planned this weekend – with a new action just announced in Sheffield this Saturday too (and one coming up next week in Oxford!).

Thanks to everyone who’s been putting the pressure on online too. We’ve kept a lot of workfare exploiters’ Facebook Page moderators very busy this week and we’ve seen time and again how pressure from action on the streets plus online embarrassment can be enough to make a company or charity think twice!

Today, please help show all the companies and charities we’ve contacted this week that we won’t stop until they do. Scroll down our website front page for ways to contacts some of the worst offending charities, biggest workfare-using companies, those that make the workfare industry conference happen and those cutting wage bills using young people on traineeships.

The petition to end all welfare sanctions without exception is only 300 away from 10,000 – please take a few minutes to spread the word and help make it 10,000 by the end of the week of action!

And if you’ve still got a bit of time to spare, please feel free to contact any of the workfare exploiters listed here.

Thanks for being part of the week of action!


Day 4: On-line Action against Community Work Placement Charities

Posted: December 4th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

[Photo: Sinister Pics]

[Photo: Sinister Pics]

As part of the Week of Action Against Workfare and Sanctions, on Thursday 5th December 2013, we’re focussing on the Charities that will be handing in their tenders today to access unpaid claimant workers through the new Community Work Placements regime.

Community Work Placements, originally announced by George Osborne as “Help to Work” on 30th September 2013, is a set of new measures that will be forced on claimants who have come through the two year Work Programme without securing employment. The scheme is described as an “intensive option” where the providers will “deliver mandatory work placements for claimants for 30 hours a week for up to 26 weeks, alongside supported jobsearch”. Or put another way, it’s a six month sentence to force claimants work for free or lose their benefits.

Typically the 33 companies who have the option of tendering for this new scheme are the very companies who currently run the Work Programme: the companies who failed to assist the claimants back into work over two years are now being given an extra six months to make even more money off the back of the unemployed! These “Employment Related Supported Services Suppliers” include three charities Boycott Workfare has flagged up before.

Take a look at their finances at http://www.charitycommission.gov.uk/find-charities/ by inputting their charity number. Then e-mail or contact them on social media to express your distaste at their continued abuse of the benefits system to line their own pockets!

THE SHAW TRUST:
business.development@shaw-trust.org.uk (287785)
@Shaw_Trust
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Shaw-Trust/221553131217597

THE CONSERVATION VOLUNTEERS:
a.watmouth@tcv.org.uk (261009)
@tcvtweets
https://www.facebook.com/TheConservationVolunteers

GROUNDWORK UK
gduxbury@groundwork.org.uk (291558)
@groundworkuk
https://en-gb.facebook.com/groundworkuk

There are also two more charities touting for business as “secondary delivery providers”, seeking to subcontract from the above and the usual suspects such as Ingeus, G4S, A4e and Serco. They are the supposedly christian organisations The Salvation Army and the YMCA. Key in “Salvation Army” or “YMCA” to the web link above to find out how they are profiting in your locality. The details below are for their head offices in London.

THE SALVATION ARMY:
info@salvationarmy.org.uk
@salvationarmyuk
www.facebook.com/salvationarmyuk

THE YMCA:
press@ymca.org.uk or enquiries@ymca.org.uk
@ymca_england
www.facebook.com/YMCA.England

Don’t forget to sign the petition calling for an end to all benefit sanctions without exceptions:http://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/benefit-sanctions-must-be-stopped-without-exceptions-in-uk


Day 3: Target the companies replacing paid work with workfare

Posted: December 3rd, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action | Tags: , , | 3 Comments »

Workfare hands companies free labour which means fewer jobs and paid hours for everyone. But direct action and online pressure mean tens of brands now steer clear of it. Let’s step up the pressure on companies who still think they can profit from unpaid work!

Take action today to shame these companies and make them realise that exploiting unemployed people might just mean fewer customers this Christmas. There’s new online action every day this week so please keep checking back!

Marks & Spencer

If You Exploit Us We Will Shut You Down

M&S: rolling out workfare in their stores. Unless we stop them!

Marks & Spencer’s use of workfare hit public awareness when they announced 1400 new placements in their stores and a benchmark of 2% of the workforce to be unpaid. But this isn’t the brand’s first encounter with workfare. Despite their CEO earning over £2 million a year, they are also profiting from unpaid work through another workfare scheme in Scotland, which targets single parents. It’s likely their involvement is much more widespread – we also heard from someone sent on a 4 week placement at one of their outlet stores.

Last time we took action, M&S was forced to disable comments on their Facebook Page. Several pickets and walks of shame will pay a visit to their stores this week. Please feel free to contact them with your thoughts as well:

By email: Using their online form
By phone: See this useful list of numbers
Facebook: Marks and Spencer
Twitter:

B&M Stores

In May, B&M won an award from the workfare industry for its involvement. But the reality of this involvement is harsh. One person has reported: “B&M stores have 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 employees!” Boycott Workfare has had reports of workfare at B&M stores in Bangor, Glasgow, Manchester, Southend and Northern Ireland. Show them they can’t keep cutting their wages bill with unpaid work!

By email: enquiries@bmstores.co.uk or customerservices@bmstores.co.uk
By phone: 0151 728 5400 or more numbers here.
Facebook: B&M Stores
Twitter:

Leeds Unemployed Action Group exposed the workfare providers in their area

Leeds Unemployed Action Group exposed the workfare providers in their area

Asda

Asda has been at the heart of workfare in the UK, helping the government relaunch its “Work Experience” scheme last year. We have had reports that one of their stores in Manchester uses disabled people on workfare on the night shift. They are frank about their involvement here.

Asda contact form: Click here
Facebook: Asda
Twitter:

Don’t forget to sign the petition calling for an end to all benefit sanctions without exceptions.


Day 2: Stop Traineeships – workfare for young people

Posted: December 3rd, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action | 1 Comment »

traineeships

Day One of the week of action against workfare and sanctions was great – with a LOUD noise demo at the workfare industry’s annual conference, hijacking its hashtag and actions in Cardiff and Germany! On Day Two, target the companies profiting from making young people work without pay on Traineeships.

Traineeships are about providing cheap labour, driving down wages, massaging unemployment figures and conditioning our young people for a life of poverty and jumping through endless hoops in search of a job.

They’re a fairly new scheme that targets 16-24 year olds with more unpaid work. Traineeships involve a work placement of up to six months for which the employer is not even required to pay travel expenses. The promise at the end of six months’ unpaid work? You may then be eligible to work for £2.67 an hour as an apprentice.

Used together, traineeships and apprenticeships have the potential to massively undercut the minimum wage on the high street and elsewhere.  The government is of course rolling out compulsory education for 17-18 year-olds and unpaid work looks set to make up an increasingly large component of that education. Benefits cuts for 18-25 year-olds are also threatened.

There are many companies happy to take advantage of young people and profit from their lack of opportunity and  today let’s take action against them. Contact them by phone, email or on social media.

Kwikfit

Kwikfit’s hit the headlines for expecting 39 hours of unpaid work a week from its traineeships and advertising them across the UK. It’s already faced huge public criticism on social media. Let’s make sure it knows the pressure hasn’t gone away and it needs to pay the people who work for it.

You could comment by phone or email, on its Facebook page or Youtube channel.


Subway

This multi-national brand with $18.1 billion in sales in a year, is recruiting multiple traineeships in Blackpool to “prepare food and serve customers” for 21 hours’ work a week each. currently advertising for at least three placements, this shop is saving itself £3180 on the wages bill in the next two months. Let’s hope the young people weren’t planning on buying any Christmas presents.

Share your thoughts on Subway’s Facebook page or take a look at their contact details.


Toywatch

Here is a luxury watch shop offering unpaid work for six months in its store in Westfield to young people when clearly it should and could offer them paid work and on the job training. You can contact Toywatch and let them know what you think on shop@toy-watch.com, comment on their Facebook page, give them a call on 020 3301 8744 or pay them a visit.


Novotel

Novotel’s 4* hotel in Southampton is also profiting from 42 hours of unpaid work in its kitchens each week. Its contact details can be found here.

Got a few more minutes?

Have a dig here and pick the companies you’d like to contact about their exploitation of young people to replace paid work.

Want more info on traineeships? Hear it from the horse’s mouth here and here.


Day 1: Take Online Action Against The Workfare Conference

Posted: December 1st, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 4 Comments »

On Monday 2nd December the welfare-to-work industry will be splashing out yet more tax payers’ money on their annual workfare conference in a plush Central London venue.

Workfare exploiters like the Shaw Trust and the Salvation Army will be gathering to discuss how to further profit from the huge increase in unpaid work. From April next year hundreds of thousands of unemployed people will be forced to work for free for six months or face losing benefits completely. The cost of this scheme is estimated to be £300 million. Most of this cash will end up lining the pockets of the welfare-to-work sector – companies like A4E, G4S, Ingeus and Serco who specialise in forcing people to work without pay.

Many of these companies will be present at Monday’s conference where tickets cost up to a whopping £534 in some cases. Claimants are clearly not welcome at the conference unlike Employment Minister Esther McVey and Matthew Sinclair from hard right think tank the Tax Payer’s Alliance who will both be giving speeches at the event. The Tax Payer’s Alliance recently released a report calling for permanent workfare for those out of work even if this is due to sickness or disability.

The conference is being organised by ERSA, the trade body established to represent the welfare-to-work racket along with the Centre for Social Inclusion (CESI).

Boycott Workfare will be holding a noise demo outside the conference from 12.30pm as part of the Week of Action Against Workfare and Sanctions . A day of online protest has been called targeting the sponsors of the event who hope to gain some positive publicity from being associated with this workfare love-in. Contact them on social media and let’s make sure that doesn’t work out quite in the way they hoped as they are named and shamed for their support of forced work.

Delegates at Monday’s conference will be tweeting using the hashtag #ERSA2013 so add this to all tweets. Don’t forget to tweet conference organisers ERSA and CESI themselves.



Sponsors of the conference include:

Learn Direct, who are on facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/learndirect


Work Programme providers the Shaw Trust are at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Shaw-Trust/221553131217597


Training charity Catch 22 who recently advised the Department for Education that the new unpaid Traineeships Work placements should be shown “to provide a commercial advantage to employers” can be found at: https://en-gb.facebook.com/Catch22charity


Spirit Resourcing are sponsoring the delegate packs: https://www.facebook.com/spiritresourcing


pauline-pensWelfare-to-work recruitment agency R3 Welfare & Skills will be sponsoring the pens at the conference.
https://www.facebook.com/pages/R3-Welfare-Skills/475538409128072


Don’t forget to sign the petition calling for an end to all benefit sanctions without exceptions.


This week: take action to stop workfare and sanctions

Posted: November 30th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action | 6 Comments »

week of actionThings are very wrong: each month 70,000 people face hunger and hardship due to benefit stoppages – ‘sanctions’. Millions of hours of work which should be paid are being replaced by workfare. But we’re taking action and having an impact.

This week, from 2-8 December,  join thousands of others across the UK to push back against sanctions and workfare – with action online and on your high street. Here’s the latest list of actions planned across the UK. Let us know if you’re planning something too and check back here Monday-Friday to take online action every day.

Edinburgh: flyering all week and a demo on Saturday 7th

Cardiff: Wednesday 4 December at 6:30pm, Marks and Spencer – 72/76 Queen Street, Cardiff

Glasgow: Saturday 7th, 12.30-2.30, Sauchiehall St

London:

  • Noise Demo at workfare industry conference at the University of London, 12.30pm 2nd Decemeber
  • Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group demo at Hammersmith Job Centre against the introduction of Universal Credit. Meet 11am on Wednesday 4th December at Hammersmith Job Centre, Glenn House, 22 Glenthorne Road, W6 0PP
  • M&S picket, Islington – Sunday 8th December 1pm outside Holloway Road M&S
  • M&S picket, Wood Green – Sunday 8th December 2pm outside Wood Green High Road M&S (Nearest tube: Turnpike Lane)

Reading: Saturday 7th 4pm at Reading town centre. Planning meeting for the action on Tuesday at 7pm.

Wrexham: Tuesday 3rd December Noisey Demo  (bring pots and pans) at the Grosevenor Road Job Centre 12pm

Sheffield:  Saturday 7th December 1pm – M&S picket outside of 19/31 Fargate, S1 1LF organised by South Yorkshire UNITE Community Union. More detail here.

 

What if the whole workfare industry got together in one place?

Posted: November 24th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

Poster for demo - see text of article for details12.30-1.30pm, Monday 2nd December, outside the ERSA workfare industry conference, Senate House, Malet Street, London (nearest tubes: Russell Square, Warren Street, Euston), facebook event here

(Can’t make it to London? Take part in the week of action where you are.)

On 2nd December, those driving forced labour for unemployed people on the government’s workfares schemes are getting together in one place for their annual conference. Be there too to show them that their days of vast profits for abusing the poorest people in the UK are numbered.

The workfare industry is already on the backfoot. The government’s flagship ‘Work Programme’ which promised to hand £5 billion to this sector – whose profits are wholly subsidised by public funds – has failed. The industry failed to meet even the minimum targets and tens of thousands have returned to the Jobcentre as the two year stint comes to an end.

Add to this arrests for fraud, consistent reports from jobseekers of the punitive and pointless measures these companies demand, and the immense public backlash against workfare – leading many of the big brands to withdraw from forced unpaid work.

ERSA, the trade body for the ‘welfare to work’ industry, have called their conference “Challenge and change in an evolving landscape”. Let’s make the scale of the challenge clear with fun and noise on the conference’s doorstep.

And in case you need more convincing, here’s a few good reasons you should come (in the form of a list of people who’ll be at [the conference] pushing their workfare agendas): Read the rest of this entry »


Guest blog post: No Refuge from Sanctions

Posted: November 20th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Guest blog | No Comments »
No Benefit Sanctions No Workfare

No Benefit Sanctions No Workfare

Stuart Crosthwaite is a member of the South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group. He wrote this article in response to Boycott Workfare’s call for sanction stories. If you would like to contribute some writing on sanctions or workfare, we’d love to hear from you, please get in contact with us: info@boycottworkfare.org

If your aim is to reach targets for numbers of people sanctioned then you’ll pick on the easiest targets. Understanding the language of Job Centre Plus is hard enough if you speak good English but if you don’t, you’re in trouble. Evidence from South Yorkshire shows that refugees claiming JSA are being disproportionately sanctioned by JCP.

“Most of them get sanctioned at some point” a refugee support worker told me. From interviews with refugees I estimate that at least 50% of refugees on JSA are sanctioned. For women, particularly older women, the figure is higher still.

Why and how are refugees particularly vulnerable to being sanctioned by JCP?
Read the rest of this entry »