From work to workfare

350 workers sacked at a pizza factory – to be replaced with 100 workfare workers (Photo: eggplant / flickr)

Yet more evidence has emerged that workfare is replacing paid jobs. This week the 2 sisters food group announced the creation of 100 new jobs at their Nottingham Pizza Factory thanks to the ‘introduction of new business‘. This might seem like good news until you discover that the jobs aren’t really jobs and the new business isn’t really new business.

The jobs are actually ‘pre-employment training’ for the unemployed, organised with the Jobcentre “to give them an idea of what it’s like to work in the food sector“. In other words this is a workfare scheme.

And the new business? 2 sisters also own the R F Brookes factory in Leicester, where 350 workers have been made redundant with the production of pizza toppings being moved to Nottingham “as a result of several recent strikes“. The president of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union, Ian Hodson says that 2 sisters announced 193 redundancies and cut redundancy payments, and that when their members took strike action they made a further 157 redundant as a punishment.

The government insist that the millions of hours of unpaid work now being carried out across the UK by claimants on workfare does not displace paid work. But it seems fairly obvious that the work done by those on workfare is no longer being done by paid staff. It isn’t as if those on workfare are unstacking the shelves or removing the toppings from the pizzas afterwards so that paid staff can do it. And it seems equally obvious that employers will help themselves to free staff if they can get them. What this story shows is how companies can use workfare not just to replace paid staff with unpaid staff, but also to degrade working conditions and to punish those who try to organise against this.


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