Royal Mail “Work Experience” Programme

“Congress reaffirms its belief…that compulsory workfare schemes are in contradiction to the notion of welfare rights.”
TUC Congress 2010 Final Agenda

The leadership of Communication Workers Union have this week issued a letter to branches stating they will support DWP  ‘Work Experience’ at the Royal Mail. The scheme will begin with ten 30 hour a week workfare placements at a time in each region. Over the course of a year, each region will see 130 forced unpaid workers. There is no sign of any jobs at the end for those forced to take part in the scheme.

The questions for the union are:

  • How the CWU can support a scheme which mandates people to work for less than minimum wage and penalises them by cutting off even the subsistence income of £50 Jobseekers if they do not take part?
  • How can the union leadership support a scheme, which is already seeing paid workers replaced with forced workers across the UK?

All the evidence that Boycott Workfare has received demonstrates that workfare schemes such as “Work Experience” lead to overtime and staff hours being cut for those who are employed. It is worth remembering that if in future, postal workers take industrial action, workfare will provide Royal Mail management with a workforce that will be forced to cross picket lines and work since if those sent on this scheme refuse to do so they will have their JSA stopped.

The CWU has said it will review its position after an initial trial period, so this is an important time to remind the leadership of its responsibilities to its members. We ask all union members and CWU branches to contact the CWU leadership to challenge their support for this forced unpaid work scheme and to boycott it in their own workplaces.

You may want to point out to the CWU that:




Comments (9)

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marcus graham

I like many (most?) are absolutely disgusted that a anyone let alone a union would consider this enforced nearly free labour. Perhaps the people that signed this off would like to lead by example and working for exactly the same financial rewards as the people forced onto these schemes?

These type of programmes are quite simply wrong- you should know that.


Hope you don't mind I have copied this to ur own website RoyalMailChat - its a site that is visited by activists within Royal Mail and hopefully should generate some discussion. Actually I think you may well be a member of the site.

If you have any objections please contact me at the email address above and I will remove it on request.

In solidarity.


As a former employee of Royal Mail and former member of the CWU I am extrememly disappointed that the CWU have sold out to Workfare which is no better than slave labour.
During my time at RM - 10 years - I saw plenty of agency workers who left after just one day because of the demands of the job. Standards drop when non-permanent staff are employed by RM. In my experience most temporary workers at RM do not have the knowledge and gumption to do the job that is required of them. I have dealt with far too many complaints about misdeliveries and incompetent work from temporary staff and suffered the same problems as a RM customer i.e. misdelivered and missing items.
I have always supported the CWU in action to save jobs despite their ineffective support of me when I needed them.
This smacks of unprofessional decisions and the lack of care and consideration for their members. CWU should be standing up for their members' rights, not allowing people to come and work for free.
The CWU should know better than to support something like this being a member of the TUC.
I am appalled that the CWU Executive havce voted this way and they need to take a long hard look at themselves and question their reasoning.
A very sad day for the CWU and RM.

Forced Labour Scheme May Come to Haunt CWU Leadership | the void

[...] Worrying news comes from the fine folk at Boycott Workfare in the form of a letter issued to branches of posties’ union the CWU in which they appear to endorse Workfare at the Royal Mail. [...]


Not much unity when several unions are endorsing Workfare despite the TUC condemning it.

Perhaps the Achilles heel of Workfare will turn out to be the DWPs own rules about it.

According to the DWP, Workfare placements are supposed to be "genuinely additional" to existing jobs, and must not fulfil any role which would otherwise be advertised.

This is very similar to the old Trade Union requirement back in the Thatcher era, that all "Training for Work" schemes should be "surplus to requirements", so as not to interfere with the employment conditions of existing union members.

Two questions arise:

Is any Trade Union seeing that these DWP rules are being adhered to in any Workfare workplace?

What kind of "work" are Workfare slaves actually doing if they are not supposed to be doing conventional work normally reserved for regular employees?

There are also Health and Safety issues; the DWPs own rules forbid Workfare participants being placed in jobs "which raise any Health and Safety concerns".

Readers can also consider Section 71 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, and its equivalent in Scotland, the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 - both of which outlaw "Forced or Compulsory Labour".

And don't forget the International Labour Organisation's definition of forced or compulsory labour:

"All work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself volunrarily".

A highly informative account about Workfare rules is given here:

Knocking Boc off the block. | Cautiously pessimistic

[...] today, which you can follow on Occupied London and the Guardian. At home, we’ve seen the news, broken by Boycott Workfare and analysed by the Void, that the leadership of the Communication Workers’ Union is backing the [...]

The ideology of workfare | Edinburgh Eye

[...] Boycott Workfare campaign has been using FOI requests and other research to establish that companies use workfare [...]

All’s fare in love and (class) war | York Anarchists Blog

[...] this year the Communications Workers Union (CWU) came out publicly in support of the use of workfare staff by the Royal Mail. Quite aside from the disgusting spectacle of an [...]

robert campbell

i am pleased tp tell you that i have been signing on for 16 months at charles st job centre and they have not help me at all a part from tell me that they can only put me on a work programme for at least 104 weeks