The general public have been shocked to learn that charitable organisations such as Oxfam, Scope and the British Heart Foundation have been involved in the government’s workfare scheme.
While Oxfam has pulled out, and Scope has suspended its involvement, the Salvation Army is still signed up to this state sponsored forced labour scheme. A tweet from the Salvation Army UK twitter account on 19th February reads, ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matt 11, 28.’ The reality is that the Salvation Army is welcoming the weary and burdened with work for no pay.
The Salvation Army is among the most two-faced of the charities which have signed up to workfare. In July 2011 the Salvation Army controversially won a contract worth £6m from the Ministry of Justice to provide support services for trafficked men and women in the UK. It is a gross hypocrisy that an organisation responsible for providing support for those who have been trafficked for sexual exploitation, domestic servitude and labour exploitation are themselves benefiting from coerced and exploited labour.
The Salvation Army should through its work supporting victims of forced labour be familiar with Article 2.1 of the 1930 Forced Labour Convention;
‘For the purposes of this Convention the term forced or compulsory labour shall mean 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 voluntarily.’
These are the conditions in which many people in workfare find themselves.
The Salvation Army defends it position by shamelessly declaring,
‘Providing short-term work experience for unemployed people is part of our provision for those in need and as a charity we do not make a profit from delivering employment contracts, but use all our income to support people in need. We believe and have seen that offering a hand up and not a hand out is the best way of addressing poverty and social exclusion. Work and having something meaningful to do helps people not just to become less dependent on the state but encourages self-belief and self-confidence.’
If the Salvation Army is passionate and committed to tackling human trafficking and modern day forced labour they must demonstrate this by firstly withdrawing from workfare and secondly calling the government to account for overseeing a forced labour scheme.