Today, 7 June, the “Making Work Pay” conference was cancelled due to pressure from campaigners. Campaign coalition Boycott Workfare had called the action to launch the Welfare Uncut campaign that will take action against those organisations involved in rolling out the Work Programme.
A senior representative of conference organisers Inside Government stated that the conference was cancelled due to the call to demonstrate. Inside Government did not want to jeopardise their relationship with the venue, the Royal Society. A spokesperson for the Royal Society confirmed this to be the case.
Boycott Workfare is a coalition of unemployed people, anti-cuts campaigners, charity workers, trade unionists and allies. It is an ongoing campaign to challenge the government’s Work Programme, or ‘workfare’, and the companies profiting from the free labour it provides.
Despite DWP research concluding that “there is little evidence that workfare increases the likelihood of finding work”, the Work Programme will compel Jobseekers to work without pay for up to 30 hours a week. Existing placements include Poundland, hospitals, public parks and charity shops. Campaigners fear these compulsory placements are already replacing paid jobs.
Joanna Long, spokeswoman for Boycott Workfare welcomed the cancellation as a first campaign achievement:
“Today’s conference would have brought together organisations which may be involved in rolling out the Work Programme. That because of our actions it didn’t take place is a great way to launch the campaign and a success. All organisations involved in the Work Programme have been put on notice: They might get free labour but it will cost their reputation.”
Update 11th June:
We have since learnt that both the Royal Society and Inside Government lied to protesters, as the conference was in fact secretly relocated. We remain delighted that our first Welfare Uncut action was able to have such an impact, and that every delegate now knows that assisting the government’s workfare plans will not go unchallenged.