Target Marks & Spencer: they’re forcing their supplies to take workfare

Percy Pig Says No

Take action today to tell M&S that cutting costs and reducing jobs through forced, unpaid labour is unacceptable.

Last October, M&S told its suppliers it wanted to cut costs by 2% in its food business. M&S are also putting pressure on their suppliers to make 2% of their workforce come from workfare.

We’ve seen a newsletter from Tangerine Confectionary which says they aim to have ‘2% of [their] workforce’ come from ‘work placements and training’ by this October. This will get them a ‘Silver award’ from M&S, because this target is part of M&S’s ‘environmental and ethical programme‘! (see p. 39)

from Tangerine's newsletter, March 2014

from Tangerine’s newsletter, March 2014 – click to enlarge

M&S are deeply involved with the government’s workfare schemes. We know M&S organises its own work experience – last year M&S announced 1400 new placements in their stores, on an unpaid work scheme they run with the Princes Trust.

They also take placements from people on the Work Programme, and their outlet stores are involved in Mandatory Work Activity. They run another workfare scheme in Scotland, too, profiting from the unpaid work of single parents.

Boycott Workfare has heard from several people who’ve been on workfare at M&S. They’ve told us that they were promised a job at the beginning of the four week placement. But these jobs were never there. That’s why we occupied their Hackney store last summer.

People on these schemes work for free for M&S under threat of sanctions, directly and indirectly. They’re lied to and exploited.

Tell M&S it’s wrong to use forced, unpaid labour, and wrong to demand their suppliers do as well.

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Comments (9)

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Very frustrated Pete

I will boycott M&S And encourage everyone I know to do same until they boycott workfare


Is this also the same Tangerine Confectionery that is about to close its Blackpool Factory threatening the jobs of 166 workers?!

Lynda Sergeant

I find it disgraceful that you are using Workfare and I will no longer be shopping at M&S


The new campaign for M&S features Doreen Lawrence, Annie Lennox and other women
Famous women. Are they aware of what M&S are doing? Using unpaid labour exploiting the poor...
I was really surprised to see them wanting to front M&S Should they be contacted?


It might interest you to see the anodyne PR-style reply you get from the M&S chairman's office defending their scheme. Find copy below:

"Thank you for contacting us about our ‘Make Your Mark’ employability scheme.

Make Your Mark offers a structured training curriculum with regular feedback and evaluation, and dedicated support through a buddy and career coach to boost skills like confidence, team-work, motivation and communication skills.

As part of our commitment to tackle youth unemployment, we have asked our suppliers if they want to replicate the success of Make Your Mark within their own business. It is a four-week programme that is entirely voluntary and participants in supplier schemes are there purely to learn and get experience, and are not replacing any other roles.

The initiative is not affiliated with any government scheme and M&S has invested in the training provided by youth charity The Prince’s Trust to boost the skills and employability of young people.

The participants are there purely to learn and get experience and are not replacing any other role. We aim to help them get valuable training and build their skills and confidence, whilst still keeping their benefits. Ultimately we aim to offer many of them a paid job.

I hope this information is helpful to you and has clarified this matter. Thanks for taking the time to raise your concerns.

Kind regards

Frances Berry
Executive Office
Your M&S Customer Service"

Anyone care to deconstruct and analyse this letter?


Incidentally, I replied to this letter as follows:

Dear Francis Berry,

I am at a loss to understand how such a scheme can be "entirely voluntary" if jobseekers are threatened with sanctions if they do not attend your four week project. This means they could lose all state benefits for up to three years. That means destitution and homelessness for the unemployed person so treated. And as you must surely be aware,they may also be sanctioned in such a way for attending but turning up late, or not working in a satisfactory manner or arguing with other staff. Regretfully, bullying of workfare staff in their forced workplace also seems to be not unusual.

James Jordan

I have contacted M&S and told them exactly what I think about their vile involvement in forced labour. They just repeat that it's voluntary, so it would be nice if jsa claimants who have been offered a M&S placement, refused and then sanctioned could let M&S know they have been sanctioned for refusing their so called voluntary offer.
Let's keep the pressure on people and let these vile scroungers know we wont accept forced free labour to become the norm.


Have you got a link to evidence of sanctions given as a result of someone voluntarily taking up work experience? Any provider. I would be interested in challenging or boycotting organisations involved. Having taken part in work experience in 2000 and 2003 (once organised by the job centre and once by a disability charity) I believe it can be very helpful if not mandatory or subject to sanctions.

John McArthur

Working Links, the Work Programme agent which gained notoriety for the numbers of sanctions it has been instrumental in initiating, is advertising on its web site as part of it's Work Programme service an arrangment with M&S: "This new partnership will support single parents on the Work Programme in Wales, Scotland and South West England"

One can imagine the Work Programme agent spin "This isn't Workfare but Marks and Spencer Workfayre".

The standard letter from Working Links contains a litany of warning about sanctions. According to Wikipedia article on Working Links (with cited sources) "The company [Working Links] has been the subject of fraud allegations and has had the highest referral rate of Work Programme suppliers for sanctions against welfare recipients."