In yet another massive blow to workfare, Argos – which has 740 stores nationwide – appears to have pulled out of workfare. Argos had previously boasted that it was using workfare to cover its busiest period at Christmas. In at least one store, workfare workers were doing ten hours a week more than paid staff. That they have now pulled out is a testament to the strength of feeling amongst the general public and shows the results we can get when we keep up the pressure!
It gets better. Remember how Homebase were exposed for using 25 workfare placements in one store and boasting about it? How we heard some people’s paid hours were cut from 48 a week down to 8 as a result? They faced such a huge response from the public that they took their Facebook Page down repeatedly. People protested at their stores across the UK. Now, they too, have apparently stopped using workfare. Their statement is full of doublespeak, but people protesting during the bank holiday at the store where the story emerged were told by the manager that the last workfare workers finished on Friday and they won’t be using any more.
These companies were saving thousands on their wages bill by exploiting the unemployed. This, despite the fact that the CEO of Home Retail Group – which owns Argos and Homebase – was paid £1.1 million last year. They didn’t ditch workfare out of the goodness of their hearts: it’s clear that your actions are making a massive difference, taking two big scalps! Please keep an eye on your local stores to check they don’t slip back into workfare when the pressure eases off.
There are still many scalps waiting to be taken – a list of which, unless the government manages to find a way out of it, it will now be compelled to reveal soon. One such example is retail chain B&M Stores, which was awarded a prize for its work with Work Programme provider Ingeus. While the award talks about the people who have been given jobs after their stint of unpaid work, it seems existing staff are having their hours cut as workfare is brought in.
If workfare is one side of the coin, then sanctions are the other. Without the threat of sanctions forcing people to undertake workfare, these schemes could not exist. To underline this harsh fact, last week it was revealed in research by London Assembly and Green Party member Jenny Jones, that one in three people in London and the Home Counties sent to Mandatory Work Activity was sanctioned. Another reason to challenge the London Mayor’s workfare scheme, which forces young people to work without pay from the first day they sign on.
With your support this campaign will continue to take action action against the businesses, charity groups or organisations exploiting jobseekers and the disabled through workfare, as well as those forcing people into workfare via sanctions. After all, it’s not only basic morality, it’s basic common sense. Workfare makes everyone poorer. It’s up to us to stop it, and as these successes show, together we can do it – and we are!