Update for the National Day of Action Against Workfare (March 3rd)

By claiming to withdraw the sanctions from its Work Experience scheme, (just one of five workfare schemes) the government has appeared to budge a tiny bit. Importantly Workfare has been exposed as a truly and deeply unpopular policy, with rattled ministers failing to reassure companies like Boots, who continue to pull out of the scheme. This is a direct result of the enormous public pressure that has been put on companies who have been profiting from workfare. But this is not the end of workfare and therefore we must keep the pressure up. That is why we will be taking to the streets this Saturday and why our campaign continues.

Work Experience is just 1 of 5 workfare schemes. The Work Programme is another one of these schemes in which job seekers will be forced to work unpaid in high street stores, including well known charities, up and down the country. Some of these stores that may be worth a visit include –

Wilkinsons, Savers, Asda, Pizza Hut, British Heart Foundation, Barnardos, Holiday Inn, Poundstretcher.

The Work Programme is a particularly disturbing form of workfare – not only can job seekers be forced to work unpaid for 6 whole months, but disabled people find themselves fast tracked onto this scheme after only 3 months of unemployment. The scheme operates a ‘black box’ approach meaning that we have very little information about what exactly is going on in this scheme.

If you cannot make it to your local high street (or there is not an action near you) then you can follow the link to the companies’ online complaints page to raise issues about the exploitation that they profit from (just click on their name or get their twitter accounts here). See the Facebook event for online action this weekend.

You can also target the usual suspects (Tescos, Poundland, McDonalds, Holland and Barret, WH Smiths) who are still taking part in the Work Experience scheme and may well be involved in others. And then there are the companies who have only suspended involvement: Scope, Matalan, Argos, Superdrug.

The Work Experience scheme is still a cause of concern. As the government press release made clear, there are still sanctions involved in this scheme and therefore there is still the element of compulsion. George Osborne has stated “Young people who don’t engage with this offer [of work experience] will be considered for mandatory work activity” where severe benefit sanctions (starting at 3 months!) can be imposed. With the Work Experience programme still being linked to sanctions directly and indirectly, and still remaining unpaid, we suggest pressure is put on companies to withdraw their support and to offer real paid jobs!

Here are some forms of action that will be happening up and down the country that you may like to try out: local groups are planning to do tours of the companies involved, set up stalls to make people aware of their rights on the various programmes (see this leaflet), perform street theatre outside, go into stores and ask managers to withdraw support or simply shut the stores down. Teach-ins and mic-checks are also fun activities you might want to include. If you’ve got other plans – let us know!

Most of all have fun and stay safe! Share pictures and reports on Facebook, Twitter and our comments section on the website. And remember, if you exploit us – we will shut you down!

Download a Day of Action leaflet.


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Izzy Koksal

The government claim to have made 'concessions' around the workfare Work Experience scheme, however, what these really mean is unclear. So until these companies completely withdraw from workfare placements and state that they will not take part in any workfare schemes, they are still worthwhile targets. And don't forget those companies who are getting workfare under the Work Programme incl. Asda, Pizza Hut and Holiday Inn. Here's some useful stats about some of the companies.

Facts and statistics on companies profiting from workfare

Mc Donalds – McWorkfare – I’m hatin’ it

The world’s largest chain of hamburger fast food restaurants, making billions of dollars worldwide, and hundreds of millions here in the UK – getting workfare labour to help push up those profits. A Sunday Mirror investigation also shows that it took £10 million from the government’s apprenticeship scheme and didn’t create a single job. This isn’t just McDonalds’ fault though, it’s the government’s shit apprenticeship programme as well.

Profits – UK 11% rise in net income in the last three months of last year to £886m
McDonalds worldwide (2011) – total revenues $27,006 million, net income $5,503 million
Annual Report

McDonald’s CEO – James Alan Skinner – Ranked #45 on Forbes Executive Pay list for 2011 Total compensation $20.71 million (total compensation includes salary, bonus, other, and stock gains)

McDonalds UK CEO – Jill McDonald – no salary, annual compensation, or total compensation available.

Workfare workers pay £0.00

What they say about workfare – McDonalds have remained silent on the issue of workfare, perhaps hoping it will go away...
Jill McDonald says there are 15 applications for every job at McDonalds. This supports the idea that it is not lack of work experience that is the problem, but lack of jobs. Yet, the government is trying to distract us from this fact by talking about the need for work experience. However much work experience you try to force us on to, this will not solve the fact that there simply are no jobs out there.
McDonald says that McDonalds are planning to create 2,500 new jobs in the UK – but will these go ahead now they’ve tapped into the free forced labour at Job Centres?

Tescos – Exploitation – Every Little Helps

The second most profitable retailer in the world, after Wal-Mart
As well as using workfare, Tescos is also partial to a bit of tax avoidance. Richard Murphy, economist, has highlighted Tescos’ Zug deal as tax avoidance which is costing the UK exchequer up to £20 million a year in corporation tax. He states ‘Tescos does appear on this evidence to be a business that is avoiding UK tax. It has avoided stamp duty and corporation tax, and has set up immensely complex structures to do so.’

Revenue - £60.93 billion (2010/11), net income £2.67 billion (2010/11)

CEO Philip Clarke – salary £825,000 (2011), bonus £765,000 (2011) together equals a total annual compensation of £1,590,000

Workfare workers pay - said they will pay the job seeker for their 4 week placement but have not said whether this will be the living wage.

What they say about workfare
Tescos have partly caved in to public pressure to end workfare, but have not gone all the way and withdrawn from the Work Experience workfare scheme. They have called on the government to remove sanctions from the scheme and have offered to pay the worker for their four week placement with a job at the end if the placement is completed satisfactorily. However, they are still taking part in the Work Experience scheme which forces people to work for no pay. Their offer simply generates more questions, which they have yet to respond to.
(1) Given Tesco only employed 21% (or 300) of the people who have already been on the scheme, will it be creating jobs to offer to the 1500 people still expected to be referred? If so, how many?
(2) Will Tesco pay the 1400 people who have already worked unpaid for approximately 336,000 hours in your stores?
(3) Will Tesco extend its “job guarantee” to the 1100 people who have already completed the scheme without a job offer?

Until they withdraw fully from the Work Experience scheme which forces people to work for up to 30 hours a week for 8 weeks, unpaid and under the threat of sanctions, we will still assume that Tescos is using workfare.

Argos – Workfare – find it, get it, Argos it

Currently suspended involvement in the Work Experience scheme – but this is not good enough. See their comments below on workfare at Christmas time for another good reason to target them.

Argos is part of the Home Retail Group which made a revenue of £5.8 billion (2011), net income £190.9 million (2011)

CEO Terry Duddy – Salary £820,000, bonus £301,000 together = annual compensation of £1,121,000 (2011)

Workfare workers £0.00

What they say about workfare
‘We can confirm that Argos does not have a policy to recruit colleagues through the governments Work Experience Programme, but we do make use of it to offer work experience. Christmas is our busiest time of year and we are pleased to provide the opportunity for work experience during this time.’
What a shameless statement. Although they do not have a policy to use forced unpaid labour, they’re happy to go ahead and use workfare anyway, particularly at their busier times – when it used to be the case that their paid workers would get overtime. It is time that they make a statement saying that they will no longer take forced unpaid labour – however tempting it is at the Christmas rush.

WH Smiths

Revenue, £1,273 million (2011), Operating profit of £93 million (2011)

CEO Kate Swann – salary £525,000, bonus £1,049,000, total = £1,654,000 (including £80,000 for ‘Benefits, pension supplement and other payments’)

Workfare worker - £0.00

What they’ve said about workfare Not much, they seem to have avoided the spot light, up until now...

Pizza Hut

Subsidy of Yum! Brands which collected revenue of $11.34 billion in 2010 (Annual report and a net income of $1.16 billion.

CEO David Novak – Total compensation in 2011 – $29.67 mil

Workfare workers - £0.00

What they say about workfare – Whilst they claim to have the Work Experience scheme ‘under review’ (still not good enough!) – they are participating in another workfare scheme – the Work Programme.

Katie Simpson

Just arrived back from the the McDonalds protest in Milton Keynes. The public response was really positive, which highlights the governments ignorance to public opinion about these workfare schemes. We had McDonalds staff on our side as they are concerned about losing their jobs to unpaid staff. Great protest!

Shut Down Workfare Protest in Kingston: No Pay, No Way! | yourtownkingston

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