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Boycott Workfare is a UK-wide campaign to end forced unpaid work for people who receive welfare. Workfare profits the rich by providing free labour, whilst threatening the poor by taking away welfare rights if people refuse to work without a living wage. We are a grassroots campaign, formed in 2010 by people with experience of workfare and those concerned about its impact. We expose and take action against companies and organisations profiting from workfare; encourage organisations to pledge to boycott it; and actively inform people of their rights.

Saturday 27th June, National Day of Action against B&M Bargains – the DWP’s pet exploiter

Posted: May 16th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Welfare to work industry | No Comments »

B&M Bargains have just won a ‘prestigious’ workfare industry award for their use of forced upaid labour. We need to let them know this has not gone unnoticed. They need to understand that it is unacceptable to have this sort of exploitation take place in our communities.

B&M bargains are a private, profit making company (they made over £100 million last year) and yet it won’t pay its workers for their labour. People on workfare are given sanctions (loose their benefits) if they don’t work for free, and even when they do work they are sanctioned for ‘misdemeanours’ such as being late. Sanctions mean that claimants loose their basic means of survival – the money they need for food, bills and other necessities. Sanctions are a major cause of the rise in the use of foodbanks.

Apart from exploiting claimants, workfare also undermines the hours and conditions of paid employees at B&M. As with all workfare placements in the private sector, workfare provides free labour that replaces paid jobs.

Boycott Workfare has had several reports of reduced hours for paid staff as well as the practice of employing paid staff on a trial basis, sacking them after 12 weeks, and replacing them with workfare placements:

“B&M stores started using workfare Jan 2013. Receiving free labour and stopping overtime for employees with contracts. The people forced to do this free labour are not happy and neither are the other workers.”

“older or long term staff were sacked and a new wave of 20 workfare placements taken on.”

“Just to let you know B&M Stores have taken on new staff under a workfare scheme. This was 1 month after staff hours were cut by 50%. This meant my hours were cut from 20 to 10.”

With no sense of irony, ESRA awarded B&M Bargains ‘Large Employer of the Year’ for such behaviour. With almost no large charities (except for Salvation Army, sigh) and so many companies refusing to be part of workfare, such self-congratulatory awards start to smell more than a little of desperation!

B&M’s destruction of paid jobs and exploitation of claimnants is NOT something that we think a company should be congratulated for. Because ESRA, who gave this award, have no sense of irony and because we do…

Come out on Saturday 27th June and help ‘celebrate’ their award outside their stores:

  • Make it noisy – bring pots and pans and wooden spoons 
  • Bring trumpets, drums, whistles and kazoos 
  • Make it colourful
  • Bring a message small or big for B&M Bargains

Workfare can only take place if there are employers willing to take advantage of forced labour. And these employers will only do so if they think they can get away with it. Public pressure, protests, pickets and social media campaigns have already been hugely successful in forcing businesses and charities to pull out.

People can only be sent on workfare placements if there is somewhere to send them. Let’s make it impossible to do this!

Not on this street, not in this city!

How to get involved:

Use twitter, facebook and direct action to expose B&M Stores and call for a boycott of their stores

Find a B&M Bargains near you and join or organise a protest there

Get together to create banners, signs and share ideas


Welfare Action Gathering – 30th May

Posted: May 3rd, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action | 7 Comments »

flyer for eventSaturday 30th May, 10.30am-5.30pm (arrive from 10.15am for a cup of tea), London Welsh Centre (10 minutes’ walk from King’s Cross station)

Update! We’ve just added details of all the workshops we’ll be hosting on the day.  If you’ve got any suggestions or would like to be involved in one, please get in touch

Faced with policies that are pushing ever more people into precarity and poverty, thousands of us have been coming together to support each other. We are pushing back workfare, standing up to sanctions, challenging the work capability assessment and fighting insecure, unaffordable housing.

If you are concerned about:

  • Job centres being places of intimidation and sanctions,
  • Private providers bullying claimants on ‘welfare-to-work’ schemes,
  • 35 hour jobsearch under Universal Credit,
  • ESA assessments putting sick and disabled people in fear of destitution,
  • Welfare rights for young people being abolished and replaced with unpaid work,
  • Workfare being required to be eligible for social housing,
  • Housing benefit being part of sanctions under Universal Credit,
  • Claimants in work being sanctioned under Universal Credit too…

…then do something about it and come to the Welfare Action Gathering to hear from other people organising across the UK! Learn about our rights and share ideas and tactics!

Organising against workfare in your town or city: How groups have had a huge impact and ways to get started in your town.

It can seem a daunting prospect to start a campaign against a workfare provider or business when sometimes there is only you and a couple of mates. What can a couple of people do? How can you sustain a campaign? Whose going to take notice of you? But, this is exactly how groups like those in Edinburgh & Haringey started many years ago, and these groups now having a huge impact against Workfare and sanctions. And it’s how most groups start. Just look at the rise of Housing Action type groups around the country. Most were started by a few people who knew each other. Come and listen to groups who have just started out and others who have been going for years. The workshop is for us all to share experiences, learn from each other, help those out who are thinking of setting a group up and mutual support.

Challenging sanctions and mandation

Over half a million people were sanctioned last year, and unless we fight every sanction we now risk three years without even a subsistence income. This session explores the key facts that people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance need to challenge sanctions. We’ll look at both the formal processes and ways we can collectively put pressure to overturn sanctions as well. We hope people will go away equipped to support each other to fight every sanction!

Knowing your right to Access to Work support, before going on Work Placements

We can use Access to Work as a stalling tactic for avoiding work placements. If disabled people need support to work, such as equipment or a support worker, or can’t use public transport, they can apply to Access to Work. Big employers have to pay themselves so may think twice about taking a workfare placement on if it’s going to start costing them.

Take part in this workshop with Andy Greene of Disabled People Against Cuts to explore ways disabled people can resist forced unpaid work placements.

Taking on Workfare

Together we have brought a flagship government policy to near “collapse”, but with all three main political parties and UKIP firmly committed to workfare and sanctions, we need to keep pushing. Take part in this workshop to share information on the shape of workfare at the moment: where it is taking place and the latest tricks of the providers. We’ll map out workfare’s weaknesses and find the places we can push together to bring it down once and for all.

Universal Credit: The time for welfare and housing campaigners to come together

Universal Credit is slowly being rolled out nationwide, Job Centre by Job Centre. People on “in work” benefits will soon face the same evil job seeking and sanctions regimes that those of us on JSA and ESA have had to endure for years. For people in low paid work, it could mean facing workfare or losing housing benefit. Could this be the present government’s “Poll Tax” moment when different groups come together to destroy a hated piece of legislation? Come and share knowledge about Universal Credit, explore ways to make sure people know what it could mean for them, and discuss how we can bring people together to put a stop to it.

Tactics to resist and navigate the Work Programme

A few different companies have contracts to deliver the Work Programme, the flagship two year workfare scheme. They’re all supposed to follow the same regulations. These can be used against them. There are lots of ways not to cooperate with the Work Programme.

Come to get information from groups and individuals about what Work Programme providers don’t have the power to demand, and the personal data they can’t force you to give them – and more on how to avoid and overturn benefit sanctions they inflict. We’ll hear from welfare action groups in Edinburgh and elsewhere about what can be achieved by insisting on your right to be accompanied to appointments.

This workshop is for everyone to share strategies for stalling and changing the activities that providers try to impose, and for resisting their demands about attendance, unhelpful training, and unpaid work placements.

Keeping Volunteering Voluntary: Workfare stops when there’s nowhere to send people

For workfare to happen, the government needs charities and voluntary groups to take placements. But more and more voluntary organisations are standing up and saying no. Over 550 have signed Keep Volunteering Voluntary’s pledge not to take part and the word is spreading. With most national charities now out of the schemes, we need to get the word out at a local level where charity workfare placements are still rife.

Come along to this workshop with Kevin and Penny from Keep Volunteering Voluntary to explore the key arguments to challenge the voluntary sector’s involvement, to share which tactics and approaches have been successful so far, and to plan how to take the campaign further and win!

Staying strong: Supporting each other through the emotional impact of punitive welfare reforms

When we work in mutual support groups, before we ever overturn a sanction or force a workfare user to pull out, we are already doing something important: sharing our experiences and offering emotional support. The reality is hard: the punitive culture at job centres, ever-present threat of sanctions, and the psycho-coercion of workfare providers take a heavy toll on people’s wellbeing. This session is an opportunity to share our experiences of working in groups dealing with these issues and discuss good ways to share support and look after ourselves and each other.

Join the Facebook event and invite others to come too!

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Sanction the Salvation Army

Posted: May 2nd, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Charities | 2 Comments »

[Photo: Sinister Pics]

[Photo: Sinister Pics]

Just one of the actions taking place for the Week of Action vs. Workfare and Sanctions on 25 April – 2 May

Saturday 2nd May, 12noon – 1.30pm, Salvation Army International HQ by Millennium Bridge, London

Praised by the government for “holding the line” on workfare, the Salvation Army is one of the few national charities still to use compulsory unpaid work placements.

Being involved in workfare means being responsible for sanctions – benefit stoppages which leave people with nothing to live on. Sanctions are driving food poverty in the UK. So it’s a mystery how Salvation Army – which also runs foodbanks – can justify its involvement in the sanctions regime.

On Saturday 2nd May, come and shame Salvation Army into joining the tens of charities to pull out of workfare. Take part in a visual action outside their international headquarters by millennium bridge near St Paul’s between 12 noon and 1.30pm.

Bring a placard or poster with a sanctions story, fact or example. Show just what a grotesque system the Salvation Army is supporting!

Can’t make it? Keep up the pressure online:

Contact the Salvation Army UK on Facebook and on Twitter: 

They can be telephoned on (020) 7367 4500 or emailed at: info@salvationarmy.org.uk

The Salvation Army’s youth section are on facebook here.


Take action: Charities and sanctions don’t mix

Posted: May 1st, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Charities | No Comments »

KVV logoThis week’s the Week of Action vs Sanctions and Workfare with daily online actions. If you haven’t had a chance to do so yet, please take a minute to:

Today we’re supporting the Keep Volunteering Voluntary campaign’s call for people to contact the charities and voluntary organisations you support to invite them to pledge to shun workfare too. Read on for more info, and follow Keep Volunteering Voluntary on twitter and facebook.

There are a lot of organisations who have said they won’t take workfare, but still a lot who do. We want all voluntary work to be freely chosen, not a means for private companies to make profits or Jobcentres to force people off benefits. Keep Volunteering Voluntary (KVV) have set up a pledge and already over 450 organisations have signed!

You can help to encourage organisations to sign up to Keep Volunteering Voluntary in several ways. Firstly check whether they are already on the list of sign-ups.

  • If you use or support a charity, try to find out whether they use workfare, and in any case ask them to sign up to KVV.
  • If there is a local charity shop, go in and talk to the people there: find out whether there is anyone there on workfare, and ask the organisation to sign up to KVV.
  • If you work or volunteer at a voluntary organisation, try to get them to sign up.
  • If a place you work or volunteer at has any links with a voluntary organisation, try to contact them too.

Download or order leaflets from Keep Volunteering Voluntary to take into charity shops, or adapt this template letter as an email to send to a voluntary organisation.

Some responses you may get and some tips on how to reply:

“We’ve already signed up.” – great, well done!
“We don’t have anyone on workfare.” – so you won’t mind signing up to KVV then.
“We’re helping the unemployed gain experience.” – that’s not of much value if they don’t want to be there.
“What’s wrong with (unpaid) volunteers.” – there’s no objection to genuine volunteers, but to compulsory schemes and coercion.
“The people on placement want to be here.” – that’s fine, but they shouldn’t be threatened with sanctions.

If you can get any kind of statement from an organisation, that’s always useful – a way in to further dialogue, or good publicity for the campaign. Let Boycott Workfare know and we’ll pass it on to KVV as well.

Some charities – such as Age UK – have a national office but each local area branch is ‘independent’ and may sign up separately. So if you see a local branch signed up but not your area, that’s an added incentive for your local to sign up too.

Without charities’ support, workfare schemes will collapse. That’s why every extra new organisation to sign up is so important – helping build consensus in the voluntary sector that workfare is completely at odds with its aims and values.

Perhaps you’d like to take the opportunity to contact some persistent workfare-using charities with your concerns too?

And don’t forget to check out the list of actions taking place across the UK today and tomorrow as part of the Week of Action vs Workfare and Sanctions.


Unanswered Question Time: Break the Election Silence on Workfare and Sanctions

Posted: April 30th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action | 5 Comments »
Graph of sanctions increases, from David Webster's evidence to the sanctions inquiry

Graph of sanctions increases, from David Webster’s evidence to the sanctions inquiry

It is a disgrace that the three main political parties (and UKIP) support workfare and sanctions.  This consensus has allowed the introduction of policies that are causing ill health, hunger, homelessness and deaths.  All three parties have some responsibility for this and they all have questions to answer.

So today we’re asking you to take action online and help us break the election silence on workfare and sanctions.  It is unlikely that these issues will even get a mention during tonight’s Election Leaders Special edition of Question Time.

Help us to make sure these issues do get talked about, and tweet up a storm about workfare and sanctions using the #bbcqt hashtag.  And tweet your unanswered questions to @Ed_Miliband @nick_clegg and @David_Cameron…

Here’s the low-down on the political parties that support workfare and sanctions:
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Mind Control

Posted: April 29th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Psychological coercion, Sanctions | 6 Comments »
Tweet by dwp zealot

Psychobabble in a Jobcentre near you

On top of punishing claimants with sanctions that leave people destitute, the Government now has plans to use psychological treatments to force people into work.

George Osborne’s budget announced measures to ‘improve employment outcomes’ for people with mental health conditions. These include online cognitive behavioural therapy (change the world by changing how you think) for people on ESA or JSA and putting psychologists in JobCentres.

Unemployment is being redefined as a psychological disorder and the main purpose of psychological therapy will be to force people off benefits.  Or to promote yet another specious reason to cut people off benefits.

Meanwhile, the Tory Manifesto states that claimants who ‘refuse a recommended treatment’ may have their benefits reduced. This is an assault on the human rights of people on benefits and an attempt to co-opt medical professionals as state enforcers.

We’re hearing more and more reports of the misuse of psychology to coerce, bully and punish claimants into ‘getting the right mindset’: “all new starts must attend an initial two week course to develop their confidence”.
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Sanction B&M Stores: our labour, their profits

Posted: April 28th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Personal accounts | 1 Comment »
Workfare exploiters B&M Stores

If you exploit us, we will close you down

Take action against persistent workfare exploiters B&M Stores as part of the Week of Action vs Workfare and Sanctions!

B&M Stores has won an award from the workfare industry for their support for forced unpaid labour. The harsh reality of their involvement is exploitation of claimants – people working for nothing under the constant threat of sanctions – and workfare being used to reduce overtime and replace paid staff.

“B&M stores started using workfare Jan 2013. Receiving free labour and stopping overtime for employees with contracts. The people forced to do this free labour are not happy and neither are the other workers.”

Boycott Workfare has had several reports of reduced hours for paid staff as well as the practice of employing paid staff on a trial basis, sacking them after 12 weeks, and replacing them with workfare placements.

“Just to let you know B&M Stores have taken on new staff under a workfare scheme. This was 1 month after staff hours were cut by 50%. This meant my hours were cut from 20 to 10.”

B&M Stores made over £100 million profit last year but still they use forced unpaid labour.

B&M Stores have over 400 stores from Perth in Scotland to Portsmouth in the South of England. They have expanded by using workfare grabs from any local JobCentrePlus. It has been reported that in one B&M Store “older or long term staff were sacked and a new wave of 20 workfare placements taken on.”

What you can do:

Thanks to your efforts, more and more businesses and charities are withdrawing from workfare.  Keep up the pressure and let B&M Stores know:  ’if they exploit us, we will close them down!’

Use twitter, facebook and direct action to expose B&M Stores and call for a boycott of their stores.  Workfare exploits claimants and means poorer pay and conditions for all workers.

Tweet

Email customer services

Phone: 0151 728 5400 (remember to speak politely)

Facebook

Visit their Corporate Website

You could also let workfare apologists ERSA know what you think about awards that celebrate companies that profit from exploiting claimants.


Actions against CWP in Haringey

Posted: April 27th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Action report | No Comments »
North London Hospice shop

North London Hospice shop

Here’s a brief post about some actions in north London last weekend, part of the week of action against workfare and sanctions.

Haringey Solidarity Group (HSG) picketed a North London Hospice (NLH) shop two days running on Saturday and Sunday.  Though smaller numbers than usual, it was an effective picket, handing out leaflets and talking to passers-by on a busy high street.  There are still many people unaware of what workfare really means for claimants, and they are rightly disgusted when they hear of people forced to work for benefits and the punitive sanctions.

Though NLH show signs of pulling out of the Community Work  Placement scheme, HSG will continue their actions until there is a definite commitment from NLH.  They are also leafleting local Job Centres each day this week as part of the week of action – see here for details of when and where.  And have a look at HSG’s website for more info on NLH and workfare provider Urban Futures.


Take action: No voice for workfare profiteers

Posted: April 27th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Welfare to work industry | 4 Comments »

ERSA twitter screenshotTake action online against the workfare industry conference as part of the Week of Action vs Workfare and Sanctions!

Today, Monday 27 April, the welfare-to-work industry is holding its AGM.  The ERSA – the organisation that does spin and lobbying for workfare exploiters – is meeting to discuss the year in workfare and new ways of making the sector respectable.

We don’t know the location yet.  Since our noise demo massively disrupted their conference at the end of 2013, they’ve been cagier about where they meet.

For the first online action for the week of action against workfare, we want to target the ERSA and spotlight the violence they do to claimants through workfare, ‘training’, and sanctions.   Their work relies on coercion, threats, and the imposition of poverty. So at the AGM we’ll find the Employment Related Services Association talking over new ways of presenting the same lies about workfare.
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Sanction Greenwich & Bexley Community Hospice Shops

Posted: April 25th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Call to action, Charities | No Comments »
interior of charity shop

Sanction Greenwich & Bexley Hospice Charity Shop!

Kicking off the Week of Action vs. Workfare and Sanctions, there are actions today in Bexley, Haringey and Leeds. Please show your support on Twitter and Facebook (details below)…

Saturday 25th April 12 noon Meet up outside Greenwich & Bexley Hospice Community Shop, Bellegrove Boutique, 12-15 Bellegrove Parade, Welling, Kent, DA16 2RE

We’re taking action to expose GBC hospice’s persistent use of workfare and the very poor working conditions that people on forced placements with GBC experience.

If you shop in one of GBC Hospice sixteen charity shops, you won’t be served by someone on workfare. That’s because they keep Community Work Placement conscripts hidden away from the public. As one person told Boycott Workfare:

“None of us are allowed to serve the public, we’re probably not seen as good enough for that. In fact we’re kept well away from the public, hidden at the back in their warehouse area sorting out the crap for them to sell there, or to send to other hospices.”

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