UPDATE: Morrisons are denying on twitter that they will use workfare and are simply offering 3 day unpaid ‘taster sessions’. They also claim this scheme is not being run by Jobcentre Plus and is not connected to a DWP scheme, despite the DWP stating it is a partnership between the Jobcentre and the IGD. According to the supermarket, the main aim of this scheme is to help someone with “CV writing hints, interview skills and presentation tips” and no-one will be sanctioned for not taking part. However since participants are to be recruited from Jobcentres, the risk of sanctions will be very real and Morrisons will have no say in the matter. It is unclear which of the companies involved in the scheme will use workfare, or the work experience ‘opportunities’ being encouraged by Employment Minister Mark Hoban. Once again employers like Morrisons are finding out the hard way that any involvement with the DWP is toxic as Ministers will use their names and reputations to prop up the exploitative and failing workfare and sanctions regime. See this comment for more info.
In a major blow to all those struggling to find a job, the greedy food industry could be lining up to hire over 15,000 unpaid workers the DWP have announced to day.
In a joint operation between the DWP and the Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD), young people on benefits are to be expected to stack shelves and work on production lines for companies like Morrisons and Muller Dairy without pay.
This exploitative scheme – which will not just damage the chances of anyone hoping to find a real job in sector, but could also be used to place pressure on the wages and working conditions of existing workers – seems to be yet another attempt by grasping supermarket and food producing bosses to bring workfare into their businesses by the back door.
According to the DWP, participants will attend “workshops, and interview sessions with HR managers” but more importantly according to Mark Hoban businesses will be encouraged to offer “work experience opportunities”. It is likely this will mean young people sent to work without pay for up to 2 months on the Government’s Work Experience programme.
Whilst this scheme is officially voluntary, if claimants refuse to attend then they could be sent on Mandatory Work Activity instead, which is backed by severe benefit sanctions. With Jobcentre staff working to unofficial targets to sanction as many benefit claims as possible – and over a million sanctions expected to be handed out this year – nothing can be said to be ‘voluntary’ under the current Jobcentre regime.
Astonishingly there is no longer even any pretence that any of these workfare positions will eventually lead to a real job or even that they are valuable in helping young people find paid employment. In a gushing press release, the only tangible benefit the DWP dare mention - based on a pilot scheme last year – is that those forced to work for free might feel “more confident about applying for a job”.
The only people who will gain real benefits from Work Experience on this scheme are the food companies who are to be given an endless stream of tax payer funded free workers. Meanwhile as the DWP well knows, these young people will no longer be included in the unemployment figures (although they are usually still included in the less reported Claimant Count).
The Head of Communications of the IGD is currently crowing about the scheme on twitter where he can be contacted at: @jonneal_IGD
For all the latest news on resisting workfare visit: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/
Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid