The organisers of this workfare jamboree are @FairTrainOrg, who have been handed a chunk of tax payer’s cash to come up with a Work Experience Quality Standard scheme. Appallingly even the TUC have been dragged in to support this crude Government attempt to use unpaid workers to drive down wages and working conditions for everyone.
Fair Train claim that to qualify for this workfare badge of shame all work experience should be regarded as voluntary, a laughable claim when unemployed people are bullied and sanctioned on a daily basis in Jobcentres for not carrying out endless jobseeking activity – which can include workfare. Nothing is truly voluntary for those signing on under the present regime when Jobcentre staff are awarded Easter Eggs and set unofficial targets to sanction as many benefit claims as possible.
Astonishingly, some of those awarded this Quality Standard may even be breaking minimum wage laws. Unpaid work is illegal in most circumstances unless it is part of a Government backed scheme or genuine volunteering for a charity. That doesn’t seem to matter to Fair Train or the likes of Murdoch’s Sky News who are using the week to advertise unpaid work placements that don’t even pay travel expenses.
For a long time now those opposed to workfare have had to resort to sleuthing to uncover the businesses and charities involved in unpaid work. The DWP have even refused to name which organisations are taking placements on the Mandatory Work Activity scheme such is the public’s outrage at this form of exploitation. According to the Department this workfare scheme may collapse if people were told the truth about who is taking part. Meanwhile the DWP have admitted that they don’t know how many organisations are making use of forced unpaid work on the Work Programme or where participants might be being sent.
Luckily keeping an eye on the hashtag #WEWeek2013 may finally mean that more workfare exploiters are brought to justice, with those who choose to boast about not paying their staff likely to face protests, pickets and boycotts.
Only a handful of organisations have signed up to the Quality Standard so far and it is unclear how many of them are involved in forced work despite the guidelines. But all of them are quite happy to support undermining both genuine volunteering and paid work by using Government schemes to coerce unemployed people into working for nothing.
Fair Train are asking businesses to sign up to a pledge in support of Work Experience. No-one seems to have bothered so far, but those organisations opposed to unpaid work can sign the Boycott Workfare pledge at: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=1
If you spot a workfare exploiter boasting about their use of unpaid work on #WEWeek2013 then ask them for further details – such as which Government scheme they are using. Then contact Boycott Workfare to have them Named and Shamed so everyone can see just who exactly is using forced unpaid workers in the UK.
Intern Aware are also collecting stories of people who have worked as unpaid interns and who may even be able to claim backdated wages. More details are at: http://www.internaware.org/act/
Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid