For a long time now anti-workfare campaigners have warned that so-called ‘voluntary’ unpaid work on Jobcentre schemes is often forced labour in disguise. Such is the toxic environment in Jobcentres that those who refuse to take part in ‘voluntary’ workfare can simply be sent on a mandatory scheme instead.
Now George Osborne has let the cat out of the bag and in his speech yesterday signalled his intention to enshrine this vile practice in government policy. Starting as early as April next year in some cases, almost all unpaid work schemes will now be mandatory for the young.
Osborne will force all those out of work for six months and between the ages of 18 and 21 into Traineeships or Work Experience. Those who refuse will be sent on a Community Work Placement – 780 hours unpaid work – or face losing benefits completely. This is a huge turn around for a Government that in early 2012 were falling over themselves trying to persuade people that unpaid Work Experience – for major employers such as ASDA and Poundland – was voluntary.
Osborne’s speech yesterday made a laughing stock of companies like Tesco and charities like Barnardo’s who have insisted that Work Experience schemes are not workfare. Even if you bought that, they are now, or will be as soon as Osborne gets his way.
Traineeships involve up to six months unpaid work in ‘preparation’ for becoming an Apprentice. Greedy employers including Subway and Learn Direct have flocked to sign up for this chance to recruit unpaid workers from Jobcentres. Up until now Traineeships have been officially voluntary. Now young people are to be forced to work without pay to swell the profits of supermarkets and other High Street names.
Appalling it is the so-called voluntary sector who will provide the teeth to Osborne’s plans. Already some charities – such as Groundwork and The Conservation Volunteers are salivating at the prospect of being paid to force people to work for free on Community Work Placements. You read that right. Charities are to be bribed with tax payer’s money to provide the forced labour placements that Osborne’s plans are backed with. And some of them, like The Salvation Army, will be only too happy to take their thirty pieces of silver and throw away any semblance of principles or decency.
Anti-workfare protests will take place in Edinburgh, Lewisham, Sheffield, Glasgow, Wood Green (Sunday 8th December 2pm outside Wood Green High Road Marks & Spencer), Reading and Islington this weekend. There’s still time to join in online as well. Please help spread the word about all events and spread the message now that next year’s massive extension of workfare will be stopped.
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