As pointed out by @refuted, the Treasury’s claim that a recent anti-workfare social media storm was “unacceptable intimidation” comes just days after an Upper Tribunal judge endorsed this kind of criticism as “legitimate political expression”.
The comments came after news broke that Bristol IT company Byteback had pulled out of workfare a week after being visited by George Osborne to sing the praises of the scheme. Hundreds of people had contacted Byteback on social media expressing dismay at their involvement in forced work after some fierce questioning from @andygale on twitter caused them to refer to their unpaid workers as ‘employees of the state’.
Shortly after this bombardment, and in a huge embarrassment for Osborne, Byteback apologised for their involvement in his grubby scheme and promised “no more involvement ever with workfare”.
This prompted a tantrum from the Treasury who took to the national press to complain of the “unacceptable intimidation” Byteback had faced online, referring to it as “outrageous”. Yet in Byteback’s comments above it seems that what finally prompted them to withdraw from workfare was a phone call from someone called Robin. According to the company themselves “we had a good chat with Robin who explained in details the issues surrounding workfare”. Byteback even thanked Robin for this conversation, saying that they had been “ill informed about workfare”. Well done Robin!
It tells us everything we need to know about the Tory Party’s true attitude to civil liberties that a friendly phone call criticising Government policy is branded “unacceptable intimidation”. Osborne seems to think the people running Byteback are fucking idiots, who are incapable of making decisions on their own based on new information. He isn’t the only senior Tory who thinks this way either.
The DWP were back in court again this week as part of Iain Duncan Smith’s desperate attempt to keep the names of charities and companies using workfare a state secret. The department were appealing an earlier decision by the First Tribunal (pdf) that these organisations should be named. Part of their appeal was that the previous tribunal decision had not recognised that some comments made on the internet about workfare exploiters were really, really mean and had made the Salvation Army cry or something.
The judge was unimpressed, saying that: “the thrust of those blogs was well within the bounds of legitimate political expression within a democratic society”, despite acknowledging that “the occasional comment overstepped the bounds of decency”. The miserable cunt.
The DWP also once again argued that if the public were told who is using workfare then the four week Mandatory Work Activity scheme would collapse. Again they were rebuffed in a damning verdict in which the judge repeatedly pointed out that an appeal to the Upper Tribunal is supposed to be used to correct errors in law, not as an attempt to re-argue the facts.
As Boycott Workfare point out, the DWP seem to be “playing a delaying game - anything to slow down the release of the list of all the businesses and organisations profiting from the use of workfare.” They are right to be shitting themselves, anger against unpaid work schemes and the benefit sanctions they are backed with, is growing fast.
George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith seem genuinely astonished that so many people are appalled by forced and unpaid work. But what is really making them furious is the devastating impact that mass collective action has had on their workfare policies. Those outside of the political classes, or the rich they serve, are not supposed to have any real political power. That’s the kind of shit that gets toffs killed if you let it get out of hand.
To view the Upper Tribunal judgement visit: http://refuted.org.uk/2014/07/22/workfarenameandshame/
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