Here Comes Pauline … Supervised Jobsearch Revives The Worst Of The Past

pauline-pensIt is hard to imagine that anyone could have watched the League of Gentlemen’s brutal satire on the job clubs of the 1980s and 90s and thought that it seemed like a good way to help people  find work.

But Iain Duncan Smith did.  He probably thought it was a fucking documentary.  And so his latest Supervised Jobsearch pilots have wrapped up all the cringe-making aspects of past back to work schemes and rolled them up into one Pauline inspired fuck up – although USB sticks, not pens will be the latest obsession for job club staff.usb-sticks-are-the-new-pensSupervised Jobsearch was Iain Duncan Smith’s big idea at last year’s Tory Party conference.  It then seemed to have been largely forgotten about until someone at the DWP panicked and realised they’d have to cobble some shit together in time for this year’s conference.  As usual this involved throwing money at the grasping welfare-to-work sector who have been brought in to manage the scheme which will see unemployed people warehoused for 35 hours a week pointlessly pretending to apply for the same handful of jobs over and over again.

There is little doubt that this scheme is intended as punishment for unemployment, rather than any kind of genuine help for unemployed people.  According to recently published guidlines for the companies running the scheme (h/t @refuted) they will receive no additional payments for actually finding people work.  In fact getting people jobs is barely mentioned once. Instead they will be paid 10% of the contract value when the participant starts, a further 5% per month for the next six months and the final 60% when the period of incarceration ends.  5% of the value of the contact will only be paid if the providers can show they have administerd what are known as DMA’s correctly, meaning referrals to the Jobcentre for benefit sanctions.  There seems to be no mention anywhere of job outcome payments.  Benefit sanctions are the true purpose of Iain Duncan Smith’s latest crazy scheme.

The welfare-to-work sector – who have run a long campaign complaining that they are expected to get people jobs for the money we give them – will be pissing themselves.  All they now have to do is shut people in a room with a computer for 35 hours a week, make sure all the paperwork is correctly filled out and Iain Duncan Smith will shower them with tax payer’s money.  This is possibly their  biggest benefit scam so far.  But you won’t see that on the front page of the Daily Mail.

The provider guidance can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/supervised-jobsearch-pilot-dwp-provider-guidance

Of note is Annex L which states that “claimants cannot be mandated to apply for vacancies which include a zero-hours contract”.

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Take Action Against @GroundworkUK: No Grounds For Greenwashing Workfare

groundworkuk-ruining-livesFrom Boycott Workfare

Groundwork boasts of its involvement in workfare. Join in with an online blockade of their social media and let them know what you think of their prolific and unashamed use of forced unpaid labour.  

Take online action today against Groundwork, the green charity using unpaid labour. Branches of Groundwork up and down the country openly advertise their involvement in all kinds of workfare, including the latest and most exploitative programmes.

Charities and voluntary organisations should know the value of volunteering. Instead Groundwork is taking thousands of unemployed people on workfare placements with no pay and putting people at risk of sanctions. According to their own statistics they forced 4,500 people through workfare last year alone. They trade on the goodwill of their ‘volunteering’ projects to secure government money for unpaid labour schemes.

Groundwork is also taking part in the latest draconian scheme, Community Work Placements (CWP), as a sub-contractor of G4S in Merseyside, Lancashire and Cumbria. CWP is a six month long placement – twice the length of the maximum community service sentence for committing a crime.  Workfare criminalises unemployed people and then punishes them more harshly than other people who are forced to work for free. It does this without even the appearance of judicial process: people are punished just because they’re unemployed.

More than 400 charities and 22 councils have rejected CWP and other workfare schemes by signing the Keep Volunteering Voluntary pledge. They understand that workfare is punitive and that it doesn’t help people find jobs.

Following the latest attacks from the government on unemployed people, in which the Tories are promising to cut benefits and roll out more of the harsh schemes like the ones Groundwork provides, we need to show those involved in workfare just how unacceptable it is.

A lot of green charities and recycling companies are involved in workfare schemes. The environment is a useful alibi for forcing people to work for free, because it makes it easy to claim that the work unemployed people are doing is for “community benefit” – which it is supposed to be, if the scheme is one that people can be directly forced to do, like CWP or Mandatory Work Activity.  This is why there’s so many environmental charities, city farms, and recycling firms on our list of workfare exploiters.

Workfare schemes cannot operate without charities that are willing to take on unpaid workers, but Groundwork’s involvement is deeper: they help organise the schemes as well. Groundwork say they recognise that Jobcentre Plus is enforcing a “stricter application…of conditions and sanctions”, but they continue to help to run this punitive system anyway. Let them know about the hardship and destitution that benefit sanctions are causing. Let them know that forcing people to work under threat of destitution for no pay is wrong.

Groundwork are on Twitter  @GroundworkUK and on Facebook here.

Or you could contact them through their website, or on the phone (0121 236 8565).  They have local branches throughout the UK.  To find contact details for the nearest one to you, look here.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Take Action! Challenge The TUC’s Support For Workfare: @PayRise4Britain Must Mean Wages For Everyone

traineeships-300x257From Boycott Workfare

Challenge the TUC’s support for workfare, on the first day of online action for the Boycott Workfare week of action

On 1 August 2014, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) made a joint statement with Confederation of British Industries (CBI) to back Traineeships for 16-23 year olds and “show support” for the businesses that benefit from the unpaid labour on this scheme.

Traineeships involve training and “work placements” for up to six months – all unpaid. The TUC’s Assistant General Secretary Paul Nowak hails Traineeships as “an important first step towards the world of work”. But in giving a green light to a new layer of unpaid work in the economy, the TUC is in fact helping to shrink opportunities for young people, undermine the going rate, and replace paid work with workfare.

Traineeships mean that young people are now expected to work unpaid for six months before even qualifying for an interview for an apprenticeship. The lucky few who make it through the interview can look forward to a minimum wage of £2.73 an hour, as an apprentice.

TUC A5 Protest

If a young person does not take part in the training, they face punitive sanctions. The work placement segment itself may not be backed with the direct threat of sanctions, but, between the economic coercion of a jobs market with so few footholds and the draconian job centre regime, few people will feel able to turn them down.

Instead of demanding decent wages, the TUC is supporting McDonalds, Toyota, Virgin Media, BT, Vodafone, Phones4U, Siemens, Capita, local councils and many more being supplied with unpaid staff for up to 6 months on benefits alone, without any obligations to hire them!

The TUC plans to march behind the slogan “Britain needs a payrise” on 18 October. It seems to have chosen to ignore the millions of us who do not have paid work and instead face workfare and sanctions.

Today as Kilburn Unemployed Workers protest this shoddy deal outside the TUC HQ in London, please contact the TUC via the details below, or through your union networks.  

When challenging their support for Traineeships, you might also like to point out that:

  • The TUC’s support for Labour’s Job Guarantee means undermining the going rate and minimum wage too.
  • The TUC’s support for benefit sanctions is totally unacceptable. It has recommended that ‘claimants who turn down a job guarantee job without good cause should face benefit sanctions’. Let the TUC know that punishing people by taking away their means to survival can never be okay.

Contact the Assistant General Secretary who issued the statement with CBI by email: pnowak@tuc.org.uk or send him a tweet: @nowak_paul

Tweet at Frances O’Grady, the General Secretary of the TUC: @FrancesOGrady 

Tweet at “Britain needs a Payrise” @PayRise4Britain or post on its Facebook

Post on the TUC’s Facebook page

Or get in touch with the TUC’s press officers who released the statement:

Rob Holdsworth    T: 020 7467 1372    M: 07717 531150     E: rholdsworth@tuc.org.uk
Tim Nichols   T: 020 7467 1337   M: 07876 452902   E: tnichols@tuc.org.uk

If you’re a member of a trade union, please download and adapt this motion to challenge the TUC’s support for sanctions and workfare.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

2000 Workfare Staff Planned For Tax Office Next Year, And The PCS Union Is Doing … Nothing At All

TUC-A5-ProtestThe TUC’s recent grovelling endorsement of unpaid – and soon to be mandatory – Traineeships has caused dismay amongst many in the trade union movement with protests even planned outside their London offices.

This is not the first time to TUC have enthusiastically backed unpaid work.  Last year they were involved in the ‘week of workfare’, a shabby inititiative organised by the DWP funded Fair Train to rehabilitate workfare by introducing a quality standard for so called work experience schemes.  The whole thing turned out to be an embarrassing flop for everybody involved, but showed just how far the TUC are prepared to go to support the very same kind of unpaid work experience that they rightly oppose when it comes to graduates working as interns for no pay

Anger at the TUC’s latest announcement even emerged at last month’s conference when the PCS Union accused them of breaking their own policies that all work experience schemes should be both paid and voluntary.  No-one knows better than the PCS, who represent thousands of DWP staff, that no current Jobcentre schemes are genuinely voluntary.  Whilst claimants live in fear of being plunged into destitution by benefit sanctions for something as simple as being late to a meeting, it is hardly surprising some may agree to so-called non-mandatory workfare.  If they refuse they could simply be sent on mandatory workfare somewhere else, or face being cooped up in a Jobcentre for 30 hours a week for the next six months.

Sadly however, information has come to light that once again the PCS Union are all mouth and no trouers when it comes to opposing workfare and sanctions.  HMRC are currently planning to recruit over 1000 young unemployed people this year – and double that in 2015 – to work in the tax office for up to six weeks without pay.  This comes despite job losses at HMRC and there is already evidence that these new workfare staff will be replacing the roles of formerly paid employees.  According to rank and file PCS activists, during a pilot of this new scheme: “those brought in on workfare … were given jobs involving ‘filing, linking, correspondence and data entry.’  In other words, the jobs currently done by the AA grade who are being culled wholesale through post room digitalisation and privatisation as well as office closures.”

The DWP have also had their fair share of workfare staff which so far the PCS have failed to do anything about, although they are pretending they have.  In a briefing for members sent out in 2012, the union boasted that they had negotiated that “that DWP hosted work experience placements do not exploit those who take them up.”

It is hard to understand exactly how the PCS think that  young people bullied into working without pay are not being exploited.  That’s young people like Nisha, who was forced to spend the day on Twitter promoting unpaid work on behalf of Iain Duncan Smith.  Despite doing a far better job of dodging objections to workfare than the chinless pricks currently occuying the DWP Press Office, Nisha was not paid a penny for her work.

The PCS claim to oppose benefit sanctions, but have done nothing practical to end this practice that their members administer in Jobcentres.  They also claim to oppose unpaid work, yet the workplaces they are strongest in are riddled with workfare.  And opposing workfare means more than just making speeches or getting leaflets printed.  In the words of some grassroots PCS members this means:

“HMRC offices which utilise workfare placements need to be targeted for staff walkouts and external protests. Directors who sanction workfare should be faced with communication blockades. Those brought in on workfare need to be informed of their rights and supported by the union in every way possible. Strikes and industrial action on the job need to disrupt the day to day running of things in the fight over jobs and staffing.”

Or as some unions point out, the answer to unpaid work is simple:

As part of the Week of Action Against Workfare,  Kilburn Unemployed Workers have called a protest this Monday (tomorrow 6th October) outside the TUC’s main offices in London in response to this craven betrayal of young people’s right to be paid for the work they do.  Meet at 1pm outside Congress House, 23-28 Great Russell St, London WC1B 3LS.

Events are planned to oppose workfare throughout next week and throughout the UK, visit Boycott Workfare’s website for full details and spread the word!

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Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Why The Tories Want To Ban Zero Hour Contracts … And It’s Got Nothing To Do With Workplace Rights

zero-hoursDavid Cameron’s conference pledge to scrap exclusive zero hour contracts – which prevent employees from working for anyone else – is not some sign that he actually gives a shit about the poorest and most exploited workers.

The real reason for the ban is to make those workers poorer and even more exploited when Universal Credit is finally introduced (stop laughing) and the DWP start inflicting benefit sanctions on people working part time.

For a long time now, DWP ministers  have been panicking about how Universal Credit and increased benefit conditionality can possibly work alongside zero-hours contracts.  Should Universal Credit ever actually be introduced then part time workers will face the same kind of Jobcentre harassment currently reserved for unemployed or sick and disabled people.  People working part time could even face being sent on workfare in the hours they aren’t at work, whilst they will be required to take on additional jobs at the drop of a hat or their Housing Benefit could be sanctioned leaving them homeless.

These nasty new rules will place anyone working part time on an exclusive zero hour contract in an impossible situation.  If they don’t take up an additional job when the Jobcentre tells them to they will lose their in-work benefits.  If they do, they will get sacked from their other job.  This is why the Tories want to scrap these kinds of zero hour contracts.  So the DWP can start sanctioning part time worker’s benefits.

The truth is that the Tories love zero hour contracts so much that the Minister for Welfare Reform Lord Fraud has suggested people should have more than one.  All they want is a little bit of re-jigging so that Iain Duncan Smith’s latest crazy scheme can go ahead as planned.  The end result will mean more insecurity for the lowest paid workers, with the DWP already boasting to bosses that Universal Credit will make it easier to sack staff.  And those who fail to meet endless petty Jobcentre conditions will find themselves sanctioned and unable to pay the rent.

Of course simply saying they are going to ban exclusive zero hour contracts is only half the battle, and it is one the Tories are likely to lose.  Even the suggestion reveals breath-taking ignorance of how business works.  Iain Duncan Smith and Lord Fraud may dream of low paid workers scurrying from one job to the next desperate to avoid the attention of sanction happy Jobcentre busy-bodies.  But if they really think that Tesco will let their part time staff go work at ASDA in their spare time then they are living in a fucking dream world.

This blog has no sources of funding so here’s a quick reminder that you can help ensure it continues by making a donation.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Edinburgh, London, Brighton, Bristol, Amsterdam! Join The Week Of Action Against Workfare

learndirectfom Boycott Workfare

The government fears workfare could “collapse”. We want to make it do just that. On 4-12 October, take part in the week of action against workfare. The list of events is growing…. read on to find one near you, and if you can’t find one, why not plan your own? We can help – get in touch! There’ll be mass online actions on Mon-Fri of the week of action too. Get involved and help show workfare profiteers and exploiters “If you exploit us we will shut you down!”

6 Oct, Brighton Benefits Campaign picket of Avanta
Monday 6 October at 11am, Meet at Brighton Station forecourt

Join us in picketing Avanta, private provider and bully of unemployed and disabled people, sending them out as unpaid labour or forcing them into unsuitable badly paid work, and referring them for sanctions.
See the Facebook event. 

6 Oct, TUC Backs Workfare: protest at Congress House!
Mon 6 Oct 1 – 2 pm, TUC Congress House, 23-28 Great Russell St, London WC1B 3LS, (nearest tube: Tottenham Court Road), Then 3 – 4 pm at CBI, 78 Cannon St, London EC4N 6HN (tube: Bank)

On 1 Aug 2014, the Trade Union Council (TUC) made a joint statement with Confederation of British Industries (CBI) to back Traineeships for 16 – 23 year olds.

Knowing first hand how unemployed people get harassed into workfare, get declined lunch & travel expenses to such workfares, get sanctioned or threatened with sanctions either during workfares or if they oppose them, we knew (despite TUC denying this) that TUC was now backing Workfare.

Join our protest to end this shoddy deal with Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group (KUWG) – members of Unite Community Union. Listen to your members TUC!

Download the flyer here.

9 Oct, Edinburgh Shut down LearnDirect! Let’s make workfare unworkable!
Thursday 9 October, at 12 noon, Learndirect, Conference House, 152 Morrison Street, Edinburgh EH3 8EB

Learndirect are the workfare providers for the compulsory “work-for-your-benefits” schemes Mandatory Work Activity and the new Community Work Placements scheme, which forces jobseekers to work for nothing for six months. Learndirect profit from the forced labour schemes and shamelessly refer jobseekers for sanctions, making people penniless to try and intimidate jobseekers to submit to forced labour.

But resistance to workfare is winning. To date 422 organisations have rejected the compulsory schemes and signed the “Keep Volunteering Voluntary” agreement – including the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Christian Aid, Shelter and the Edinburgh Volunteer Centre. This month Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty approached Cancer Research UK to urge them to withdraw from workfare – they have now told Learndirect in Edinburgh that they will not take any more of their workfare “placements”.

Share the flyer. Join the Facebook event.

10 Oct, Amsterdam: action against workfare during meeting of minister with aldermen

On October 10, the action committee Dwangarbeid Nee (No to Workfare) will demonstrate during a regional meeting of Social Affairs aldermen from the west of the Netherlands. State secretary Jetta Klijnsma invited the aldermen to talk about the labour market. The committee Dwangarbeid Nee seizes the opportunity to demand the immediate abolishment of workfare, or “forced labour” as the unemployed call it.

Read more about the action and the impressive campaign in the Netherlands!

11 Oct, Bristol – Bristol Day Of Action Against Workfare!
Saturday 11 October at 12:30pm, meeting point tba

Following on from successful actions against workfare in Bristol over the past few years (no more forced unpaid labour at: St Wherburghs City Farm, Homebase, Argos, Holland & Barratt…) We will be taking to the streets again, along with others across the country.

Join the Facebook event.

11 Oct, Haringey: 6 month workfare: No way! Picket North London Hospice and Traid
Saturday 11 October, 12 noon, 19 High Road, N22 6BH – Three minutes’ walk from Turnpike Lane tube station

Hundreds of people in Haringey are being forced to work for 6 months with no pay under threat of sanctions. Profiteering Urban Futures have a contract for Community Work Placements and are busy finding placements in charities and “community benefit” projects across North London. But these schemes cannot work without charities making the placements possible – charities like North London Hospice and Traid.  (UPDATE:  Traid claim to be out of workfare, Haringey Solidarity have said they are making other plans, follow them for the latest news: @__HSG__  jv)

Since they aim to improve lives and help people, charities should not be putting people at risk of destitution. As Haringey Solidarity Group put it “North London Hospice provides a service which places value on the quality of life of local people. Its complicity in this workfare scheme seems totally at odds with its main aims.”

Take part in this picket of North London Hospice: call on them to remember their values and withdraw from punitive workfare, which forces people to work without pay for twice the length of the maximum community service sentence.

Bring placards, noisemakers and come ready to let people know what these charities are up to. Make them realise that there is no place for workfare in our communities.

Can’t make it? Haringey Solidarity Group are asking the public to contact North London Hospice here.  If you would like to organise a workfare picket, Haringey Solidarity Group may be able to help you with resources.  Please get in touch: info@haringey.org.uk

Let us know if help with travel fares would help you get there. Action called by Haringey Solidarity Group and Boycott Workfare.

Do you have an event to add to this list? Email info@boycottworkfare.org to let us know!

Please share, tweet, blog and spread the word about all events.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Boom Time For Landlords, The UK’s Soaring Housing Benefit Bill

landlord-772876Whilst the Tory Party pat themselves on the back at conference for the misery their welfare reforms have caused, recently updated benefit expenditure figures  make a mockery of any claims that these vicious cuts were carried out to save money.

Housing Benefit (or Local Housing Allowance) makes up one of the largest parts of social security spending and every last penny of it goes to landlords.  Ever since this government weren’t elected they have made brutal cuts to this vital benefit which pays for the UK’s poorest people to have a roof over theirs heads.  Despite this the Housing Benefit bill is soaring and expcted to rise even further.

£24.8 billion was handed out to landlords in the form of Housing Benefit cheques in 2012/13 – the latest year for which exact figures are available.  This is a rise of £2.7 billion, in real terms annual spending on Housing Benefit since the Tories came to power.

Much of this increase is in payments to private sector landlords rather than towards  housing association or council rents.  But it is not soaring private rents that have caused the increase in spending, Housing Benefit rises are now capped at 1% annually whilst total caps on the amount landlords can receive are in place in high rent areas such as the South East of England.  It is claimants who have had to absorb the cost of rent rises, out of already meagre benefits.

Nor is the rise due to people who are unemployed.  Less than £4 bilion of the £24.8 bilion total Housing Benefit spend pays for accommodation for people on unemployment benefits.  Much of the rise is due to new claimants who are in work, which shows the true picture of the UK’s labour market.

Housing Benefit provides a good indicator of how many people in the UK are poor.  It is available to those in or out of work, as well as pensioners.  The only criteria for help with rent payments is an income low enough to qualify and less than £16,000 in assets.  The Tories may claim that the recovery is in full swing, and thousands of pretend jobs have been created, but that doesn’t change the harsh fact that there are now more people poor than at any point since the Housing Benefit system began.

This is reflected in the number of people actually claiming the benefit, which hit a record 5.05 million in 2012/13.  This figure has fallen slightly since last year – by around 25 thousand – but is forecast to rise again and is still almost half a million people higher than in 2009/10.

Surprisingly, another factor that may be driving up the Housing Benefit bill could well be the bungled attempts at cost-cutting reforms – the most notorious being the Bedroom Tax.  There has been no better gift to the landlord class than this nasty policy which is driving people out of secure homes at low, social rents and into the out of control and hugely expensive private sector.  Even the Benefit Cap might be increasing spending on Housing Benefits as families evicted due to no longer being able to afford the rent are rehoused by local authorities in emergency temorary accommodation which can be eye-wateringly expenisve.  Last year the BBC reported on families being placed in £3000 a week hotels after being made homeless due to caps on housing benefits.  The most recent homelessness figures showed the number of families living in B&Bs is at a five year high.

Many tenants are struggling with desperate poverty after cuts to Housing Benefits.  Some Bedroom Tax victims are now paying up to a third of their meagre benefit payments towards the rent.  Yet the cost of Housing Benefit is soaring.  All Iain Duncan Smith has created is more poverty at more cost to the tax payer.  Whatever your political persuasion that is nothing to be fucking cheering about.

You can download the most recent Benefit Expenditure tables at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/benefit-expenditure-and-caseload-tables-2014

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