Tag Archives: boycott workfare

A Visit To Urban Futures Shows The Nasty Side Of Charity Workfare

workfareprotest-11

Boycott Workfare and Haringey Solidarity Group today occupied the premises of Urban Futures in protest at ther involvement in the government’s Community Work Placement scheme – better known as workfare.

Hidden away on an industrial estate in Wood Green London, Urban Futures run a training centre where unemployed people are sent by Jobcentres to be processed and referred to workfare with local so-called charities.  Today protesters visited the company with the aim of speaking to the inmates forced to attend under threat of benefit sanctions.  On entering the offices, one person politely explained the reason the action was taking place whilst others began to hand out leaflets.

The mood quickly turned ugly.  Urban Futures staff, presumably furious at having their authority undermined, began tearing up the campaigners leaflets whilst others started grabbing and illegally seizing personal property.  Protesters were repeatedly pushed and manhandled whilst one management looking type laughed at how he enjoyed profiting from harassing and bullying unemployed people.  Others made snide remarks about protesters getting a job, showing their true attitude to the people they pretend they are supporting.

Very soon around a dozen police turned up and seemed slightly bemused at the over the top reaction from Urban Future’s pumped up employees.  At this point campaigners decided to leave, with property such as phone and bags eventually reluctantly returned.

Even outside some of the staff at Urban Futures seemed determined to throw their weight around.  When campaigners stopped to talk to some claimants having a fag, the company’s employees immediately ordered their inmates not talk to them and tried to usher them inside.  One jumped up prick then informed us that these people were taking part in work related activity and were therefore not allowed to talk to anyone.  Really.

People sent to Urban Futures are forced to work for six months or face desperate poverty as their benefits are sanctioned as part of George Osborne’s misnamed ‘Help to Work’ scheme.  Nobody looked like they were being helped today, except for Urban Futures who are helping themselves to a huge chunk of tax payer’s money.  Instead the environment resembled an open prison, with people shoved into rooms to hang about waiting before they are finally shipped out as forced labour for local charity shops like the one run by North London Hospice who face a protest of their own this Saturday.

Urban Futures have a half-arsed social media presence on facebook and twitter @urbanfuturesuk

There’s still time to get involved in the Week Of Action Against Workfare, keep an eye on Boycott Workfare’s website for the latest news.

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

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

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

Take part in the Boycott Workfare week of action! 4-12 October 2014

bhf-workfareFrom Boycott Workfare

Forcing people to work for free through the threat of removing people’s benefits (sanctions) is unfair, unjust and wrong. In the week of action, tell the companies and charities who are profiting from this exploitative regime what you think of their involvement! Email, Tweet, use Facebook, phone them, protest, organise a flashmob: for a week of piling the pressure on workfare exploiters.

We know these tactics work! Just look at how quickly Byteback IT had to pull out when you told them what you thought after George Osborne made the mistake of visiting them. This is just one of the latest in a whole list of businesses and charities that have also pulled out of workfare following our pressure.

The latest workfare scheme, “Community Work Placements” (CWP), forces people to work for nothing for up to six months – twice the length of the maximum community service sentence for committing a crime. But there is growing resistance from the voluntary sector which the scheme needs to work: over 400 charities have signed up to Keep Volunteering Voluntary and 22 councils have pledged to boycott workfare. They know that workfare does not help people find jobs and being
unemployed is not a crime.

Resistance is paying off: the launch of the CWP scheme was massively delayed. Instead of using ‘big name’ national charities, the DWP has had to resort to small local charities and businesses to provide these Workfare placements. So local actions are all the more important! See Boycott Workfare’s list of Workfare users to find one near you.

All this means it is getting harder and harder for the government to find new employers willing to risk taking on Workfare placements. In fact the government is desperately doing all it can to avoid revealing the organisations using Workfare out of fear the schemes will collapse!

People pressure has ended Workfare in the place where it all started – New York – now let’s end it here!

Workfare undermines real paid jobs and wages; results in sanctions for thousands; does nothing to improve the chances of finding a job; and exploits those forced to take up these placements. Our actions can stop companies, charities and councils from exploiting this forced unpaid work. Wherever you are, however you can contribute, take action on 4-12 October.

Whatever you’re planning – let us know and we’ll help spread the word!

Join our Facebook event here which we will update with links to all the local actions.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Over 200 Charities Reject Workfare and Sign Statement Saying Keep Volunteering Voluntary

Over 200 charities and voluntary organisations have now signed the Keep Volunteering Voluntary agreement in response to the Government’s launch of mass workfare.

As pointed out by Boycott Workfare, this vastly outnumbers the 70 organisations that the DWP claim have backed the new Community Work Placements, which involve 780 hours forced work under the threat of meagre benefits being stopped.

Many more charities have confirmed they will not be involved in the scheme on twitter, including household names such as British Red Cross, Scope and Friends of the Earth.  This is a disaster for the DWP as they attempt to find tens of thousands of workfare placements in the voluntary sector.

It could also spell trouble for Mandatory Work Activity (MWA), the shorter workfare scheme which used to punish claimants when Jobcentre busy-bodies decide they aren’t trying hard enough to find work.  The Keep Volunteering Voluntary agreement does not just apply to the new six month workfare scheme, but all mandatory unpaid work for benefits.  Visit the Keep Volunteering Voluntary website for a handy guide to current workfare schemes.

Mandatory Work Activity suffered another blow this week after St Werburgh’s City Farm in Bristol suspended their involvement with workfare following a protest by Bristol Anarchist Federation.  With many of the larger charities now publicly distancing themselves from forced work, actions like these, to pick off the smaller users of workfare, will be vital.  If you know of an organisation near you who uses forced unpaid work then contact Boycott Workfare to have them named and shamed.

Boycott Workfare are also calling for everyone opposed to workfare to contact local voluntary groups and charities and ask them to sign up to Keep Volunteering Voluntary: “If you’re part of a voluntary organisation, or you know one that hasn’t signed the agreement yet, then please ask them to sign the pledge.  Any kind of voluntary group can sign up: from a union branch to a major charity to a local housing action group.”

Organisations can sign up at: http://www.keepvolunteeringvoluntary.net/signup

Please help spread the word, follow @keepvolvol on twitter and let’s make workfare unworkable.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

There’s Still No Pay At The Y.M.C.A – Boycott Workfare Target Forced Labour Charity

ymca-protestA lively protest was held both inside and outside the head offices of so-called charity the YMCA today as part of the week of action against workfare.

Several demonstrators from Boycott Workfare carried out a short occupation of the charity’s offices before holding a protest outside where a sound system played and protesters sang the familiar ‘There’s no pay at the Y.M.C.A.”.

Lots of leaflets were handed out and many people expressed shock that a charity claiming to help the homeless would be involved in not just workfare, but also administering benefit sanctions.  The YMCA themselves have said that sanctions, which can leave people with nothing to live on at all, can have a ‘devastating impact’ on the lives of young people.

This hasn’t stopped them being part of the Mandatory Work Activity scheme and the Work Programme – both of which are backed by the same sanctions that the YMCA claim are of such concern to them.

In a major victory for all those who have campaigned against the charity it is believed that they have now decided not to be involved in Community Work Placements – the latest six month long workfare scheme being launched at the end of this month.  They are however involved in Traineeships which can involve up to six months unpaid work for private companies.  In his Autumn Statement George Osborne announced that people under the age of 21 who refuse an unpaid Traineeship will face being sent on a Community Work Placement instead.

An online action has also been called against the charity so you can tell them what you think of their use of workfare on twitter @YMCA_England or facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/YMCA.England

For more details and the latest news on the week of action visit: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=3436

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid