Tesco’s Secret Workfare Slaves

Furious shoppers are threatening to boycott Tesco after their use of forced labour schemes came to light yesterday.

An advert on the Jobcentre Plus website is calling for night-shift workers who will be expected to work for just Jobseekers Allowance (paid by the Government,  not Tesco, at a rate of £53.45 per week for under 25s) plus expenses.  The position is advertised as permanent.

Tesco have claimed the role is not permanent and that this was a mistake which they have asked the DWP to remove from their website.  So far it is still there.

Tesco, who seem unnerved about the extent of their involvement with forced labour being revealed to customers, have today gone on the offensive. Tesco claim that over 300 people have been given permanent positions with the firm since they began using free workers and that they are ‘giving young people valuable experience of the workplace‘.  That Tesco are attempting to claim this is some kind of charitable gesture just shows that they think their customers are fucking stupid.

This is the company that rips off suppliers, workers and customers alike.  The company whose aggressive expansion policy has ripped the heart out of communities resulting in over 450 local campaigns against them according to Tescopoly.  Tesco ensure any local resistance to their presence is bulldozed away, sometimes literally, as in the destruction of popular local beauty spot Titnore Woods.

So let’s not pretend Tesco are in the midst of some grand humanitarian crusade.  Tesco don’t do ethics, they do profit.  Should that change their shareholders might well have something to say about it.

If Tesco had 300 positions available for young people then why didn’t they recruit through the usual channels, without forcing them to work for free first.  And despite the firms promise of a ‘guaranteed interview’ (big fucking deal), Tesco have  forcibly recruited 1,400 people onto workfare since they started using the scheme.  So barely 1 in five of them was finally offered a no doubt minimum wage job at the end of it. Are these the only young people Tesco have recruited in that time?  Perhaps they’d like to tell us.

Previous workfare schemes have failed because providers have been unable to find enough placements for claimants bullied onto them by the DWP.  This has led to thousands of young people being forced to sit around for 30 hours in the office’s of poverty pimps like A4e, or face losing all benefits.  With Tesco finally getting involved (along with other major employers including McDonalds and ASDA), it is possible that economy of scale may have finally resulted in corporate sharks working out how to make a profit from it.

That Tesco (and ASDA) are forcing workers to work nights, for which they would usually pay their paid employers a premium, shows that what counts here is the bottom line.  There’s money to be made from these Workfare schemes.  Of course that means they will take on less paid staff than they would have done, and as an added bonus it can be used to put pressure on wages and conditions for all staff.

The most cynical predictions about Workfare, that it will lead to higher unemployment and lower wages, appear to be coming true.  Forcing young people to work nights is particularly vile, especially as the health risks to night time workers is now well documented.  It also reveals that this scheme has nothing to do with helping young people find work, leaving them little time for job hunting if they are knackered from doing a night shift.

The weasel words from Tesco’s marketing department will do little to dampen the outrage.  Already on their facebook page they can’t delete comments fast enough from furious customers whilst on Twitter the #boycotttesco and #tescogate hashtags are taking off.  Tesco customer services can be contacted (for free) on: 0800 505 555.

Sainsbury’s, Waterstones and allegedly Superdrug have all announced they will no longer be taking part in workfare.  With the 3rd of March called as a National Day of Action Against Workfare then this abandonment of the government’s flagship scheme is  sure to spread.  If workfare is now profitable then direct action, boycotts, pickets and demonstrations outside stores will at the very least help to make it less profitable.

It’s a sad and crazy world when Tesco can claim they are helping young people by forcing them to stack shelves all night for no pay.  With the recent announcement that boss of workfare provider A4e paid herself £9 million of tax payer’s money last year, supermarkets getting night shift workers for free at the tax payer’s expense and even charities clamouring to pick up lucrative ‘Work Programme’ contracts it seems that the benefits system is indeed a gravy train.  Unless of course you happen to be a benefit claimant.

27 responses to “Tesco’s Secret Workfare Slaves

  1. watching with amusement as all comments on the facebook page are deleted,seems this thing is going viral,Tesco really have to hold their hands up and say ok we messed up,no more workfare,but somehow i doubt it,i say boycott the fuckers.

    • yeah i had a load of my messages deleted.. The soloution is for this retailer and any other person who is involved in this scheme is protest…. groups hanging in front of shops creating bad publicity… no one will want to get involved in this stupid fuckin scheme of the governement….

  2. you can email their CEO directly philip.clarke@uk.tesco.com

  3. The expenses (childcare and travel) are also paid by Jobcentre Plus:

    Click to access sbwa-employer-guide.pdf

  4. Great post… disgraceful situation

  5. even the terminally ill are to be forced into servitude for what little time they have remaining? http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/feb/16/disabled-unpaid-work-benefit-cuts?commentpage=2#start-of-comments,someone soon is going to get medievil on a politicos arse.

  6. @Brian, indeed. Someone is going to lose the plot and go berserker.

  7. Quote from Gov site:”These are the details of the job selected
    Vacancy from Jobcentre Plus
    Job No: BSD/27442
    SOC Code:0
    Hours TBC
    Location EAST ANGLIA IP32
    Duration Permanent
    Date posted 09 February 2012
    Pension details No details held”

    Right I’m going to put some fact to this. JSA + expenses right? there is no Plus! the expenses first come out of the JSA to get to A to B. So simply put its just JSA.

  8. This is taking us back to the ‘slave trade’ era and Tesco and Asda are milking it for all they can. People, disabled or not, should be paid the going rate for the job, and nothing less than the minimum wage, plus premiums for working late, nights and weekends.
    We should all to shop at other stores until these senseless idiots stop exploiting the disabled and unemployed, to make a quick buck. It is shameful.

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  10. Last year being out of work, the Job Centre sent me on a 6week work, 16hr/wk placement at a high street retail outlet.
    Thankfully I was offered an 18hr permanent contract through impressing then begging the manager.

    …THERE IS ALWAYS 2 JOBCENTRE SENT ‘NEWBIES’ in store working 16hrs, for a 6 week period.-with v.v.v little hope to gain employment as all the positions are taken now.

    16hrs x 2 = 32 ‘FREE’ hrs/week for our company. This equates to an annual saving for our branch, [@ £6.01/hr] of £10K.
    250 branches doing the same thing..do the math.

    I know of many other companies just in the retail sector that USE this to their advantage, meanwhile GOVERNMENT stats. look a tad better.

  11. ….would just like to add. I take pride in in the job I do : ‘Shelf stacking / facing / merchandising.’ At the end of the day, my isle is back to ‘normality’ after a day where the general public leave it in a complete and utter chaos!

  12. from ‘nice’ Tesco CEO

    Dear Ms Burnip
    Thank you for your email to Philip Clarke our Chief Executive about our participation in a government-led work experience programme. I have been asked to respond on Philip’s behalf and would like to apologise for the delay in getting back to you.

    At Tesco we take our responsibility as Britain’s biggest private sector employer seriously. We are committed to playing our part to help tackle unemployment in these challenging times and are creating 7,000 new jobs this year, despite the difficult economic climate.

    At a time of record youth unemployment we are particularly committed to providing opportunities for young people. First and foremost this means providing jobs for young people: we employ over 70,000 people under the age of 25, or a quarter of our workforce. We are participating in a government-led work experience scheme to help give young people valuable experience of the workplace. However the position you saw advertised is a mistake caused by an IT error by Jobcentre Plus and is being rectified. It is an advert for work experience with a guaranteed job interview at the end of it and I can assure you the young people taking part in this programme do not replace or substitute for our permanent staff and I am pleased to say that over 300 of them have so far gone on to get permanent employment with us.

    This builds on our strong track record of giving opportunities to the hardest to reach in society. We recruit on attitude, not qualifications, giving everyone the opportunity to get a job and to get on. Last month we opened our 40th Regeneration Partnership store, with a third of new jobs reserved for people who have been out of work for six months or more. These schemes have so far provided over 4,500 jobs for the long-term unemployed.
    We remain committed to doing what we can in these difficult times to providing opportunities and employment.

    Yours sincerely

    Nicola Buchan
    Customer Service Executive

  13. A colleague had to pick up a client who was pushed into a turkey farm under a similar scheme (he had serious mental issues)…curled up dissociating and sobbing. He commited suiced soon after!


  15. I am a mental health nurse and I am ashamed that I shop in Tesco. Well no more. Unemployed people need to be treated far better than this. Tesco you are an utter disgrace. I am 60 next year, no spring chicken, but the country will fight you on this. I am outraged…….

  16. Great article Johnny Void. The UK ‘benefit system’ is ironically NOT a benefit for its claimants and has never been such.

  17. 168,000 of hours worked by jobseekers at tesco. Thats £974,000 in upaid wages on the minimum wage. When i left school, night staff were on £12 an hour stacking shelfs. It’s reported that tesco made around £3.5 billion last year. tesco could create 100’s of job’s at £20 an hour and this money wouldn’t even be missed. i won’t be putting 8 weeks unpaid work at tesco shelf stacking on my 20 cv as a plasterer. When it’s my turn to work for nothing.

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  22. How come NOBODY seems to know about this. I live on an estate and can hardly get my breath learning all this here over last couple of weeks whilst working out why my teen son is sanctioned second time.

    This is f..king outrageous. Not being funny but this is the dwp n ian dumb cunt smith is a right nob head. Think you are all doing a good job but this needs stepping up!

    Boycott workfare has no protests round my area. …….by what I can tell Tesco need more leaning on than this. Seriously do you think they will back down like some little charity? These posts are a year old. Is this still going on?………I’ve been shopping there years! Wtf???

    Can someone post when there is some action on this please and meanwhileiI will have to work out who the f..k I should deserve my custom. Thanks

  23. Its like you learn my mind! You appear to grasp so much about this, like you wrote
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  24. Pingback: Why Iain Duncan Smith fails his own ‘Family Friendly’ test | The Feminist Mother

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