News comes from Ipswich Unemployed Action that workfare slaves are now being recruited to work in Jobcentres. Not content with forcing unemployed people to stack shelves in Tesco all night for no pay, it seems that the DWP no longer want to pay their own staff either.
Three vacancies have been identified so far, all for jobs in admin positions of up to 30 hours a week with no pay. This might come as a shock to DWP staff, many (if not most) of whom are threatened with redundancy.
Of course the real question is whether this comes as a shock to Public Sector Worker’s union, the PCS. It looks an awful lot like public sector workers risk being laid off in favour of workfare staff, a perfect hit for this government, attacking benefit claimants, public sector workers and saving money all at the same time. It’s the kind of thing you might expect a union to be somewhat narked about.
The TUC have declared opposition to workfare even if some unions don’t seem to have quite caught up. Billy Hayes, head of posties’ union the CWU, has said on twitter that the union’s apparent support for workfare is under investigation and that he does not support it. We await the results of his investigation, but you can chivvy him along at: https://twitter.com/BillyHayes_CWU
The PCS, who it must be said have been by far the most supportive union towards claimants, and are doing a fine job standing firm in the dispute over pensions, are in a difficult position. After all it is current Jobcentre staff, many of whom are likely to be members, who currently refer people onto workfare schemes. This is something that should have been resisted a long time ago.
But that doesn’t mean it can be swept under the carpet, the stakes are now far too high. If the PCS take further strike action over pensions, which looks likely, will workfare staff be forced to scab or face losing benefits? Could workfare be used as an attempt to break any further strike action by the PCS?
Of course this sounds like hyperbole, scare-mongering even. But then last year I wrote that the new benefit changes, under some circumstances, could lead to “cancer patients, forced to do physical work and not being given enough money for food.” This was supposed to represent a worst case scenario. As it happens, according to the Guardian, this could now become government policy.
So will the PCS be resisting this exploitation of unemployed workers being forced to work alongside their members for no pay? The PCS are on twitter at: https://twitter.com/#!/pcs_union.
Perhaps it’s time to ask them.
In the meantime PCS members should be warmly welcomed by claimants should they attend an event as part of the National Day of Action Against Workfare on March 3rd. And claimants should, and will, continue to support the PCS in their battle over pensions. We are all in this together after all.
There’s an inevitable petition up opposing workfare at: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/29356