Fake friends to hippies, Holland & Barrett are set to become one of the biggest exploiters of forced labour with plans to take 1,000 unpaid work placements from the Jobcentre next year.
With a workforce of only around 3,500 people this could amount to almost a quarter of their current staff. To put this in context, Tesco have delivered around 1,500 Work Experience placements so far with around the same number to come. Tesco employ close to a third of a million people.
Some have claimed that private companies are not profiting from workfare schemes. They argue the cost of giving training and experience to young people outweighs any savings gained from free labour. Argos already blew this myth apart when they said they only used workfare staff during the Christmas rush.
The news that a company the size of Holland & Barrett can afford to accommodate so many unpaid workers shows even more explicitly how this scheme represents a huge government subsidy for private employers. If companies are using free staff who are paid only meagre Government benefits then that means they are recruiting less staff than they would otherwise. Workfare is causing, not curing unemployment.
Holland & Barrett staff need to be trained in the finer arts of snake oil selling. There is a high level of product knowledge required. Holland & Barrett boast of their ‘passionate ‘ commitment to staff development. But they are not passionate enough to pay for it anymore.
At present they offer a four week induction programme followed by more specialized product advisor training. Under the Work Experience scheme young people can be required to carry out a two month period of workfare, under the Work Programme it can be as long as six months. Therefore Holland & Barrett can use these schemes to cover wages during their induction and training periods. They have the added advantage of having workers with no employment rights who can be laid off at a moments notice. So the ones they like they keep, the ones they don’t they can get to stack shelves or hump boxes about for a bit and then farm them back to the dole office.
Holland & Barrett can therefore use Government paid for schemes to fund both their recruitment costs, staff training and to make up any extra staff at busy periods. This will have a devastating impact on the staff to whom they actually pay wages, who will no doubt see hours and over-time cut.
Chris Grayling’s workfare conference next Monday ends with a question and answer session asking ‘How do we create a win/win situation for employers and for providers?’.
It looks a lot like they already have. The providers are companies like A4e who are paid billions to bully people into workfare, usually under threat of benefit sanctions. Note there is no mention of creating a win for benefit claimants in that sentence. Or even cutting costs to the tax payer by reducing unemployment, the claimed reason for workfare schemes. We lose, and whether through our free labour or our taxes we pay. This is all about making yet more money for private companies.
Holland & Barrett have lots of customers who would consider themselves ethical. The kind of people who sneer at you if you say you shop in Tesco or watch X Factor. They should turn their ethical concerns to the exploitative practices of Britain’s favourite fake health food shop, whose owners the Carlyle Group invest heavily in the arms trade and big pharmaceutical companies alike.
If you shop at Holland & Barrett you are directly funding the global arms trade. You support forced labour and animal experimentation. You’re probably a bit racist too. George Bush Senior worked for the Carlyle Group. If you shop at Holland & Barrett you are at least partly culpable for the Iraq war. And global warming. Think of the dead babies you are causing every time you buy a stale mung bean pasty, drenched not in the blood of animal slaughter but slavery and human sacrifice. You are fucking disgusting. Call yourself a liberal? Another world is possible but not with you in it. You are worse than Hitler on a short haul flight eating a Big Mac. You wouldn’t catch Katie Price shopping in Holland & Barrett. Or Wayne Rooney. They both have more ethics than you. I bet you cried when News of the World got shut down. Boycott Holland & Barrett or be part of the problem and no amount of Guardian reading or fair fucking trade chocolate will change that.
The above pic is from the fine folks at the Anarchist Media Project.