Holland & Barrett continue to use unpaid labour despite storms of protest aimed at the company, simply because they are making so much money from workfare that they seem happy to ride out the public outrage.
When the workfare row first blew up ministers were quick to tell us that no companies were using workfare staff to replace real jobs. Lying bastard Chris Grayling said at the time: “I praise Tesco for offering unpaid work experience, short term, to young people because it helps them.”
Workfare exploiters were quick to claim that using unpaid labour is not profitable due to the time it takes to recruit and train people. The whole racket, they pleaded, was in fact an exercise of corporate humanitarianism, helping the young get their first foothold in the world of work.
This all began to sound a little hollow when Argos admitted that they only use workfare during the Christmas rush. Then along came research showing that Work Experience is useless at helping people find work, something underlined by Welfare to Work company A4e’s seemingly dreadful rate at helping anyone actually find a job.
But no-one has shown just how profitable using forced labour can be than fake friend to hippies Holland & Barrett.
Holland & Barrett are in the process of replacing up to a quarter of their employees with workfare staff, something which has drawn a furious response from their customers. There have been protests aimed at the so called ‘ethical’ company around the UK, from Brighton to Glasgow. In Liverpool an ongoing series of pickets has seen stores losing business on a weekly basis as customers turn away when they hear of the company’s shameful employment practices.
Next week sees the National Week of Action Against Workfare, with yet more protests and demonstrations aimed at workfare sharks. Boycott Workfare, Solidarity Federation and many other groups will be organising pickets around the UK, many of which will be targeted at Britain’s ex-favourite fake health food shop. Pickets against the store have already been called in both Brixton and Blackheath in south London. Other cities taking part in the week of action include Poole, Brighton, Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, York, Hastings and Bristol, whilst central London will also see action along with Islington, Lewisham whilst more cities around the UK are signing up everyday.
Holland & Barrett have fought back, increasing their presence on social networking such as facebook – http://www.facebook.com/hollandandbarrett – and setting up a twitter account (@holland_barrett). This has led to hundreds of people have contacting them online to demand they stop using forced labour. A company which trades on their ethical credentials is now being boycotted by thousands of former customers.
Despite all of this Holland & Barrett have remained silent on their use of unpaid workers. It seems that using workfare staff is so profitable, that up until now, Holland & Barrett have calculated the cost of boycott, pickets and demonstrations is easily covered by employing 1000 young people on no wages. Far from showing that Holland & Barrett care about youth unemployment and want to help, it has turned into a public relations disaster for the company – yet they still appear to be making more money from forced labour than they are losing because of public outrage at the scheme.
Of course the answer to this is escalation. Join a picket or organise one locally, against not just Holland & Barrett, but all workfare exploiters. Contact them on twitter and facebook and tell them what you think of their disgusting treatment of workers. Let’s make sure that everyone in the UK knows exactly what this grubby bunch of snake oil salesmen are up to and hit them in the only place they care about – their wallets.
The argument that workfare is not profitable, or doesn’t replace paid jobs, is fatally undermined by Holland & Barrett. Workfare is increasing unemployment and lining the pockets of big business in the process. Workfare doesn’t help young people find work. The only people to benefit are companies like Holland & Barrett, Bodyshop and ASDA, welfare to work fraudsters like A4e and so called charities such as the British Heart Foundation (@TheBHF).
Someone else making money from forced labour is Blue Peter bimbo and face of Holland & Barrett, Gethin Jones, star of their advertising campaigns. He’s on twitter @GethincJones. Why not tell him what you think and perhaps someone will read it out loud to him.