In yet another humiliating snub for Chris Grayling, major retailer Holland & Barrett have said they are pulling out of workfare schemes.
The health food chain have said the current 60 Work Experience placements will complete their provision but they will be the last unpaid workers at the company. This announcement follows several weeks of intensive campaigning by Solidarity Federation, who joined by Boycott Workfare, have organised pickets of their stores throughout the UK.
Meanwhile hundreds of people contacted them on twitter and facebook to state their intention to boycott the company. As recently as March, Employment Minister Chris Grayling had boasted that: ‘Holland and Barrett have committed to supporting one thousand young people over the next twelve months’ by delivering ‘placements and support’ in partnership with Jobcentre Plus.
Holland & Barrett’s decision, coming just days before the National Week of Action Against Workfare, shows just how out of touch this Government must be if they think the public will tolerate huge money grabbing corporations forcing people to work for their benefits.
Holland & Barrett are not completely out of the woods. They will continue to employ apprentices, paid just a meagre £2.60 an hour, less than half the minimum wage. But this announcement still represents yet another victory against forced labour and throws into disarray the Government’s plans to extend the scheme, or force long term unemployed people into six months workfare.
Holland & Barrett have attempted to blame the upcoming protests as the reason they pulled out of the scheme. The company’s full statement on facebook said:
“At Holland & Barrett, we take our responsibilities as a retailer and employer very seriously, and any possible compromise to the safety of our staff and customers from opponents of our work experience scheme is treated with great importance.
“This factor, together with the planned introduction of a new full time, salaried apprentice scheme, means that the 60 people currently undertaking the work experience scheme will be the last to complete the eight week placement. After this time Holland & Barrett will not participate further in that scheme.”
With plenty of workfare exploiters still to choose from, the Week of Action Against Workfare is still set to go ahead. Keep an eye on Boycott Workfare’s website or the facebook page for the latest news.
The Government is increasingly dependent on charities to provide ever more punitive workfare placements. Some such as the British Heart Foundation (@the BHF) have boasted they use workfare in every store. Other like @scope have claimed to no longer use mandatory work, yet the DWP have published case studies of them doing just that. Disability Works charities, such as @mindcharity, @mencap_charity and the aforementioned @scope are even sub-contractors for the Work Programme. On this scheme unemployed people have been sentenced to up to six months workfare, whilst people claiming disability benefits are punished with brutal sanctions for ‘non-compliance’ with ‘mandated work activity’, such as failing to attend a training course or missing a meeting.
It is a sad and revealing state of affairs when companies like Holland & Barrett are quicker to sense the public mood and reject exploitative forced labour schemes, whilst the so called charitable sector props them up in order to make a cheap buck.
Join the Week of Action beginning tomorrow (Sat 7th July – protests planned in Central London, Liverpool, Leeds, Bristol, Birmingham, Brighton, Hastings, Hackney, Blackheath, Brixton, Islington, Edinburgh, Poole, Rhondda Valley, Wood Green and York so far – full details (which may have changed due to Holland & Barrett’s announcement), can be found via: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=1154