Holland & Barrett Pull Out Of Workfare!

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

24 responses to “Holland & Barrett Pull Out Of Workfare!

  1. Pingback: Holland & Barrett Pull Out Of Workfare! | the void « Twitter Trends!!

  2. They need to be watched, as they’ll probably just re-named the scheme to apprenticeships … Although the governments own guidelines on apprenticeships sate, “an Apprenticeship takes between one and four years to complete.”

    Let’s see if they offer real apprenticeships, or more ‘forced labour’ under a different name.

  3. First of all, let me just say I’m a big supporter of your work and the Boycott Workfare campaign as a whole. However there is one point in your article that concerns me: “They will continue to employ apprentices, paid just a meagre £2.60 an hour, less than half the minimum wage.”

    I think this is a slippery slope for the campaign if ‘anything less than minimum wage is bad’ becomes the general ethos of the campaign. My concern with Workfare is that its not voluntary i.e. it’s forced labour, and free labour for multinationals who have more than enough money to pay workers properly. However with regards apprentices, surely this scheme is voluntary so the young person has a choice whether to participate or not. They can then choose whether to gain experience through an apprenticeship or seek proper paid work.

    If you claim that apprenticeships should be paid at minimum wage then shouldn’t you also be claiming that young people be paid minimum wage to be in school post-16? It’s the same point surely. Apprenticeships are a valuable training mechanism for those les suited to mainstream education. As a former employer of apprentices (for a charity) I’ve seen first hand the value of apprenticeships in the personal and professional development of a young person.

    I’m just a little concerned that you may alienate people from your otherwise excellent posts if Boycott Workfare becomes Boycott-anything-that-doesnt-pay-minimum-wage…

    I look forward to your thoughts,


    • I agree – apprenticeships are good; but if the apprentice is doing *exactly* the same job as an employee, because the training only takes an hour (I’ve seen Argos and Tesco’ employees posting examples of this) then NO.

      • Agreed. There certainly needs to be a proper training programme at the heart of the apprenticeship. And I can’t really see how H&B , Tesco et al are providing this through self-stacking placements. But I still think apprenticeships are vital to many young people’s chances of fulfilling their potential. As with the Future Jobs Fund, I’d love to see any training and employment scheme restricted to not-for-profits or at least projects that have a social benefit…

  4. an 8 week scheme – what are they teaching them? Or are they just teaching them very. very. v-e-r-y s-l-o-w–y?

  5. Great news, but let’s not be complacent. Yes this shows that we still have the power, but they are only now going to be paying apprentices a couple of quid. Still not great.
    And of course their press release contained no admission of the failure of this policy or that it’s immoral. Instead they blame it on safety concerns. So had it not been for all those nasty protesters they’d still be ‘training’ people for no wage for 8 fucking weeks at a time!

  6. Hey, so H&B have been forced to withdraw. Reluctantly.
    It’s good to know that peaceful campaigns do make a difference sometimes.
    However it might just be cynicism, but when they state “Holland & Barrett will not participate further in that scheme.’ One looks at the words “that scheme”, that could indicate that they’ll still take such workfare style free labour under another scheme.

    Ah, but the apprenticeships. Another tidy little deal for employers. I have yet to see apprentice shelf stackers being advertised, but some of the ridiculous supposed apprenticeships I have seen are quite blatantly taking the piss.
    I first started noticing these on the job sites a while back and over the last year or so they have become really commonplace.
    Why employ someone who can do the job well for the minimum wage, when you can get a govt kickback and just pay 2,60 an hour. And many of these ads still ask for experience and various other skills too. Who actually goes for these supposed apprenticeships?
    Isn’t the min wage low enough already? Even lower for the younger people. These apprenticeships are not the apprenticeships that existed many years ago, where you got a trade. Maybe they don’t want people to have ‘ a trade’ these days, keeps them more dependent on the state.

    The only good thing about the apprenticeships is that, as yet, nobody is forced to take them. And hopefully many think that they are taking the piss too and not going for them.
    I suppose for some in the 16-18 age groups who are finding it tough and if the employment could actually provide some decent experience then for a few this apprenticeship scheme might be useful. Might be, in a few cases.
    Still a good way for employers to get cheaper labour though.

    Got a job employers? Then advertise it as a proper job at minimum wage at least and help a genuine unemployed person out.
    Someone who might have experience of the job you want doing. Unless you just want someone to do all the crap jobs around the place on the cheap that is.

    • johanna (open your eyes!)

      I really cannot agree with you me and my sister come from a very poor family andhave no g.c.s.e’s but we still managed to find jobs I get £9.23 an hour and she’s on a tidy wage too! You know how we did that we went out every day and hunted for jobs! I knocked on doors for charities in the snow that company charged them charities for us to work so why don’t you look into that? Secondly if people want benefits that should god damn work for it! My taxes are paying for the flat screen tvs. (yes some people really need benefits single mums, disabled the elderly and they should be excluded from this) lazy young men and women who sit on there back sides and smoke drugs all day should be made to do this! It will also help the UK out of the recession.

      • If you only earn £9,23 an hour I’m afraid your taxes aren’t paying for anything and certainly won’t cover the cost of your pension and the public services you use.

        • johanna (open your eyes!)

          Getting touchy because I found a flaw in your little protest? Please the money I’m on pays for my car, my rent and my beautiful life. £9.23 and I have no gcse’s I think that’s pretty damn good, also iv experienced poverty as a child both my parents fought to meal on my table and dress me but people need work there way out of it, just like I did. Like I said you want benefits work for it! Also my pension fine thank you I have to work for 30 years (paying NI) and I get a state pension. P.s I’m 19 and have more sense than you LOL

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  8. Gas Chamber | July 5, 2012 at 7:42 pm | Reply
    But where do we make a stand? During the round-up, train journey, holding pen, shower room?

    miki67 | July 6, 2012 at 2:34 am | Reply
    A man already set himself on fire. For his sake,for his pain,for his anguish,a stand needs to be made NOW.
    An unwell man sits looking at the letter he got arbitrarily stripping him of housing benefit. Then he kills himself.

  9. Pingback: Workfare Protesters Are Violent Criminals Claims Holland & Barrett | the void

  10. United StereoTypes of Unemployment (U.S.T.U)

    Apprenticeship in Sales-assistance?

    I worked as a YTS Trainee stockroom manager, in a high street store, back in ’97.

    15 years ago.

    We’re just going around in circles. Typical revolution crap!

    Those that are ready to evolve, please, give me a sign.

  11. Pingback: Every Liberal Democrat Is To Blame For Clegg’s Debt, Workfare And Poverty | the void

  12. I understand the H&B one slightly. We do have to know about certain products and go through a training scheme for it and it does, after going through all three levels, end in an actual accredited qualification.

    Sure, part of the job is stock, moving stuff, putting stuff on shelves. The other part, if any of you have been in with an ailment and have any other things that could cause issues like medications, other ailment, etc. We have to learn about these things and if the supplement we’re recommending can interact at all.

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