In a humiliating snub to Iain Duncan Smith, the company set up their own workfare scheme outside of the Jobcentre system last year. Tesco say that this scheme is entirely voluntary but add in the letter: “I appreciate your concerns and can advise that Tesco have suggested to the Department of Work and Pensions that, to avoid any misunderstanding about the voluntary nature of the scheme, the risk of losing benefits that currently exists should be removed.”
Now unless Tesco are fibbing, if their scheme is outside of the various DWP workfare schemes, then it should be entirely voluntary. The statement suggests that in order to avoid confusion Tesco would like to see all benefit sanctions removed. Tesco want free workers without the bad PR, and have no doubt calculated that with youth unemployment soaring, they can easily manipulate young people into working for free. The company have even stated that “going forward” young people “accepted for work experience with Tesco” will have the option of being paid minimum wage and those that complete a placement successfully will be given a real job.
Yet just 300 of those who worked unpaid at Tesco have been employed, despite around 1,400 people having ‘donated’ their time to support the company. What Tesco really seem to be saying is that occasionally we might employ someone without making them work unpaid first. How fucking big of them.
There is another reason why Tesco might oppose benefit sanctions however. Whilst Tesco are far from the cheapest shop, they are often the biggest in areas where there are high numbers of benefit claimants. A significant chunk of the UK’s social security budget ends up in the pockets of Tesco shareholders – along with small local businesses and the utilities companies – something George Osborne seems to have forgotten.
Every family queuing at a foodbank is a family that didn’t shop in Tesco that week. The latest available figures suggest 680,000 benefit sanctions were handed out in the first 10 months of 2012. During the same period Tesco’s profits fell for the first time in 20 years.
The bedroom tax, council tax benefit changes, housing benefit cuts and the raft of other vicious measures set to impoverish the already impoverished are also all about to begin. These changes are big enough, and will affect enough people, that Tesco, along with ASDA, Poundland, Lidl, Aldi and other discount retailers are waking up to the fact that if their core customers have less money, then so will they.
Tesco have already taken steps to mitigate this problem. Shortly before Christmas last year Tesco teamed up with the The Trussell Trust “to launch the biggest ever nationwide food collection for people in crisis.”
Customers in Tescos around the UK were invited to donate an item of shopping bought at the supermarket to their local Trussell Trust foodbank. The company set up collection points in many of their stores to make this easier. Claimants shouldn’t be fooled by this apparently charitable gesture. Tesco make no real secret of the fact they are a bunch of cunts. They are simply attempting to ensure that if people are getting their food from foodbanks, then that food was bought in Tesco first.
Join South London Solidarity Federation and others to protest against workfare outside Peckham Poundland tomorrow: https://www.facebook.com/events/631652860184840/
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