An astonishing document (pdf), which appears to be backed by the TUC, suggests that private companies should be paid to take on workfare staff.
The breath-taking suggestion would mean that companies like Argos – who boasted of taking on workfare staff in the Christmas rush – are given a tax payer funded hand-out to go with their free labour.
The call for funding for workfare exploiters comes from Fair Train, the not-for-profit organisation who have been handed Government funding to establish a workfare quality standard scheme. The organisation claim that this workfare badge of shame is an: “independent, nationally recognised quality benchmark that is recognised by key government departments, LEPs, other employers, Trades Unions, National Careers Service and those who arrange work experience.”
According to Fair Train’s Guide For Employers, applying for this ‘quality standard’ – which basically involves sending them some money and agreeing to some vaguely defined guidelines – will help employers: “seek re-imbursement from training providers for the cost of setting up work experience placements”.
In most cases these so-called training providers will be tax payer funded poverty pimps like the notorious A4e who are currently mired in fraud allegations. In other words we pay them to pay huge employers like ASDA and Marks & Spencers to to keep their wage bills down by making use of unpaid workers.
Previously Fair Train have claimed that only ‘voluntary’ workfare placements will be eligible to receive their Quality Standard. Yet most Work Experience schemes are far from voluntary with claimants at risk of being sent on mandatory workfare should they refuse a placement.
This vague idea of what is and is not consensual is echoed in Fair Train’s Employer’s Guidance which merely states that employers should “regard work experience as a voluntary activity to be undertaken willingly by young people or adults seeking to improve their skills in the work place.”
Whether the claimant regards the placement as voluntary does not seem to be considered. This will no doubt mean even those using officially mandatory workfare schemes, such as the Salvation Army and YMCA, will be able to decide that it’s not really mandatory and wear the workfare badge of shame with pride.
According to Fair Train, the guidelines for their workfare quality standard were developed with help from a range of organisations including the TUC and the mental health charity MIND. Elsewhere Fair Train claim explicitly that the TUC support this initiative in a document (doc file) uncovered by the ever vigilant @boycottworkfare. Some misty-eyed trade unionists may remember a time when the unions fought for better wages. Now it seems that some union big wigs are happy to settle for no wages for young people starting out in their working life or older workers who become unemployed.
So confident are Fair Trade that their TUC backed attempt at rebranding workfare will be successful they are even planning a ‘Week of Work Experience’ later in the month. This celebration of unpaid labour will be used to encourage more companies and charities to prop up the Government’s disintegrating workfare schemes by taking on staff they don’t have to pay for.
With George Osborne’s recently announced plans to send hundreds of thousands of unemployed people on full time workfare, the DWP are going to need a lot of placements. Luckily this quality standard will help us find out who they are and could prove the perfect way to track down your local workfare exploiters and name and shame them.
The Week of Workfare, which sees the TUC lining up alongside Boris Johnson to support unpaid work begins next Monday 14th October. Fair Train will be tweeting from @WorkExpWeek using the hashtag
#WEWeek2013. Fair Train are on facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/fairtrain
It is vital this attempt at rebranding workfare does not succeed, so spread the word.
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