Tag Archives: Fair Train

Workfare Week Gets Worse! Work For Up To A Year Without Getting Paid Says #WEWeek2015


A government funded so-called charity is today encouraging employers to break minimum wage laws and hire unpaid interns with “no financial obligations in terms of salary”.

The advice is being offered by Fair Train who last year were paid £283,000 of tax payer’s money to promote unpaid work schemes and workfare.  The organisation are currently holding a Work Experience Week with a different form of unpaid work celebrated everyday.  Yesterday it was the turn of unpaid – and soon to be mandatory – Traineeships.  Today they have decided to focus on internships, with their official guidance (pdf) suggesting they need not be paid and that a placement could last up to a year.

In almost all cases unpaid internships are illegal.  According to the government: “An intern is entitled to the National Minimum Wage if they count as a worker.”  What this means is that anybody who actually does some work for an organisation, unless they are a charity volunteer or it is part of en educational study programme, should be paid at least the minimum wage.  This specifically applies if this work is done for a “benefit in kind, eg the promise of a contract or future work.”  Astonishingly Fair Train even seem to be encouraging employers to offer exactly this, saying that: “Many employers use internships to train and evaluate potential new recruits before offering them permanent employment, creating a win:win situation for both the young person and the employer.”

Several companies have been taken to court and forced to backpay wages due to hiring unpaid interns.  Fair Train don’t mention this in their guidance.  In fact they don’t mention interns getting paid at all, even as a recommendation.  It is not even a requirement to qualify for one of their bogus Work Experience Quality Standard awards which they say exist to ensure unpaid work placements are of a high standard.  It appears that a company could qualify for a Gold Level Quality Standard award and still be flouting the law by using unpaid interns.  What a joke.  Just watch them fucking wriggle now.

You can tell @FairTrainOrg what you think of their promotion of unpaid work on twitter using the hashtag #WEWeek2015.

You can report unpaid internship at: http://www.internaware.org/report_an_unpaid_internship

To join the fight against forced unpaid work visit Boycott Workfare’s website or follow them on twitter @boycottworkfare.

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It’s Workfare Week! Tell The Bastards What You Think On #WEWeek2015


Workfare industry bosses react with delight to news David Cameron intends to attend their next conference.

The vile welfare-to-work sector are teaming up with a DWP controlled front organisation this week to hold a celebration of all the money they are making out of unpaid work.

The inaptly named Fair Train are funded by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, a government body under the control of both the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills and Iain Duncan Smith himself.  Despite their name, this so-called charity exists to promote unpaid Work Experience schemes, by flogging off dubious Quality Standard awards to workfare exploiters.  In 2013 they were paid a whopping £283,000 of tax payer’s money to promote unpaid work schemes.

Week Experience Week is part of this gushing celebration of exploitation, so it is no suprise to see ERSA, the trade body established to lie on behalf on the welfare-to-work sector, joining in the festivities.  Fair Train say that want others to get involved with Work Experience Week, with aim of encouraging as many companies as possible to stop paying wages and start using workfare.  You can let the bastards know what you think on twitter using the hashtag #WEWeek2015.

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Fair Train’s Workfare Whitewash Is Not Fair – Don’t Be Fooled


For just £80 companies can buy a shit lump of glass from Fair Train and boast to their customers how they don’t pay their staff.

“Starting in some areas at first, anyone aged 18 to 21 signing on without these basic skills will be required to undertake training from day one or lose their benefits.

If they are still unemployed after six months, they will have to start a traineeship, take work experience or do a community work placement – and if they don’t turn up, they will lose their benefits.”

George Osborne, Autumn Statement 2013

Way back in February 2012 it emerged that Tesco were recruiting unpaid workers on government workfare schemes.  The public were furious at this grotesque exploitation from one of the UK’s biggest employers and a storm of protest erupted, both online and in the streets, about private companies using workfare.

The DWP were thrown into chaos at the outrage.  Emergency meetings were held with top employers.  Government documentation which proved unemployed people were being forced to work for free was hastily re-written as DWP ministers lied that this was not the case.  Eventually, in a humiliating climbdown, it was announced that the Work Experience scheme would in future be ‘voluntary’, at least until the claimant had agreed to take up the placement at which point attendance would be forced.

Whilst this was a major victory for anti-workfare campaigners, the fight against forced unpaid work was only just beginning.   Work Experience was just one workfare scheme, many other unpaid work positions remained mandatory.  Then, over the next two years, the number of people having benefits stopped or sanctioned for not meeting increasingly petty and pointless conditions imposed by Jobcentres soared.  Poverty not seen in years re-emerged in the UK as foodbanks opened across the country to meet the desperate need of those stripped of benefits.  A climate of fear took hold in Jobcentres, as many advisors ruthlessly bullied and harassed unemployed people in order to meet unofficial targets to sanction as many claims as possible.  The latest figures show that more people are having benefits sanctioned than ever before – 227,629 sanctions were imposed in the last three months of 2013.

In this toxic environment claimants have reported that if they refuse a voluntary workfare scheme, such as Work Experience, they are threatened with different, mandatory workfare schemes instead.  Despite the rules, many people are still being given the impression by some Jobcentres that Work Experience, Traineeships and other unpaid work schemes for private companies are mandatory.  And in his Autumn Statement last year George Osborne announced that young people who refuse a Traineeship or Work Experience position will be sent on a six month unpaid Community Work Placement instead.

If there were any doubts before that Work Experience and Traineeships were not forced work then George Osborne has laid them to rest.  Whilst his plans have not been fully implemented yet, the Government’s intention is clear.  Young people who do not take up unpaid work, for companies like Poundland and Virgin, will be sent to carry out 780 hours forced labour instead or lose their benefits.  Traineeships, and the Work Experience scheme are workfare, there can be no argument about that anymore.

This is why it is genuinely astonishingly that a government funded body, appallingly backed by the TUC, should still be offering a Work Experience Quality Standard which attempts to claim these schemes are voluntary.

Fair Train sell these Quality Standards to companies who must then go through the rigorous procedure of filling in a short form and sending them a cheque.  This will allow their workfare crimes to be washed away as Fair Train pronounce their use of unpaid workers is voluntary and even the “first step into a dream career”.

Of course the truth emerges when Fair Train try to sell this shady racket to employers.  Work Experience can help with recruitment because it give  employers a chance to ‘try before they buy’  says Fair Train – showing this vile organisation really views young people as mere commodities to be exploited and discarded as greedy employers see fit.

Happily the Fair Train quality standard has turned out to be a dismal failure.  Last year they organised a week celebrating unpaid work which turned out to be an embarrassing flop.  Since then barely over 160 employers have bought one of their Quality Standards, including a car washing firm, a fried chicken shop and several charity shops.  Dream careers indeed.

So desperate have Fair Train been to flog their workfare badge of shame, and their comedy workfare trinkets, that they have even attempted to hijack the hugely successful Keep Volunteering Voluntary campaign launched in response to the latest mass workfare scheme.   Claimant’s rights website Refuted recently revealed on twitter that Fair Train had encouraged them to sign up, presumably after securing their details from the Keep Volunteering Voluntary website.  Refuted have long campaigned against exactly the kind of unpaid work that Fair Train are so keen to re-habilitate.  Those running this shady outfit are clearly not the sharpest tools in the box, although they are tools.

It is sad to see that several charities who say they do not participate in workfare, including MIND, Scope, Oxfam and Shelter, all have shops who have signed up to the Fair Train workfare badge of shame.  This is likely to have been done at a local level and hopefully will be dealt with by head offices.  Most of Fair Train’s customers seem to be grouped around small geographical areas, suggesting they are employing telesales staff to go through local business directories to flog their services.  Charities opposed to workfare should ensure that all of their local shops and offices are aware of this practice.

No-one needs these clowns. Organisations opposed to forced unpaid work can sign the Keep Volunteering Voluntary agreement.  It doesn’t cost anything and those behind it are genuinely independent, unlike Fair Train, who are funded by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, a body accountable to Iain Duncan Smith.  There is nothing fair about the unpaid work that @FairTrainOrg celebrate, it is exploitation and it is not volunteering.

Fair Train currently have a handy list of employers who don’t pay their workers wages available at: http://www.fairtrain.org/organisations

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Crash The Poverty Pimp’s Workfare Party And Track Down Your Local Workfare Exploiter

mcds-workfareA poverty pimp party is taking place on twitter this week as the Week of Work Experience ‘celebrates’ the world of unpaid work and workfare.

The organisers of this workfare jamboree are @FairTrainOrg, who have been handed a chunk of tax payer’s cash to come up with a Work Experience Quality Standard scheme.  Appallingly even the TUC have been dragged in to support this crude Government attempt to use unpaid workers to drive down wages and working conditions for everyone.

Fair Train claim that to qualify for this workfare badge of shame all work experience should be regarded as voluntary, a laughable claim when unemployed people are bullied and sanctioned on a daily basis in Jobcentres for not carrying out endless jobseeking activity – which can include workfare.  Nothing is truly voluntary for those signing on under the present regime when Jobcentre staff are awarded Easter Eggs and set unofficial targets to sanction as many benefit claims as possible.

Astonishingly, some of those awarded this Quality Standard may even be breaking minimum wage laws.   Unpaid work is illegal in most circumstances unless it is part of a Government backed scheme or genuine volunteering for a charity.  That doesn’t seem to matter to Fair Train or the likes of Murdoch’s Sky News who are using the week to advertise unpaid work placements that don’t even pay travel expenses.

For a long time now those opposed to workfare have had to resort to sleuthing to uncover the businesses and charities involved in unpaid work.  The DWP have even refused to name which organisations are taking placements on the Mandatory Work Activity scheme such is the public’s  outrage at this form of exploitation.  According to the Department this workfare scheme may collapse if people were told the truth about who is taking part.  Meanwhile the DWP have admitted that they don’t know how many organisations are making use of forced unpaid work on the Work Programme or where participants might be being sent.

Luckily keeping an eye on the hashtag #WEWeek2013 may finally mean that more workfare exploiters are brought to justice, with those who choose to boast about not paying their staff likely to face protests, pickets and boycotts.

Only a handful of organisations have signed up to the Quality Standard so far and it is unclear how many of them are involved in forced work despite the guidelines.  But all of them are quite happy to support undermining both genuine volunteering and paid work by using Government schemes to coerce unemployed people into working for nothing.

Fair Train are tweeting from @WorkExpWeek and are also on facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/fairtrain

Fair Train are asking businesses to sign up to a pledge in support of Work Experience.  No-one seems to have bothered so far, but those organisations opposed to unpaid work can sign the Boycott Workfare pledge at: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=1

If you spot a workfare exploiter boasting about their use of unpaid work on #WEWeek2013 then ask them for further details – such as which Government scheme they are using.  Then contact Boycott Workfare to have them Named and Shamed so everyone can see just who exactly is using forced unpaid workers in the UK.

Intern Aware are also collecting stories of people who have worked as unpaid interns and who may even be able to claim backdated wages.  More details are at: http://www.internaware.org/act/

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Tax Payer Should Fund Workfare Exploiters Claim Tory Funded Poverty Pimps (and the TUC)

week-of-workfareAn 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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Who Will Wear The Workfare Badge Of Shame?

workfare-quality-standardA crude attempt at re-branding workfare is taking place with the development of a “Work Experience Quality Standard” to be awarded to companies and charities who provide “high quality” workfare.

This seal of approvement will be handed out to workfare exploiters by a shadowy organisation called Fair Train who describe themselves as “a down to earth company who have a deep rooted passion for work experience”.

So deep rooted is this passion that they are organising a Week of Workfare in October, when they will be actively encouraging employers to sign up to the DWP’s Work Experience scheme.  This is the two month programme of forced labour which first hit the headlines in 2012 when Tesco were found to be recruiting unpaid workers via the Jobcentre.  Since then an active and UK wide campaign against unpaid work has led to scores of private sector employers and charities abandoning the scheme.

Promises from the DWP that this form of workfare would become ‘voluntary’ in future were met with scorn by claimants and campaigners alike.  With up to one million benefit sanctions set to be handed out this year, and Jobcentre staff being disciplined for not meeting unofficial targets to sanction claimants, nothing within the current regime for unemployment benefits is voluntary in practice.  Non-voluntary schemes such as Mandatory Work Activity – four weeks workfare for charity – can easily be used to bully and cajole claimants into doing what they are told.

Claimants on the Work Programme, including those on the sickness and disability benefit ESA, can now be sent on unlimited workfare, as long as it has some form of ‘community benefit’.  This benefit can include, according to DWP guidelines, working towards the profits of the host organisation.

Astonishingly there are no figures available on how many people have been condemned to workfare on the Work Programme.  The DWP are also refusing to release the names of organisations making use of free labour on the Mandatory Work Activity scheme – although the Salvation Army, YMCA and The Conservation ‘Volunteers’ are all active and vocal supporters of this form of forced work.

According to Fair Train documents these charities will not be eligible for the new quality standard which will help workfare using companies “avoid potentially damaging comparisons with employers providing compulsory work experience”.

Since the DWP won’t tell anyone who is using compulsory workfare however, it will be impossible for Fair Train to know what the beneficiaries of this quality standard are really involved in.  Not that they seem to care.  The main way to get one of these kitemarks is for companies to “complete a self-assessment” and then send them some money, with the possibility of that assessment being audited at some point in the future, perhaps, if they get round to it.

Fair Train give the impression of being just another bunch of shiny-suited spivs trying to fleece yet more tax payer’s cash from the welfare-to-work sector with a dodgy acreditation scheme to hide the crimes of workfare exploiters.  But in reality they are far more than that.  The workfare Quality Standard scheme is funded by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) and the Government’s Growth and Innovation Fund.  UKCES is ‘non-departmental public body’ of the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills who are also accountable to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions – Iain Duncan Smith.

Fair Train is run by Stephen Gardner, former director of training charity Rathbone who boast to employers that they can provide a no cost “work experience package that will benefit your business”.  Alongside Gardner, Fair Train employs Alun Davis as the Project Manager of the Quality Standard scheme.  Prior to joining this project Davis was the Welfare  To Work Operations Manager for Work Programme poverty pimps The Shaw Trust – an organisation that has driven thousands of claimants into poverty and destitution due to their enthusiastic role in sanctioning benefit claims.

In other words this so called Quality Standard is little more than a heavily camouflaged  Government funded scheme, staffed by ex welfare-to-work stooges and with the aim of making unpaid work appear an acceptable and even normal part of working life.  Fair Train’s Week of Workfare begins on October 14th and they will be tweeting from @FairTrainOrg using the hashtag #WEWeek2013.  Some people never learn.

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