Tag Archives: Poundland

Is Poundland’s Workfare Scheme Illegal?

poundland-workfareIn a bungled response to this week’s workfare ruling, broken toy retailers Poundland have attempted to brush off criticism of their use of forced labour, by admitting to employing a huge number of unpaid workers!

Poundland  (@poundland) claim to have unpaid staff members at 71 of their stores in a revealing admission which is only like to re-invigorate the campaign by Solidarity Federation and others against their exploitative practices.  Until now campaigners have been unsure about the true extent of workfare at the company.

In a major embarrassment for the DWP, the company are quick to distance themselves from any involvement with the current government workfare programmes stating: “This programme replaces any involvement with the Department of Work and Pensions prime providers and their work experience schemes.”

Sol Fed point out that their scheme sounds very similar to the Work Experience programme – the scheme that first hit the headlines early last year.  This programme is at least notionally now voluntary after several major retailers including Waterstones and TX Maxx pulled out due to public outrage at the use of benefit sanctions to force people to work unpaid.

However – and this is key – with the ever increasing use of sanctions by Jobcentres, and both claimants and Jobcentre staff unsure about the rules due to endless DWP meddling, almost nothing can be said to be a ‘voluntary’ programme anymore.  Claimants who refuse workfare at Poundland could just be sent on Mandatory Work Activity on one of the other schemes.  Until benefit sanctions are removed completely as an attempt to police the benefits system, then all welfare to work schemes can be considered mandatory, in practice if not necessarily officially.

And even without sanctions, mutli-million pound companies thinking they can get away with employing young people for free should be fiercely resisted.  How long before young people are expected to slave away for six months before they see a penny of wages, or a year?  And what happens to existing workers when private companies start taking on hordes of unpaid staff with no workplace rights and use them to drive down wages and working conditions for everyone?

Poundland are not a charity.  In no sense of the word can their participants be considered volunteers. Every worker deserves a wage – and if they don’t get one, it’s workfare.

It is unclear however what exactly Poundland’s involvement with the DWP is under this new contrived arrangement.  If this is not a formal government scheme, then by the DWP’s own admission, it may be illegal.

The Work Programme provider guidelines clearly state:  As a general rule, persons participating in a relevant Government Scheme – which includes the Work Programme – designed to provide training, work experience or temporary work, or to assist in seeking or obtaining work, do not qualify for the National Minimum Wage (NMW) in respect of work done for an employer as part of that scheme.”

Helped by campaigns from the NUJ and Internaware, many interns have won backdated wages after being expected to work for free.  If Poundland are not part of a formal Government scheme then they may be in for a shock as a wage bill lands on their doorstep, along with a bill from the tax office for backdated National Insurance payments.

If the DWP are correct (and even they don’t seem sure whether workfare workers should be paid the minimum wage or not), then even if Poundland’s scheme has some official status it could still be illegal.

Poundland boast on their website that a meagre 20% of unpaid workers are offered a job at the end of their provision.  This appears to be a confirmation that for some candidate, successful completion of workfare at their stores could lead to employment.  According to the DWP:

“Even if they are not paid by the employer, participants will qualify for the NMW (National Minimum Wage) if they are regarded as employees of the employer AND are participating in a trial period of work with that employer, in which the employer has agreed to offer a job to the participant if they successfully complete the trial, in cases where the trial is in excess of six weeks.”

If Poundland intend to offer 20% of workfare participants a job, then it sounds an awful lot like a trial period of employment.  In any future workfare case brought under minimum wage regulations, it will be employers who could face a huge bill, not the DWP.  Workfare could prove to be an expensive mistake for the cheap bastards at Poundland.

Join Sol Fed in South London for anti-workfare action tomorrow (Saturday 16th February) .  Meet at the Poundland branch of the Aylesham Centre, Rye Lane, from noon, full details at: https://www.facebook.com/events/398008846962583/

Join the Week of Action Against Workfare beginning from March 18th – 24th: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=1996

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Boycott Workfare in Brum, Brighton, Leeds and Kilburn

Resistance to unpaid labour continues around the UK with at least four anti-workfare protests taking place over the next fortnight.

This Saturday 3rd November North London Solidarity Federation will be meeting outside Poundland in Kilburn High Road from noon.

All welcome, more info on facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/events/548947038455870/

On the same day in Brighton a picket of Superdrug has been called by Brighton Benefits Campaign.  Meet at the Clock Tower from noon on Saturday 3rd November: http://www.facebook.com/events/506918476000194/

The Leeds Unemployment Action Group will also be taking action on 3rd November with Argos, Superdrug and Poundland in their sights.  Meet at 2pm outside Argos on Headrow: http://www.facebook.com/events/434505809941086/

On the 10th November Boycott Workfare West Midlands will be holding a demonstration at so called charity British Heart Foundation on Harborne High Street.  British Heart Foundation are one of the largest charities making use of forced labour under the Mandatory Work Scheme.  Join in from 11.30 am at British Heart Foundation, 159 High Street Harborne, Birmingham, West Midlands B17 9QE.  More info at: http://www.facebook.com/events/500424336644051/

If you can’t make Birmingham then don’t forget to tweet British Heart Foundation to demand they pay their workers and pull out of all workfare schemes @thebhf

Please help share, tweet and help spread the word about all events.  Feel free to post details of any other anti-workfare action taking place in the comments.


Phone A Workfare Exploiter Today!

Boycott Workfare are today calling on people to contact the exploitative companies using tax payer funded forced labour on the Government’s various workfare schemes.

Three companies have been singled out for attention, all of whom will no doubt be familiar to readers of this blog.

Argos, Savers and Poundland are all involved in using workfare.  They also all have lots of customers on benefits.  Boycott the bastards.  But in the meantime contact them and complain about their use of unpaid workers.

Argos – Head Office (01908 690333), Customer Services (01785 710253)

Poundland – Head Office: (0)121 568 7000

Savers – Customer service number: 0845 671 0709, Head Office: 01582 884 791

Please don’t be abusive. It’s not the fault of whoever answers the phone that they work for such scum.

More details on Boycott Workfare’s website.

The Case of the Disappearing Workfare Documents

Well yesterday’s revelation that the DWP seem to have been altering documents on their website to cover for Chris Grayling and Iain Duncan Smith’s lies seems to hold weight.  Someone on the forum urban75 has pointed out that the document was indeed modified yesterday:

“If you download the current modified pdf file from the DWP website and look at Document Properties you see that the pdf file was:

Created: 2012-02-24 15:07:49

Modified: 2012-02-24 15:08:39″

It even appears the Ministry of Truth have been busier than first suspected, with yet more information on compulsory workfare vanishing from the DWP’s website.

This blog reveals that the prospectus for the Work Programme also seems to have gone walkabout. If you go to where the prospectus was originally located you are informed: “The page you are looking for is no longer available on the DWP site.”  You can then follow a link to the archive (PDF) which contains the prospectus.  Whilst it is not unusual for documents to be archived, there are plenty of other documents about the Work Programme still available on the DWP’s website, yet any mention of the mandatory nature of the scheme appears to have been removed.  That includes the table below from the prospectus which clearly shows that Iain Duncan Smith was lying when he claimed in the Mail that “our work programme is entirely voluntary”.

You don’t even need to go internet sleuthing to expose their lies now that broken toy retailers Poundland have said they have ended:

“participation in the government’s mandatory work programme.”

Which contrasts sharply with Chris Grayling’s claim on the Today programme yesterday that “There is no circumstance in which we would mandate any individual to take part in work activity for a big company, that doesn’t happen.”

The Guardian asked Poundland to specify exactly which scheme they meant, which they did saying:

“Poundland have been taking part in two schemes, the work programme and the work experience scheme,”

“Poundland has suspended its participation in the work programme, because of concerns about the compulsory nature of the programme but they are continuing with the work experience, which is voluntary.”

Most claimants could have warned Grayling that you can’t really trust anything you get from a pound shop.

This statement is important because it refers to the Work Programme, not the Mandatory Work Activity scheme, or the much discussed Work Experience scheme for young people.  Work Programme can see claimants forced to work for private companies for up to six months without pay, something that DWP ministers have pretended isn’t happening time and time again.

Iain Duncan Smith and his minion Grayling have repeatedly told bare faced lies over the last couple of weeks as the workfare story has continued unabated. That they remain in post tells us everything we need to know about this shameful government. Next time Lansley or Cameron claim they are not privatising the NHS, remember this – they lie through their fucking teeth and there is no reason to ever believe a word this government tells us again.

The blog mentioned above also has an interesting story about Cameron’s recent disastrous visit to a hospital in Newcastle, which was also covered up.  The Ministry of Truth has had a busy month.