Tag Archives: Sector Based Work Academies

The Biggest Attack On Wages Yet, Sectors With High Vacancies To Get Thousands Of Workfare Workers

Join the Day of Action Against B&M Stores on June 27th.

Join the Day of Action Against B&M Stores on June 27th.

The Government is claiming that up to 100,000 unpaid jobs are set to be created over the next year in a hand out to the corporate sector worth up to a billion pounds.  Astonishing some of these work experience positions will be targeted in areas which already have high numbers job vacancies making a mockery of the claim that these schemes are intended to reduce unemployment.

According to a recently updated document, produced to explain the various workfare schemes to the first victims of Universal Credit, the DWP are claiming that “An extra 100,000 work experience and sector-based work academy places have been made available between April 2015 and March 2016 for 18 to 24 year old jobseekers.” 

These are the corporate workfare schemes which have already seen almost half a million young people bullied into working for the pittance of benefits often for large national employers. This huge extension of the two schemes is being carried out at a time when unemployment is allegedly falling and this shows the real motivation for the extension of unpaid work.

In 2011 lying bastard Chris Grayling, then the Minister for Employment, launched Sector Based Work Academies, saying that they would be targeted at “sectors with high volumes of current local vacancies”.  You read that right.  Not areas of high unemployment, but the opposite, places where there are already lots of jobs.  Sector Based Work Academies can involve up to six weeks full time unpaid work and do not come with a guarantee of a job on completion.  So in sectors that are doing well, and that can afford to employ staff, the Government is encouraging employers to take on workers for free instead.  Workers that are funded by the tax payer and expected to survive on the pittance of benefits, just £57.90 a week for under 25s.

There has rarely been a more transparent measure to force down wages.  If greedy employers were expected to live by the same free-market principles inflicted on everyone else, then when demand for workers went up, they would have to provide better training and higher wages.  But the government are saying save your money, have a load of tax-payer funded free workers instead.  Britain’s biggest benefit scroungers are not the poor, but high street names like ASDA and Poundland.

Unpaid work for private companies is officially voluntary, and even illegal under minimum wage laws unless organised by the DWP.  But those who refuse corporate workfare face being sent on other mandatory forced work schemes for so-called community organisations.

It is unclear where these 100,000 new placements will come from, particularly as plans are being drawn up to force everyone under 21 into permanent workfare if they have been unemployed for over six months.  Many of the UK’s largest companies have withdrawn from unpaid work schemes completely after their carefully crafted corporate reputations disintegrated following protests from Boycott Workfare and others appalled at this grotesque exploitation of young workers.

Those protests are set to continue, with a day of action called against B&M Stores who in 2013 were even named workfare exploiter of the year by the vile welfare-to-work industry.  For more details visit (and share) Boycott Workfare’s website.

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Hundreds Of Disabled People Sent On Workfare Every Week, Is Unpaid Work The New Segregation?

workfare-tesco

Disabled activists protesting in 2007 against Tesco, an early pioneer of unpaid work. Pic from here

The new Minister for Murdering Disabled People, Nick Harper has teamed up with David Cameron this week to boast about huge numbers of disabled people being sent to work without pay, often for profit making companies.  The gushing press release forms part of the DWP’s cringe-making Disability Confident campaign, the latest gimmick to cover up the endless vicious attacks on disabled people by the department.

According to the figures around 45,000 people registered as disabled with Jobcentres have been referred to an unpaid work placement since 2011.  Of those 29,000 were sent on the Work Experience programme and 16,000 on Sector Based Work Academies, which the DWP now appear to be claiming leads to a guaranteed real job.  This is a lie, Sector Based Work Academies promise a job interview only as this guidance for employers wishing to scrounge free workers makes clear (PDF).

Both of these schemes are officially voluntary.  However with claimants facing benefits being stopped or sanctioned for trivial reasons and seemingly on the whims of Jobcentre staff then little could be said to be voluntary under the current regime.  Claimants who refuse could simply be sent on a mandatory workfare scheme instead, and many have been.  Almost 22,000 disabled people have been forced onto Mandatory Work Activity since 2011, bringing the total number of known unpaid disabled workers to 67,000 in the last three year.  This is more than the 61,000 disabled people who the DWP say have got jobs through the Work Programme – and as ilegal reports this largely represents young disabled people on Jobseeker’s Allowance, not those unable to work and claiming ESA, the benefit for people with more serious conditions or disabilities.

But even this does not tell the whole story of the number of disabled people who this Government has bullied into working without pay.  Supported Internships can involve up to a year’s unpaid work with private companies and are targeted at young people with a Learning Difficulty diagnosis or Special Educational Needs, Other young disabled people may have been sent on Traineeships – up to six months unpaid work leading to a vague possibility of eventual employment as an Apprentice at far below minimum wage.  Some disabled people will now be facing the prospect of being forced to attend a full time unpaid Community Work Placement for six months for so-called charities or community organisations.  And the number of disabled people forced into workfare on the Work Programme – which can even include people on out of work sickness or disability benefits – is simply unknown as no-one has any real idea what the companies running the scheme are up to.

If all these people are added to the figures then it seems likely that the number of disabled people sent on workfare is higher than the number who got actual real jobs through welfare-to-work schemes.  This is what the DWP means by being Disability Confident, an army of unpaid disabled workers, many only there under the threat of vicious benefit sanctions.

The abrupt closure of the Remploy factories was a nasty and vindictive act but few would argue that segregated employment for disabled people is something that should be encouraged into the future.  But at least the Remploy workers got paid.  A new segregation is now emerging.  Instead of real paid jobs, in an inclusive work force, thousands of disabled people now face endless and ever more draconian unpaid work schemes with many losing their benefits completely if they won’t, or can’t attend.

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Work Programme, Work Experience and Workfare – A Guide For Employers

“I employed somebody on the Government’s Work Programme in my restaurant and caught them spitting in the bleedin’ food.”  J. Oliver, Small Business Owner

 

The Government have been evasive about revealing too many details of their schemes aimed at forcing people to work for their benefits.  This lack of concise information has led to confusion for both benefit claimants and small business owners alike.

There are several schemes in which employers can get workers for free.  The largest scheme is the Work Programme, under which unemployed claimants are placed under the control of Welfare to Work companies such as A4e.  Unemployed people can be sent to work for no pay for periods of up to six months at a time.  This scheme is open to both the private and charitable sectors.  These workers must not be paid.

It is unclear whether unemployed people who refuse to attend workfare on this scheme will face benefit sanctions.  Guidance published by the DWP suggests that they will, however this guidance was changed abruptly earlier in the year. 

The Minister concerned, Chris Grayling, has told a Parliamentary Committee that no-one has ever been forced into ‘workfare’ on the Work Programme, however Freedom of Information requests have revealed it to be common practice.  The best advice for employers who are opposed to unemployed people being coerced by sanctions into working for free is to avoid those on the Work Programme.

Work Experience is a scheme for young people under which they can be sent to carry out unpaid work for up to two months.  This is the scheme which drew protests earlier in the year and is currently at the centre of a court case to establish its legality.  It is therefore possible that this scheme may turn out to be unlawful.  The scheme is open to private and charitable sector organisations.  Workers must not be paid.

Once again it is unclear whether sanctions apply to this scheme.  The Government has announced that young people will not be sanctioned should they refuse to attend (or leave at any point).   Informal reports from benefit claimants suggest however that young people are still being threatened with sanctions for non-attendance.  Once again, if you are opposed to benefit sanctions, it is best avoided.

Mandatory Work Activity is four weeks unpaid work and used as punishment by Jobcentre staff who feel that somebody isn’t trying hard enough to find a job.  It is believed that those who refuse to attend workfare on the above two programmes are sentenced to Mandatory Work instead.  The system operates in a similar way to the Community Payback scheme for offenders, however presently unemployed people are not required to wear uniforms.  This scheme is open to charities and businesses which can demonstrate a ‘community benefit’.  Workers must not be paid.

These are the largest ‘workfare’ style schemes however Sector Based Work Academies and the Community Action Programme are just two more examples of the endlessly complex Government schemes intended to compel the unemployed to work for their benefits.

The schemes are administered by Welfare to Work companies who are contacting small businesses now in order to secure placements for unemployed claimants.  Under some schemes these companies get paid for every person they refer to an unpaid position and will use every trick in the book to convince businesses to accept a ‘workfare’ worker.

Whilst for many employers the idea of employing people to work for free is a ‘no brainer’ there are several potentially costly pitfalls that must be considered.

Workfare has proved hugely unpopular with the general public.  An informal survey carried out at pickets of companies using workfare showed that around 9 out of 10 people refuse to enter a shop or restaurant when they discover staff aren’t being paid.  It is not just charities like Oxfam and Marie Curie who have issued clear rejections of the scheme.  Major companies such as Tesco, Boots and Burger King have also pulled out of the scheme due to threats of mass boycotts and damage to their reputations.

The Government will try and keep your company’s involvement in workfare a secret, however there is no legislation planned to prevent workfare workers from revealing where they are sent.  Should your company use workfare you should assume that at some point people will find out.  Can your company afford the kind of negative publicity which might arise should your customers find out you don’t pay your staff?

Despite Government claims, it is not just anarchists, socialists and Trade Unionists who object to unpaid work.  Thousands of people have bombarded workfare using companies on social networking sites such as twitter and facebook.  A Conservative Councillor recently quit his post over the Government’s treatment of the unemployed.  Workfare is unpopular across the political spectrum.

As well as widespread condemnation of the scheme online, there have been an unprecedented numbers of protests and campaigns targeting companies which use workfare.  Whilst this guide for employers was being written a National Week of Action Against Workfare was taking place.

One company – Holland & Barrett – was so overwhelmed by the sheer force of opposition to workfare that they reluctantly abandoned their use of unpaid workers.  A group calling themselves Solidarity Federation repeatedly called for pickets of their stores around the UK.   These pickets were well supported by other activist groups and the general public alike. A huge boycott campaign was also launched, whilst the company were repeatedly mocked on the internet. 

In a PR disaster the company pulled out of workfare accusing protesters of acting violently towards their staff.  These claims were not substantiated and led to many customers turning a temporary boycott of the firm into a permanent one.  Holland & Barrett had corporate plans to replace around a quarter of their workforce with unpaid labour, however even this colossal saving was not enough to stop them leaving the scheme.  Could your company afford to be the next Holland & Barrett?

Workfare is unpopular with Trade Unions with many of the larger Unions issuing blanket condemnations of the practice.  If you have a heavily unionised workforce then you should expect resistance from current employees should you take on unpaid staff.

Many workfare workers are believed to be highly politicalised.  Rumours just started on the internet have suggested union activists, and even anarchists are deliberately infiltrating un-unionised workforces via workfare schemes.  There is a danger of sabotage.  Websites have appeared which show complex ways in which workers can cost employers money without being traced.  We can not allow ourselves to be held to ransom by these individuals.  But it is vital that employers recognise the consequences of having a potential fifth column of hardened radicals present within their workforce.

Due to the changes currently being made to sickness benefits, the nature of unemployed benefit claimants has changed.  Many people, including people with often serious physical and mental health conditions, are now judged ‘fit for work’.  There have been numerous stories in the press of people dying soon after being judged able to work.  In addition there have been several suicides linked to benefit reforms as well as the recent story of a man who set himself on fire outside his local Jobcentre.

Your business needs to be aware that potential unpaid workers may be vulnerable or simply unwell.  It is your company that is likely to be legally responsible should adequate insurance and Health and Safety procedures not be in place.

Remember that Jobcentres and Welfare to Work companies may not be aware of any health conditions or disabilities that workfare candidates may have.  Other disadvantaged groups, such as those dependent on drugs and alcohol or ex-offenders, are also likely to be referred to workfare positions.  Once again, Jobcentre staff are not likely to be aware of a claimant’s personal circumstances, and claimants are under no obligation to reveal information to them or you.

Should a vulnerable person have an accident or even die in your business premises then it is you and your company who will find themselves on the front pages.  Consider the experiences of Molly Prince, the boss of insurance firm Close Protection who were recently in the news after workfare staff were made to sleep under a bridge.  Molly was forced to resort to employing the costly services of Max Clifford after her personal life, and previous convictions became the story of the day.  Could you, or your family, handle this kind of tabloid intrusion into your personal life should the worst happen?

These are just some of the negative factors which businesses and charities alike should consider before employing workfare staff.  Perhaps the main concern however is the legality of the scheme.  The current court case attempting to have workfare ruled illegal is unlikely to be the last legal challenge to unpaid labour.  If workfare is ruled to be unlawful at any point then companies who partook in the scheme may find themselves with a huge wages bill.

Theatre Union BECTU and the National Union of Journalists have recently been successful in gaining back dated wage payments for interns who were employed without pay on non-government work experience placements.  HMRC has also demanded National Insurance to be paid for the period that interns were employed. 

If workfare is ruled to be similarly illegal then companies could find themselves with a wage and National Insurance bill for every workfare worker they have ever employed.

That recruiting unpaid staff may not be as profitable as it appears is easily demonstrated by the number of large employers who have pulled out of the scheme.  It is clear that for many businesses, workfare isn’t working.  Small companies in particular should consider the potential costs of what may look, on the surface, to be an attractive idea.  There really is no such thing as a free lunch as many workfare using companies have recently discovered.