Tag Archives: work experience

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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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

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

The Tories And The TUC Are Both Hypocrites Over Unpaid Work

Interns-workers-and-the-minimum-wage1The breath-taking hypocrisy of both the Tory Party and the TUC was laid bare this week after an astonishing document emerged which advises Tory Party MPs on how to dodge minimum wage legislation by renaming interns as ‘volunteers’.

The leaflet, which was published on the Graduate Fog website, provides legal advice on minimum wage legislation along with a template letter that can be used to fob off any enquiries to MPs about their use of unpaid interns.  This shoddy attempt to dodge the rules on paying workers comes in the same week that David Cameron announced in Parliament that his Government was naming and shaming firms which don’t pay minimum wage.

It is not just the Tory Party who are shameless hypocrites when it comes to unpaid work however.  The TUC have been quick to criticise this document, with a press release claiming they are ‘disappointed that MPs are being advised on how to get round the minimum wage’.

Yet late last year the very same TUC were involved in the Week of Workfare, a DWP funded celebration of unpaid Work Experience.  The TUC have also backed a Quality Standard award for work experience – even going as far as supporting a document which called for companies which use unpaid workers to be paid by the tax payer.  This is despite the TUC claiming to be opposed to workfare, which is what the Government’s Work Experience scheme is.  As pointed out by @boycottworkfare, last year’s vote at the TUC Conference to campaign against workfare seems to have been completely ignored.

It appears that the TUC leadership think unpaid work for largely middle class graduates wanting to work for the Tory Party is disappointing – but workfare for the poor is just fine.  You might even question whose side they are on, because at the moment it doesn’t look much like it’s ours.

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DWP Using Workfare Staff To Promote Workfare

With Employment Minister Esther McVey too lazy or gutless to defend the Government’s floundering workfare programme, the DWP have resorted to using people on workfare themselves to justify the scheme.

As part of the DWP’s social media fightback, @SouthLondonJobs will be holding an online event tomorrow promoting the Work Experience scheme.  Guest editor Nisha will be editing the twitter feed for a day which has been dubbed #TakeOverDay – so take it over.

According to @DWPgovuk Nisha will be explaining how taking part in Work Experience can boost your employability, except that sadly hasn’t happened in her case yet or she wouldn’t be on workfare.

The DWP will no doubt claim tomorrow that unpaid Work Experience for private companies like Argos, or even the public sector like the DWP, is entirely voluntary.  As most claimants know, this is far from the case in practice and George Osborne confirmed this in his Autumn Statement when he announced that young people who refuse unpaid work experience will instead be sent to carry out 780 hours community work.

But we shouldn’t take it out on Nisha, who will be tweeting from @SouthLondonJobs tomorrow – she’s one of us, not one of them.  If she refuses to promote workfare then she may find herself sanctioned after all.  And no sending her out for a long weight or left-handed screwdriver.

Instead tomorrow offers the chance to tell twitter about the realities of workfare, and don’t forget to use the DWP’s latest hashtag #job2014.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Wages For Interns, Workfare For The Poor Says Jo Swinson MP

Jo_Swinson_QTLittle sums up the vile double standards at the heart of Britain’s class ridden society than a campaign against unpaid internships for graduates which ignores the massive expansion of unpaid work for everyone else.

So entrenched has this contemptible hypocrisy become that some MPs – like Liberal Democrat Jo Swinson – are only too happy to condemn unpaid work for their own little Tarquins and Jemimas whilst inflicting the exact same thing on those they judge the lower orders.

Jo Swinson has today been launching a campaign against unpaid interns and is threatening to name and shame companies which do not pay the minimum wage.  Yet, as spotted by @boycottworkfare, Swinson herself has been involved in promoting unpaid work in her constituency in a scheme she described as ‘fantastic’.

The latest campaign against unpaid work for the middle classes comes at a time that the coalition government is rolling out a huge extension of workfare.  The latest ‘Traineeships’ involve five months unpaid work and are not even designed to help people get a real job.  Instead the hope is that they will lead to people being given Apprenticeships – often at below the minimum wage.  Or they could just lead to more unpaid Work Experience on a different government scheme.  Young people are now to be expected to work for free or peanuts for not just months, but years in some cases.

These schemes are at least voluntary in theory, although whether they are voluntary in practice remains to be seen as Jobcentres are known to use benefit sanctions and other mandatory workfare schemes to bully claimants into unpaid work.  The latest programme aimed at the long term unemployed however is far from voluntary and will involve blocks of forced unpaid work for six months at a time under threat of benefits being removed completely.

Interns of all kinds should be paid just like any other worker, including young people without degrees starting out in their first job or those who are long term unemployed.  But the idea that there is some kind of inherent difference between unpaid work for the rich and workfare for the poor is as offensive as it is nonsense.  About the only real difference between unpaid internships and work experience schemes is that internships usually lead to well paid careers in popular sectors like fashion, the media or entertainment.  In contrast Work Experience generally leads back to the dole as grasping employers maintain a rolling stock of free workers instead of paying wages.

Swinson is not the only MPs who condemns unpaid work for the well off but actively supports workfare.  Labour MP Hazel Blears is guilty of the exact same hypocrisy.  It should tell us everything we need to know about the political class that MPs of all parties are now quite openly arguing that the middle classes – in other words their own children – should have different rights to those born without a silver spoon wedged down their over-privileged necks.

Swinson has so far ignored people challenging her about her grotesque double standards on twitter, you can tell her what you think at: @joswinson

In a further embarrassment, Sky News are reporting that despite Lib Dems MPs lining up to condemn unpaid work for graduates, the party is still recruiting unpaid interns.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Five Months Workfare Introduced To Train Young People To Be Apprentices

riot-breaking-windowsA massive new unpaid work scheme is currently being rolled out which will see young people expected to complete a six month Traineeship with the aim of them ‘progressing’ to becoming an Apprentice.

These traineeships – which have been designed in consultation with employers and are being managed by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES), not the DWP –  will include a period of unpaid work for private sector employers for up to five months. The scheme is aimed at unemployed young people aged between 16 and 24 with little work experience.  According to the DfES however Traineeships will not be appropriate for the ‘most disengaged’ young people who require the ‘intensive support’ of the Work Programme (stop laughing).

The Traineeships will  offer English and Maths tuition if needed, and ‘work preparation training’, the latest invention dreamed up by training providers and welfare-to-work companies to fleece the tax payer.  But all this will have to be fit in around the unpaid work placement which will make up the bulk of the new scheme.  And just in case employers were worried, there is no requirement to provide any vocational training, meaning if a young person is abandoned to stack shelves or mop floors for 35 hours a week on no pay, that’s just fine.  Employers will not even be required to pay travel or meal expenses.

Participants on the programme must be offered a job interview at the end of the period of workfare, but astonishingly there is no requirement that this is actually for a real job.  Guidance from the DfES merely states that:  “Where possible, the young person should receive a real job interview where a post or apprenticeship has become available.  However, we recognise that this will not always be feasible and in these cases a formal exit interview with the employer who provided their work placement will help the young person to practice and prepare for future opportunities”

After leaving a six month Traineeship, the DfES hopes young people will then become Apprentices, paid a measly £2.65 an hour for the first year, but there is no guarantee of this either.  They could simply be slung back on the dole where they are likely to face yet more workfare.

Whilst Traineeships are not managed by the DWP they have been designed to be compatible with the Job Seekers Allowance rules.  This does not mean they are mandatory – yet – but it does mean that young people could be bullied and cajoled into starting a Traineeship with the threat of workfare elsewhere or simply because Jobcentre advisors often lie and pretend things are mandatory when they aren’t.

The ever growing and endless complexity of workfare schemes now mean young people could end up working for months on end and never see a penny in wages or even be given any quality training.   This mass influx of unpaid workers into the private sector is likely to have a devastating impact on the wages and conditions of existing workers.  It seems that this Government is hell bent on making wages a thing of the past for those under 25 and all low waged workers will feel the consequences of that.

The desperation of this Government to suck up to employers and rig the unemployment figures – young people on Traineeships will no longer be counted as unemployed – is fast becoming farcical.  Now it seems that young people will be expected to train to be an apprentice, where they will train again to do a minimum wage job, and when the apprentice ends they will be sent on Work Experience for yet more training.  Except there isn’t really any training, just work, for no money, and all too often no job at the end of it.

And even if they eventually get a real job, they won’t be able to afford anywhere to live or any kind of quality of life as wages plummet.  This is the future being created for working class children, a future without hope, education, prospects or even the chance of a home.  So don’t be surprised when they kick in shop windows to take what little can be salvaged from the neo-liberal hell they have inherited.

The Delivery Framework for Traineeship can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/223591/Traineeships-framework-July2013.pdf

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Cadbury And Morrisons To Help Launch Mass Workfare Scheme

workfare-protestUPDATE: Morrisons are denying on twitter that they will use workfare and are simply offering 3 day unpaid ‘taster sessions’.  They also claim this scheme is not being run by Jobcentre Plus and is not connected to a DWP scheme, despite the DWP stating it is a partnership between the Jobcentre and the IGD.  According to the supermarket, the main aim of this scheme is to help someone with “CV writing hints, interview skills and presentation tips” and no-one will be sanctioned for not taking part.  However since participants are to be recruited from Jobcentres, the risk of sanctions will be very real and Morrisons will have no say in the matter.  It is unclear which of the companies involved in the scheme will use workfare, or the work experience ‘opportunities’ being encouraged by Employment Minister Mark Hoban.  Once again employers like Morrisons are finding out the hard way that any involvement with the DWP is toxic as Ministers will use their names and reputations to prop up the exploitative and failing workfare and sanctions regime.  See this comment for more info.

In a major blow to all those struggling to find a job, the greedy food industry could be lining up to hire over 15,000 unpaid workers the DWP have announced to day.

In a joint operation between the DWP and the Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD), young people on benefits are to be expected to stack shelves and work on production lines for companies like Morrisons and Muller Dairy without pay.

This exploitative scheme – which will not just damage the chances of anyone hoping to find a real job in sector,  but could also be used to place pressure on the wages and working conditions of existing workers – seems to be yet another attempt by grasping supermarket and food producing bosses to bring workfare into their businesses by the back door.

According to the DWP, participants will attend “workshops, and interview sessions with HR managers” but more importantly according to Mark Hoban  businesses will be encouraged to offer “work experience opportunities”.  It is likely this will mean young people sent to work without pay for up to 2 months on the Government’s Work Experience programme.

Whilst this scheme is officially voluntary, if claimants refuse to attend then they could be sent on Mandatory Work Activity instead, which is backed by severe benefit sanctions.  With Jobcentre staff working to unofficial targets to sanction as many benefit claims as possible – and over a million sanctions expected to be handed out this year – nothing can be said to be ‘voluntary’ under the current Jobcentre regime.

Astonishingly there is no longer even any pretence that any of these workfare positions will eventually lead to a real job or even that they are valuable in helping young people find paid employment.  In a gushing press release, the only tangible benefit the DWP dare mention –  based on a pilot scheme last year – is that those forced to work for free might feel “more confident about applying for a job”.

The only people who will gain real benefits from Work Experience on this scheme are the food companies who are to be given an endless stream of tax payer funded free workers.  Meanwhile as the DWP well knows, these young people will no longer be included in the unemployment figures (although they are usually still included in the less reported Claimant Count).

The Head of Communications of the IGD is currently crowing about the scheme on twitter where he can be contacted at: @jonneal_IGD

According to DWP @Morrisons, Muller Dairy (@FreshMilkDaily) and Mondelēz, producers of @CadburyUK, are all involved in the scheme.

For all the latest news on resisting workfare visit: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid