Tag Archives: work experience

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

Is M&S Workfare Scheme Illegal?

marks-spencer-workfareMarks and Spencer’s mealy mouthed response to criticism over their use of mass workfare has prompted the company to furiously deny that the scheme is anything to do with the DWP.

Whilst this piles yet more humiliation on hapless Iain Duncan Smith – who is fast running out of friends – it also appears to be an admission from the company that their workfare scheme is illegal.

As has been repeatedly pointed out this week by @BoycottWorkfare, so called ‘work experience’ programmes are only exempt from the minimum wage laws if they are government backed schemes.

This hasn’t stopped some of the UK’s largest companies flouting the laws with flaky unpaid work experience jobs or internships.  Several of those interns have been successful in claiming money back from the companies who expected them to work for free.  They have had an unlikely ally in the tax office, who even have a special hotline for people to discuss possible breaches of minimum wage laws at: https://www.gov.uk/pay-and-work-rights-helpline

The Government themselves issue very clear guidance to employers on whether the minimum wage laws should apply.  It is clear from these guidelines that four weeks stacking shelves at Marks and Sparks for no pay is almost certainly illegal.

M&S not only hope to save a cool £1 million in wages due to their use of unpaid workers, but have even been attempting to try and use it as a PR strategy to show how much they care about young unemployed people.  That hasn’t worked out well for the greedy wage thieves who have been bombarded on social media with people outraged at the company’s gross exploitation.

This weekend will see protests against Marks and Spark’s mass workfare in Newcastle, Hackney and Glasgow with further anti-workfare protests in Brighton and Willesden.

Spread the word and make sure they know that if they exploit us, then we will shut them down (and grass them up to the tax office).

For all the latest news on this week’s action against workfare keep an eye on: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

The Astonishing Workfare Hypocrisy of Hazel Blears MP

blearsHazel Blears’ shocking double standards have been exposed again this week with two stories posted within hours of each other on the Manchester Gazette news website.

One of these is the results of her Kids Without Connections programme, a workfare scheme where young people are tricked into working without pay in the mistaken belief it may help them find a real job.  Sadly for most of those who took part it was waste of time.  Just 16 of the 42 people who worked for free on the scheme have since found jobs or apprentices.

This is a truly dire figure given the nature of the young people involved, who were not just so motivated they were prepared to work for free but had passed any selection procedure for their placements.  They would almost certainly have found work just as quickly had they spent the time looking for a job.  Despite that Blears once again calls her unpaid work scheme ‘fantastic’.

The gushing response from Blears to this shambles is made even more astonishing by a story posted just a few hours earlier on the same website.  This features a report in which a large number of Manchester businesses state they believe unpaid internships for graduates are ‘wholly unacceptable’.

Hazel Blears agrees.  Workfare for the middle classes is not fantastic.  She thinks that “unpaid internships are unacceptable and that difficult economic conditions are no excuse for exploiting young people in the workplace.”

These quotes seem to have come from Blears’ office within days, if not hours of each other.  That she did not even notice her breathtaking double standards tells us everything we need to know about the attitude to unemployed people in the modern Labour Party.

Blears will no doubt be welcoming the poverty pimp jamboree in her home town as annual convention of the welfare-to-work industry opens in Manchester today.  Join in the Week of Action Against Workfare today by telling the exploiters what you think on the hashtag for the conference at #w2w2013.

And if you are in Manchester get down to the plush Beetham Tower Hilton Hotel tonight (Tues 9th July) at 7.30 and protest where the parasites will be enjoying a tax payer funded slap up meal.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

2% Of Our Workers Don’t Get Paid Boast Marks & Spencer

marks-spencer-workfareIn a brave public relations move Marks & Spencer are boasting how they intend to staff their dreary stores with over a thousand unpaid workers.

The company have announced they intend to provide 1,400 ‘placements’ for young people in a huge extension of their workfare scheme which has already seen over a thousand people work without pay for the company.

They claim this scheme is to help people find work – but only half of those who have been on the scheme have found jobs and not all of those were with M&S.  This is probably around the number who might have been expected to find jobs anyway.  Workfare has a terrible record in actually helping people find a real job and may even trap people in unemployment as the time available to job search disappears.

And it is this which should be pointed out to every young person who thinks that working unpaid for a supermarket or chain store will help then find work.  Some of the richest companies in the UK are colluding with the Government to trick those beginning their working lives into believing they should have to work for free first.

So entrenched has this become that Marks & Spencer are happy to boast that 2% of their work force is not paid. There was a time when companies paid their staff, even whilst they were being trained. Now they are attempting to offload this cost onto unemployed people and the tax payer,  and they think this is something to show off about!

Astonishingly this mass theft of people’s labour is presented as a wonderful opportunity for the people the company is exploiting.  It is certainly is a an opportunity for the greedy bosses at Marks & Spencer.  Unemployed people will be expected to work for a period of four weeks for up to 37 hours a week.  Even at minimum wage, this represents a whopping £1.3 million pound wage subsidy for the company – a subsidy being provided by some of the UK’s poorest people.

It is unclear whether this mass workfare scheme will be linked to formal Jobcentre workfare schemes such as the Work Programme or Work Experience.  After the workfare row blew up last year many companies pulled out of these programmes to launch their own versions of workfare instead – which they claim are entirely voluntary.

However under the present eligibility rules for Jobseekers Allowance, it is difficult to see how workfare can exist without some form of endorsement from the Jobcentre.  Claimants are now expected to spend 35 hours a week looking for work as a condition of claiming unemployment benefits.  Such is the draconian nature of the regime introduced by power crazed fool Iain Duncan Smith, unemployed people are no longer able to choose how and where they look for jobs.

If workfare at Marks and Spencer does not form part of Jobcentre agreed ‘work related activity’ then it is likely to affect a claimant’s eligibility for benefits.  And if it does, whilst it may not be formally mandatory, then young people who refuse this kind of workfare risk being sent on Mandatory Work Activity instead as the DWP takes revenge against those who refuse to work for free.  With claimants living in fear of soaring and punitive benefit sanctions – which can force people into utter destitution for up to three years – almost nothing is really voluntary for those signing on anymore.

Marks & Spencer are on twitter @marksandspencer and facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/MarksandSpencer.  You know what to do.

Feminist Fightback have called a picket of M&S in Hackney on Saturday 13th July https://www.facebook.com/events/181572138678606/

Join the Week of Action Against Workfare from the 6th-14th July.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Wetherspoons Are Out Of Workfare … Sort Of, Maybe

Boycott-workfare-holiday-innWetherspoons have announced they “no longer support the Workfare programme” on facebook in a statement which leaves more questions than answers.

The statement goes on to say: “We continue to support entirely voluntary work experience programmes, in particular those for the young, the disabled and ex-military. We define ‘entirely voluntary’ as programmes where candidates will not lose any benefits where they do not participate in the programme, and normally candidates are paid to complete this experience.  We do not support programmes if attendance is mandatory for benefits to be retained, for example Workfare.”

It is unclear whether this means they are still involved in the Government’s Work Experience programme.   When the workfare row broke out at the beginning of last year the DWP was forced to make Work Experience officially ‘voluntary’.  Unfortunately due to the current regime at the DWP nothing can be said to be voluntary anymore as claimants live in permanent fear of losing benefits the moment they put a foot wrong.

Claimants who refuse voluntary workfare can simply be sent on Mandatory Work Activity somewhere else instead.  Whilst the DWP continues to use benefit sanctions to punish claimants – with 2.25 million benefit sanctions imposed since this Government weren’t elected – then no Jobcentre run scheme is voluntary.

And even if someone does ‘volunteer’ to work unpaid for a private company it should still be resisted.  Wetherspoons are not a charity and have no right to be exploiting young people’s fear of unemployment  to trick them ‘volunteering’ to increase the profit they make.  Every worker deserves a wage.

Clarification is needed from Wetherspoons on their true position on workfare.  And whilst they’re at it they can have a fucking word with themselves for allowing their pubs to be used as EDL social clubs.

Wetherspoons are on twitter @jdwtweet and on facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/wetherspoon/168018523150

To join the fight against unpaid work visit Boycott Workfare.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Tesco Called on Government To Scrap Benefit Sanctions As Profits Dipped

tesco-exploitationTesco claim to have called on the DWP to scrap benefit sanctions in a response to a letter asking them about their use of forced, unpaid workers.

In a humiliating snub to Iain Duncan Smith, the company set up their own workfare scheme outside of the Jobcentre system last year.  Tesco say that this scheme is entirely voluntary but add in the letter:  “I appreciate your concerns and can advise that Tesco have suggested to the Department of Work and Pensions that, to avoid any misunderstanding about the voluntary nature of the scheme, the risk of losing benefits that currently exists should be removed.”

Now unless Tesco are fibbing, if their scheme is outside of the various DWP workfare schemes, then it should be entirely voluntary.  The statement suggests that in order to avoid confusion Tesco would like to see all benefit sanctions removed.  Tesco want free workers without the bad PR, and have no doubt calculated that with youth unemployment soaring, they can easily manipulate young people into working for free.  The company have even stated that “going forward” young people “accepted for work experience with Tesco” will have the option of being paid minimum wage and those that complete a placement successfully will be given a real job.

Yet just 300 of those who worked unpaid at Tesco have been employed, despite around 1,400 people having ‘donated’ their time to support the company.  What Tesco really seem to be saying is that occasionally we might employ someone without making them work unpaid first.  How fucking big of them.

There is another reason why Tesco might oppose benefit sanctions however.  Whilst Tesco are far from the cheapest shop, they are often the biggest in areas where there are high numbers of benefit claimants.  A significant chunk of the UK’s social security budget ends up in the pockets of Tesco shareholders – along with small local businesses and the utilities companies – something George Osborne seems to have forgotten.

Every family queuing at a foodbank is a family that didn’t shop in Tesco that week.  The latest available figures suggest 680,000 benefit sanctions were handed out in the first 10 months of 2012.  During the same period Tesco’s profits fell for the first time in 20 years.

The bedroom tax, council tax benefit changes, housing benefit cuts and the raft of other vicious measures set to impoverish the already impoverished are also all about to begin.  These changes are big enough, and will affect enough people, that Tesco, along with ASDA, Poundland, Lidl, Aldi and other discount retailers are waking up to the fact that if their core customers have less money, then so will they.

Tesco have already taken steps to mitigate this problem.  Shortly before Christmas last year Tesco teamed up with the The Trussell Trust “to launch the biggest ever nationwide food collection for people in crisis.”

Customers in Tescos around the UK were invited to donate an item of shopping bought at the supermarket to their local Trussell Trust foodbank.  The company set up collection points in many of their stores to make this easier.  Claimants shouldn’t be fooled by this apparently charitable gesture.  Tesco make no real secret of the fact they are a bunch of cunts.  They are simply attempting to ensure that if people are getting their food from foodbanks, then that food was bought in Tesco first.

Join South London Solidarity Federation and others to protest against workfare outside Peckham Poundland tomorrow: https://www.facebook.com/events/631652860184840/

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Join The Sue Ryder Rolling Online Picket and Help Stop Workfare!

workfare-protestBREAKING NEWS: Sue Ryder have said they will begin a ‘phased withdrawal’ from the Government’s mandatory workfare schemes.

via Boycott Workfare

Join an online, rolling picket of workfare exploiters Sue Ryder.

Starts: Now
Ends: When Sue Ryder pull out of all forms of workfare.

Since Sue Ryder became the first and only UK charity to admit they will use claimants on sickness and disability benefits as forced unpaid workers hundreds of people have contacted them to express disgust at their activities.

This followed the revelation that Sue Ryder are part of the Mandatory Work Activity scheme and also accepted free workers on the Community Action Programme. This is one of the nastiest workfare schemes which involves 720 hours forced unpaid work simply for being unemployed. This is over twice the maximum Community Service punishment which can be handed out by the Courts.

Sue Ryder are unrepentant about their use of mass workfare and have even boasted about how much money it makes them!  In a Question and Answer response to online criticism they sought to justify this by claiming people forced to work their shops under threat of poverty and destitution are ‘volunteers’.

We urgently need to keep up the pressure and ensure that Sue Ryder know exactly what the public think about forced unpaid work. Join the hundreds of people who have already said they will boycott the charity and send a message not just to Sue Ryder, but to any other charity considering the Government’s vile offer of forced free labour carried out by sick and disabled claimants.

Contact info

Telephone: 0845 050 1953 (they also have a freephone number for shopping online at: 0800 917 8123)

General contact form
There well staffed PR office can be reached on: alice.clements@suerydercare.org
To let them know you no longer wish to donate use: paul.martin@suerydercare.org
To find locations and contact details for individual shops visit

Sue Ryder have a youtube channel here
Join the facebook bombardment and tweet their main account @sue_ryder (people have been using the hashtag #shameonsue)

Sue Ryder shops with individual twitter accounts include: @SRReadingRetro, @SRHeadingley, @SueRyderVintage, @SueRyderKH, @SueRyderWinch, @suerydervandr@SueRyderSandbac, @Sueryderlitmoor, @SRHaworth1, @SRBrockworth, @SRyderDewsbury, @SueRyderLiscard, @SueRyderMond, @SueRyderFarrell, @SueRyderMoreton

SueRyder shops with active facebook pages include:
(search for “sue ryder” shop on facebook to find more)

Scott Arms Birmingham
South West
Arklow
Reading
Leicester
Pimlico
Bourton on the Water

We urge people not to contact hospices run by the charity or clinical/care staff. This is about ending workfare, not disrupting people’s care.

Whilst it’s well worth trying to speak to a manager or senior individual if possible please bear in mind most people taking calls/emails will be low paid retail/admin staff and could even be on workfare themselves. Be aware that is an offence to make telephone calls or send communications which are threatening, indecent or offensive.

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

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

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

Fuck the Government, Fuck the Courts, We’ll Beat Workfare on the Streets

superdrug-workfareJoin the Week of Action Against Workfare beginning on March 18th and let’s bring a final end to forced work:  http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=1996

Charities around the UK are abandoning the Government’s forced labour obsession and pulling out of workfare.  Last year the volume of pressure from the public forced many private companies to distance themselves, with ongoing pickets and boycotts aimed at High Street names.

After an ongoing and sustained campaign by Solidarity Federation even Holland & Barrett, who were planing to take on thousands of unpaid workers, abandoned their exploitative plans.  Sol Fed have no turned their attention to Poundland, with a protest being held in Peckham this Saturday (16th March): https://www.facebook.com/events/398008846962583/?ref=2

The Unions have condemned workfare, with the PCS yesterday issuing their strongest statement yet objecting to unpaid work.

And yesterday the Courts ruled that Iain Duncan Smith’s bodged legislation led to many workfare schemes being illegal.

Workfare has been rejected by the public, ethical charities everywhere, the Unions and now even the courts.  But even this is not enough for DWP ministers who have caused utter confusion by attempting to rush new rules into law – exactly the kind of panicky blundering that led to yesterday’s court verdict.

Workfare can now only be beaten on the street, organise and spread the word about the week of action to help make it happen!

Visit Boycott Workfare for more info or join the facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/events/517491058274105/

And tell the workfare using charities on twitter what you think:  @Sue_Ryder @RSPCA_official @pdsa_hq @ymca_england @salvationarmyuk @tcvtweets @Papworth_Trust @RBLI

(and in the meantime, for once in their miserable lives, it might actually be worth contacting your MP.  John Mcdonnell has tabled a ‘prayer’ – don’t ask – in Parliament which may delay the new rules and needs support from MPs: http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2012-13/1072)

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid