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Week of Action Against Workfare: 7 – 14 July 2012 – Press Release

Protests against workfare will take place between July 7th & 14th across the country, in a week of action called by the Boycott Workfare network to escalate the campaign against forced unpaid work. Twelve towns and cities are already taking part, with more locations expected to be announced throughout the week. [1] [2]

In Brighton on Saturday 7th protesters, some dressed as a chain gang, will be holding a ‘Workfare Walk of Shame’ around business and charities who are making use of unemployed people as free labour, starting off from the Clock Tower at 11am.

At the same time static protests are also due to take place outside branches of Holland & Barrett, a company committed to over a thousand workfare placements, representing a significant proportion of their 3500-strong workforce.[3]

Pip Tindall from Brighton Benefits Campaign commented,

“Holland & Barrett show us how workfare really affects all of us.  They call it ‘work experience’ but they actually planned to replace paid staff with free labour. It’s a massive state handout to a private company.

They also show that concentrated protest works, because today Holland & Barrett have suggested they will no longer be taking part in the work experience scheme.  However paying ‘apprentices’ starvation wages is little better than paying them nothing at all.  We still have to pressure companies like this.  If they have work that needs doing, they should be taking on properly paid staff.”

Trade unionists will be taking part in the protests.  Union branches have been signing the Boycott Workfare pledge to oppose workfare, and Unite has openly condemned workfare as ‘state sponsored slavery’.[4]

Giuseppina from the TUC Unemployed Workers Centre said,

“Unemployed people are being exploited under threat of losing their benefits, but in fact workfare affects all workers. Workfare is an attack on pay and conditions, on employment rights and representation.  We’ve seen overtime and holiday working cut for paid staff in these businesses. And if your boss can get someone to do your  job for nothing, how long before they get rid of you altogether? ”

Further protests are planned for later in the week, including a picket of the offices of private workfare provider A4E on Friday, and daily communications blockades.  Despite being paid millions of pounds in public money, leaked figures suggest that A4E is failing to meet the minimum requirements for its Work Programme contract, with only 3.5% of “clients” finding long term work (at a cost of roughly £11,250 per person). [5]

The evidence against workfare is mounting. Peer research has shown that Mandatory Work Activity has no impact on people finding work. [6] The outcome of a Judicial Review which argued that the schemes are unlawful and amount to forced labour is expected soon. [7]  Yet the workfare industry wants more funds and greater power to cut benefits. [8]

“Despite the fact that workfare does nothing to reduce the numbers of people out of work, and that the private providers are getting paid millions for nothing, the workfare schemes are actually set to expand.” Pip said.  “And we’re seeing a huge rise in other forms of unpaid or very low paid labour, like internships and apprenticeships.

We have to end this ‘something for nothing’ culture among employers.” [9]

A full list of Brighton events for the Week of Action can be found on the Brighton Benefit Campaign website. [10]

 

Notes:

[1] Boycott Workfare is a UK-wide campaign network to end forced unpaid work for people who receive welfare. Workfare profits the rich by providing free labour, whilst threatening the poor by taking away welfare rights if people refuse to work without a living wage.  More infor at http://www.boycottworkfare.org/

[2] The list of public actions for the week of action against workfare continues to grow and can be found here: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=1154

[3] More information on Holland & Barrett’s involvement in workfare: http://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/2012/03/20/one-quarter-of-holland-barrett-staff-could-be-workfare-slaves/.

[4]  The Unite statement can be found here: http://www.unitetheunion.org/news__events/latest_news/workfare_s__state_sponsored_sl.aspx

[5] On 29 June 2012, Channel 4 exposed leaked figures which show that A4E is failing to meet its minimum targets: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXg4-6frynM

[6] Research find Mandatory Work scheme does not improve job chances: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/jun/13/mandatory-work-scheme-government-research

[7] Cait Reilly’s Judicial Review took place on 26-27 June 2012. See her lawyer’s press release: http://www.publicinterestlawyers.co.uk/news_details.php?id=263

[8] David Cameron’s back-to-work firms want benefits cut more often http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/jun/30/david-cameron-work-firms-benefits?INTCMP=SRCH

[9]  A list of some of the companies which are or have been involved in workfare can be found here: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?page_id=16

[10] Brighton Benefits Campaign brings together those in & out of work, whether or not they are on benefits, to fight the cuts and privatisation of the welfare system.  https://brightonbenefitscampaign.wordpress.com/

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