Boycott Workfare – campaign to end forced unpaid work for benefits


by Guest    
5:31 pm - June 10th 2012

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contribution by Izzy Koksal

The revelation that the Jubilee celebrations were staffed using workfare – forced unpaid work for benefits – subjected to terrible working conditions has provoked outrage.

But whilst this is a particularly sickening example of workfare, with an institution of great wealth and privilege benefiting from the work of those living on meagre benefits, this abuse and exploitation of the unemployed is not the ‘one off’ that Cameron’s spokeswoman claims it to be.

Workfare is being used in high street stores, charities, and public services, including the NHS, up and down the country.

Who we are
Boycott Workfare is a fast growing nation-wide grassroots campaign group that is campaigning against workfare. The group is made up of claimants and those who are concerned about the use of workfare.

It started in London back in 2010, there are now groups organising around workfare in locations all over the UK including Birmingham, Edinburgh, Brighton, and Liverpool. Our activities include getting out information to claimants about their rights, encouraging organisations to pledge against using workfare, and exposing and taking direct action against those who use workfare.

Internet activism also plays an important part in the campaign with members of the public contacting workfare exploiters through their twitter and facebook accounts. One of our current projects is ‘the Great High Street Sleuth‘ in which we encourage people to investigate workfare on their local high street.

Why we’re campaigning
Workfare represents the erosion of hard fought for welfare rights. It is exploitative and degrading. No one should be forced to work for free, everybody deserves a living wage – particularly when many of the companies involved make profits of millions of pounds.

The last thing they need is state subsidised labour. Workfare also has significant implications for those in paid employment. Their wages and conditions are undermined by the use of unpaid labour – we have already heard of several examples of workers being denied overtime as the company preferred to use Job Centre labour.

Get involved
Come along to one of our meetings advertised here on our website. As well as London meetings, there are groups meeting in Edinburgh, Birmingham, and Liverpool – we’ll get their dates put on the website soon!

Get involved in our online community – we have very active Facebook and Twitter accounts

Download leaflets from our website to hand out outside your local Job Centre or ‘welfare to work’ provider

Do the Great High Street Sleuth on your high street – tips can be found here

No groups near you? Why not set one up in your area. Contact info@boycottworkfare.org for advice

Keep checking our website for the latest workfare news and actions.

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Reader comments


a: approve strongly of the campaign.
b: “we have already heard of several examples of workers being denied overtime” – surely, ideally, nobody would get overtime. 38 hours is quite enough; it’s falling into all sorts of dodgy traps when we present overtime as OK rather than something that should be addressed by hiring adequate numbers of properly-paid staff.

Come on guys, you are about to ruin the only hope that David Cameron has of brainwashing the entire country into believng this is The Big Society in action.

3. Chaise Guevara

@ 1 john b

“surely, ideally, nobody would get overtime. 38 hours is quite enough; it’s falling into all sorts of dodgy traps when we present overtime as OK rather than something that should be addressed by hiring adequate numbers of properly-paid staff”

Firstly, some businesses have serious peaks and troughs in workload, and these can be unpredictable. So, in the absence of overtime, what should these companies do? Have employees hanging around doing nothing three days out of four? Hire temps? They’re not exactly the highest-paid and best-treated of workers.

Secondly, saying 38 hours is “quite enough” sounds arbitrary to me. You might think it’s enough, and I might (indeed do) agree. But there are plenty of people who get a good wage but still work overtime because they think the extra pay is worth the time spent. And it varies from person to person: if you live five minutes from your workplace, overtime may seem a lot less arduous to you than it would for your coworker who has to make a 3-hour round trip to the office every day.

The revelation that the Jubilee celebrations were staffed using workfare – forced unpaid work for benefits

I have no time for “workfare” but telling lies does not help make the case against it.

None of the kids involved in this case were “forced” in any way to take part- not even by the threat to withdraw benefits if they did not participate.

Get it right.

5. Charlieman

@3. Chaise Guevara: “Secondly, saying 38 hours is “quite enough” sounds arbitrary to me.”

It’s not so arbitrary as it sounds. If you study a basic course on ergonomics, you learn that asking workers to perform lots of hours week after week is inefficient for employers. “about 40 hours” provides the best long term productivity, but that is going to be subject to shift patterns as well. Siestas (a big break in the middle of the day) can be a good thing.

Returning to your point: “Firstly, some businesses have serious peaks and troughs in workload…” Getting workers to do extra hours for a short period of time during a peak may provide the same productivity as a 38 or 40 hour week, but it is not sustainable practice. Eventually the employer ends up paying unhappy workers for 60 hours for output that happy workers would deliver in 40 hours.

Extended work hours are bad for employers and for employees.

@4 Maybe not forced, but they are put in a position where they feel they have little choice. That is the inhumane element.

I’m somewhat struggling to see what the big problem with workfare is given that we have long passed the point at which this could be considered an insurance scheme.

Given the above, people are taking money that others have had confiscated from them so what is so terrible about the principle of asking them to do something in return? There may well be problems with the execution of this but the idea behind it?

If you work for Holland and Barrett then as a shop worker you are on a ten hour contract (it means they have to do far less for you as an employee) and the normal 40 hour week was made up as overtime (at your basic wage).

Since Holland and Barrett started using workfare people haven’t been getting that overtime. It’s acted as a means to take paid work away from people and subsidised a private company at the taxpayers expense. Holland and Barrett aren’t doing this to provide work experience, they’re doing it so they don’t have to pay their staff.

A lot of companies didn’t take on Christmas temps because they could get workfare people in for a month. They weren’t interested in taking any of those people on and giving them actual paid jobs, and they pulled out once the Christmas rush was over. They’ve now rejoined because free labour paid for by the taxpayer is so great. They do make it clear they won’t be employing anyone there to gain experience in moving things around in the stockroom and putting things on the belt.

Before Christmas there were people reporting Asda was sending paid workers home and having workfare ‘clients’ do their jobs

“7. Falco
I’m somewhat struggling to see what the big problem with workfare is given that we have long passed the point at which this could be considered an insurance scheme.

Given the above, people are taking money that others have had confiscated from them so what is so terrible about the principle of asking them to do something in return? There may well be problems with the execution of this but the idea behind it?”

The idea behind it is that instead of receiving unemployment benefit as a return for the national insurance contributions you have paid while in employment (one of the stated reasons for national insurance) you are a dirty scrounger who needs to be punished.

Private companies are then subsidised with free labour so they don’t have to do things like create temp jobs at Christmas or pay staff overtime, or hire people at all in some cases. It means business models so grossly inefficient that there is insufficient income to pay the majority of staff are suddenly practical.

It also undermines capitalism, because suddenly an awful lot of people are working but not being paid for it and not putting that money into the economy to buy goods and services.

Essentially the taxpayer ends up paying private companies not to create jobs, thus not creating more taxpayers, not increasing income in to the treasury to pay off the deficit and not reducing the benefits bill.

It’s a lovely policy for achieving the exact opposite of what the government say they want (that the private sector create jobs so we come out of recession).

If they had paid jobs, they wouldn’t be on benefits.This is why apart from a little buzz you get from someone else suffering, this actually harms you as well.

Less money in the economy means less goods and services. It increases profits and thus the money at the top, but the most efficient means of stimulating the economy involves ways of giving people at the bottom a bit more money, because they aren’t going to stick it under the mattress or launder it through a tax haven or whatever, they’ll go out and spend it locally, buying goods or services, and thus helping make sure the businesses in their community stay in business.

“pagar
The revelation that the Jubilee celebrations were staffed using workfare – forced unpaid work for benefits

I have no time for “workfare” but telling lies does not help make the case against it.

None of the kids involved in this case were “forced” in any way to take part- not even by the threat to withdraw benefits if they did not participate.

Get it right.”

They were told they’d be paid when they got on the coach, then told they wouldn’t and if they didn’t work for free they wouldn’t be considered for paid work during the Olympics.

Also being taken a couple of hundred miles away from where they live in the small hours of the morning might have had an effect. How were they going to get home?

None of this seem shady to you?

@7 Because these people haven’t taken (as you claim) money from Argos, or Holland and Barrett’s, but its corporations such as these that are benefiting from Workfare in free labour (in the sense, they are not paying these people).

It also has a bad effect on workers at these places. Why give someone overtime when you can get someone to work for free?

It is also facetious that this improves the employability of those that take part. “Will work for free” only sells the wrong part of you.

Workfare effects all of us. The full effect will be seen soon, but to support what is essentially slave labour is just disgusting. To claim benefit fraud makes it justified, completely ignoring corporate fraud and tax evasion is one of the biggest ills of the public thought.

12. So Much For Subtlety

11. lentileatleft

It also has a bad effect on workers at these places. Why give someone overtime when you can get someone to work for free?

Isn’t this what the Left wants – everyone working a 36 hour week? Job sharing?

It is also facetious that this improves the employability of those that take part. “Will work for free” only sells the wrong part of you.

Whereas “sitting on the couch smoking weed in front of the TV for three years” sells the better part of you? Working, any work, is better than rotting on the dole.

Workfare effects all of us. The full effect will be seen soon, but to support what is essentially slave labour is just disgusting. To claim benefit fraud makes it justified, completely ignoring corporate fraud and tax evasion is one of the biggest ills of the public thought.

It is not remotely close to slavery. You don’t want to do it, you don’t have to. That alone makes it other than slavery. Benefit fraud is a massive problem and we can no longer afford it. There is no corporate fraud or tax evasion worth mentioning in Britain. Despite everything, British people are still remarkably honest about paying their taxes. Even if they weren’t, reforming welfare is a priority and a way to restore trust.

The government stated that over a 20 month period they failed to collect £110 billion in taxes.

£1 billion in fraud, £4 billion in errors made by the DWP and £17 billion of unclaimed benefits doesn’t make it seem like benefit fraud is the biggest problem. Even the Tories are putting the figure for tax evasion at £25 billion. The vast majority of British people are law abiding and pay their taxes and/or claim the benefits they’re entitled to.

Also benefit fraud has nothing to do with workfare.

Can you not see why, from a capitalist point of view, workfare is bad for the economy?

Who knows what madness drives capitalists to eliminate consumers from a consumer driven economy.
It’s fairly entertaining really, prices are lowered to attract more sales, by sending manufacturing jobs abroad to places where the people are more easily exploited and by paying staff remaining here peanuts, or not employing/paying them at all, in order to facilitate those cheap prices, and soon the cheap prices need to remain cheap if not become cheaper because for ‘reasons unknown’ suddenly people can only afford the cheap prices and aren’t buying much.
I. Wonder. Why.

A return to fordism might help the capitalists out a bit.

15. Chaise Guevara

@ 5 Charlieman

Firstly, I’m not talking about sustained 60-hour weeks, I’m talking about occasional, workload-based, optional overtime. Which presumably doesn’t suffer the same problems.

Secondly, you’re presenting the business case for limiting overtime, not the moral case for banning it. If businesses want to restrict all workers to around 38 hours/week that’s up to them.

16. Shatterface

Given the above, people are taking money that others have had confiscated from them so what is so terrible about the principle of asking them to do something in return? There may well be problems with the execution of this but the idea behind it?”

Many of those on workfare would havepreviously been in employment, paid tax and NI contributions, etc. so they are now being forced to work to get back what had previously been confiscated from them.

@ 6

@4 Maybe not forced, but they are put in a position where they feel they have little choice. That is the inhumane element.

Then don’t say FORCED UNPAID WORK FOR BENEFITS.

Because its NOT TRUE.

18. Dissident

I find the rightwing delusions of neo Feudal patsies of Kleptocrats amusing.

benefit fraud = 1p
tax evasion/avoidance = £1
which costs smfs more?

Benefit fraud is spent in the local economy, helping businesses.

Tax evasion/avoidance floats around globally, harming local businesses.

The long term result is a repeat in this country the success of Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. The jewel of Africa…

Well done anti-capitalist rightinger!

14

Marx called it ‘contradictions of capitalism’ and simply put, it means that the things that capitalism strives for tends to destroy it. Of course, Marx would never have imagined the extent of state intervention in late capitalism.

@Dissident. Benefit fraud floats around globally with fraudsters going on foreign holidays which many seem to do. Tax evasion stays in the local economy when it’s paying cash in hand.

Oh, and your tax avoidance/evasion figures (most likely made up, but I’m going along with your argument); have you separated the legal from the illegal. Tax avoidance is legal you know. And does your figures for avoidance include money which HMRC won’t collect, such as corporation tax on losses.

21. Chaise Guevara

@ 20 Sadbutmadlad

“Benefit fraud floats around globally with fraudsters going on foreign holidays which many seem to do. Tax evasion stays in the local economy when it’s paying cash in hand.”

I love the way you’ve built this point on the assumption that tax evaders never go on holiday.

22. Earl Sweatshirt

Was signing on for 4 weeks and i could not find a job. i was trying really hard and they put me on a Mandatory Work placement. I knew i was not going to work for “free” or just to keep my JSA. So i had to not turn up. Now i am left stranded desperately looking for a job with no money living a very shit life. Nice one government, thought I would never say this since im a good lad but Fuck you Goverment.

23. Seven2off

@ Earl…

Give in to your anger… find a suitably Conservative target…
Show no mercy.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. McDave

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  2. Rotherham Politics

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  16. Izzy Koksal

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  30. Why Tiffany, 24, knows how to get UK off benefits… Thanks to the Wisconsin workfare scheme David Cameron would love to emulate in Britain | Atos Victims Group News

    [...] Boycott Workfare – the campaign to end forced unpaid work for benefits(liberalconspiracy.org) [...]





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