Personal Stories from Boycott Workfare

The anti-workfare organisation, Boycott Workfare, has posted some of the stories of people, who’ve been exploited by it over at their website. These include workers for the supermarkets, who were kept slaving away then asked it they would stay on and work for them a while longer. All on workfare, of course. One of the other stories is from ‘Karina’, a British citizen of Bangladeshi origin, who was forced to give up her English course in order take up her ‘work placement’. If she refused, she would lose her benefit. So much for Dave Cameron’s concern to make sure immigrants learn English as part of his programme to prevent social isolation and the growth of Islamist radicalism. It obviously doesn’t apply when there’s yet another high street store demanding more cheap drudge labour. And it goes on to include non-existent health and safety supervision on site, highly qualified and motivated individuals being given menial tasks as general dog’s bodies, and single parents being given absolutely no proper working hours to suit their commitments to their family. The article begins:

Tescos: “Why would we pay you when we can pick up the phone and get more unemployed people who have to work for free?”

The following account was posted in the comments section of the Guardian website:
I personally know a fifty-six year old man who worked at Tesco for 40 hrs a week for 6 weeks for no pay. He said he was given the worst job, constantly filling freezers in the hope he would be taken on. After the 6 weeks were up the manager asked him if he would like to stay on for some extra weeks, my friend asked “with pay”? The manager said why would he pay him when he can pick the phone up and get more unemployed people who have to work for nothing of face sanctions meaning loss of ALL benefits for up to three years!

My friend wasn’t alone, he was part of twelve extra staff taken on to cover the xmas rush, no one was given a job at the end of the xmas period.

He told me they had all worked really hard and were gutted they were abused in such a way. The worst was one day he had to throw out lots of food one day over the use by date. He asked the manager if he could take some home as he was having to eat more due to being active all day. The manager refused saying if he gave him free food he wouldn’t come through the front door and buy it!

I swear I will never shop at Tesco ever again.

Asda sending paid staff home

Read one young person’s account of workfare at Asda over Christmas 2011 here.

Poundland exploitation

“Poundland takes on disabled people in a deal with Dwp via mickey mouse scheme. The claimant only works for 4 weeks including anti-social hours, stacking . The claimant is told at the beginning me the placement that there will be no job. My friend finished his placement and was immediately replaced at another disabled person. This is exploitation. ”

Primark and British Heart Foundation

“Karina” is 24 years old and lives in East London. She is a British citizen, originally from Bangladesh. She is currently looking for work and studying to improve her English. She worked without pay in a Primark store for nearly six months on a work placement in 2009, organised by the Jobcentre and the “provider” company administering the previous government’s Flexible New Deal programme.
How long were you claiming [unemployment benefit] before you had to volunteer at Primark?

Not long. March 2009 was my first claim. The placement was seven months after. [Before that] I was going to college [to learn English]. I paid £50 for it. Then when I went to the job centre they told me: “Now it’s the New Deal. You’re going to a placement”. I told them my English was not good but they said: “It doesn’t matter, you have to go. If you’re not going, we’ll stop your money.” They told me they would stop my JSA [Job Seekers Allowance] so I stopped my English course.

The first [placement] was with the British Heart Foundation. I worked from 9 or 9.30am to 4.30pm with a half hour break. I did everything. I went for one week and the manager was so rude. One day she ate something and left so much mess in the kitchen. Then she says to me: “Karina, you wash up.” The first time I didn’t say anything. I was scared they would stop my money.

When I went to [the New Deal provider company] I told the woman but she didn’t believe it. The clothes were dusty and I have an allergic problem so I went to the doctor and he wrote a letter. I gave the letters to [the New Deal provider] woman and she told me she found another placement for me at Primark.

The Jobcentre paid travel money but no lunch. I worked three days a week, 10am to 4.30pm or 5pm with one half hour break. [Primark] don’t pay any money. It was nearly six months, from January to June. When I finished the placement I took my CV and I asked the managers if they had any vacancies. They said: “Not yet – we’ll call you when we do.” I haven’t had a call.

This is the reality of workfare, not the rosy-painted picture given by New Labour and the Tories, who claim that it’s all about getting people back into work, while the reality is that it’s about supplying cheap labour to their corporate paymasters. At the same time, they also hope to get votes from the embittered, rage-filled types, who read the Daily Mail, Scum and Express, and who rant about how there are jobs out there, but the unemployed are too lazy and well-paid on benefits to look for work.

The article can be read at:

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5 Responses to “Personal Stories from Boycott Workfare”

  1. Joanna Says:

    Hi Beast I applied to Dove House Hospice to help for a couple of hours a week, to try to get out and try to get better, ( because I thought they were the only charity not to use workfare) I was wrong, the manager told me I was not needed as the DWP sends them plenty of workers for Mandatory Voluntary work, which apart from being an oxymoron, is totally immoral!!

    If the government wanted people to experience the advantages of work, then why don’t they pay each claimant a proper wage, for the duration of the placement, with all worker’s rights and benefits included. At least each business who agrees would have part financial responsibility and the claimant would therefore not feel used as they are now!

    I have tried to let Boycott workfare know but they only want to hear from people already doing it, could you maybe send this email to them please? you have my full permission if you choose to do so. I think they need to see that there is another angle to this nightmare!

    • beastrabban Says:

      Thanks, Joanna. I’m sorry you couldn’t get a placement with Dove House Hospice. To be honest, I don’t think actually giving people with no jobs useful experience is a priority with either the architects or the managers of the welfare to work industry. Neither New Labour or the Conservatives have very much interest in workers’ rights. Workfare offers them a way to get round much employment legislation, as those they employ aren’t full time employees and so don’t qualify for the same protection required by law. I also think it’s simply a way for the government to supply cheap, publicly subsidized labour for their corporate paymasters, while at the same time presenting themselves to the public as doing something about unemployment.

      I will, however, send your message to Boycott Workfare, and see if they’ll accept your testimony. If they don’t, would it be all right for me to post it up as an article? Thanks.

      • Joanna Says:

        Absolutely! Yes I would like to help all I can! I have got another purpose, I have recently found out that I can knit by knitting a baby’s cardigan, I am going to knit clothes for babies in hospitals, it just would have been nice to be able to get out with a purpose. I already assist teaching literacy every Thursday for 4 hours, but I need more to do, but I don’t feel comfortable with being in churches, the only time I will go near one is to deliver a fortnightly donation to the food bank. I’m not trying to make myself look good I just need to find some sort of purpose in life!!

      • Joanna Says:

        Also I think the law should be altered to protect All workers, if I knew of anyway I could ever do anything to help make any changes I would, when things get better I intend getting the education which was denied me!

    • beastrabban Says:

      Well done, Joanna. I hope you succeed. Regarding knitting baby clothes for the local hospital, I know that there are groups of ladies who do this up and down the country. Perhaps you could see if there’s a sewing/knitting group near you, and help them?

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