Posts Tagged ‘Boycott Workfare’

Personal Stories from Boycott Workfare

April 20, 2016

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: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/claimants-stories/.

George Monbiot on the Political Power of the Supermarkets

April 20, 2016

As well as documenting the pernicious economic and social effects of the supermarkets, as they force out small business people and exploit their suppliers through some highly manipulative contracts and trading practices, Monbiot also discusses the political power of these vast corporate chains. He details the various chief executives and senior managers, who were given important political posts by New Labour and the Tories, and the various lobbying organisations they have set up to further their already extensive political influence. This goes on for several pages, but considering the immense power the supermarkets still hold, I think it’s worth reproducing this section of the chapter in full. Monbiot writes:

No commercial sector is better represented in British politics than the supermarkets. David Sainsbury, the chain’s former chief executive and the richest man in Britain, is a minister at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), which oversees competition policy. Tesco executives inhabit no fewer than six government task forces, including the DTI’s Competitiveness Advisory Group. A Tesco executive also sits on both the United Kingdom Eco-labelling Board and, alongside a representative of Marks and Spencer, the government’s Advisory Committee on Packaging. The superstores have lobbied to ensure that regulations in both areas remain as ‘flexible’ as possible. Andrew Stone, Managing Director of Marks and Spencer, was made a life peer soon after Labour took office. the official spokesperson for the four biggest supermarkets at the British Retail Consortium is Baroness Thornton, a Labour peer and Director of the Labour Women’s Network, and previous Chair of the Greater London Labour Party. Delegates to the 1998 Labour Party Conference wore identification badges sponsored and labelled by Somerfield. While Tesco gave £12m to the government’s Millennium Dome, David Sainsbury (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) has personally donated a total of £5m to the Labour Party.

The Sainsbury family has long been blessed with a direct line to power. While David Sainsbury, a Labour peer, is one of the businessmen closest to Tony Blair, his cousin and predecessor as chairman of the firm, the Conservative peer Sir John Sainsbury (now Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover), appears to have been Margaret Thatcher’s most frequent confidant. His brother, Sir Tim Sainsbury, another member of the Sainsbury board, was a Conservative MP who once held the same government post as David Sainsbury does today.

The opposition is unlikely to challenge the superstores’ power. The shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, who – if he took office – would be responsible for most of the decisions affecting the supermarket chains, is Archie Norman, previously the Chief Executive of Asda. Francis Maude, the shadow Foreign Secretary, was one of Asda’s non-executive directors.

The supermarkets conduct much of their lobbying through their trade association, the British Retail Consortium. According to its Director General, ‘BRC is no longer an organisation that simply reacts to Government proposed legislation or White Papers but sets out to help shape them. By creating significant links with special advisers, policy specialists and the leading think tanks, the intention is to work in a non-confrontational way so we are involved at the beginning of any legislative process.

Its tactics appear to be successful. it has persuaded the government to allow 41-tonne lorries on to British roads and to consider its request for 44-tone trucks to be permitted in a few years’ time. It claims to have played an important role in the government’s decision not to tax out-of-town car parking spaces. Speakers at the BRC’s annual dinner have included the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, the Conservative Chancellor, Kenneth Clarke, John Major and Tony Blair. the Consortium’s submission on the minimum wage ‘was read by Chancellor Gordon Brown, the Treasury and the Bank of England’ and was ‘influential in persuading the Government and the Low Pay Commission’ to hold the level down to £3.60 per hour and introduce a separate, lower rate ‘not just for young people, but for returners to the labour market’. The consortium successfully lobbied the government to introduce amendments to the Competition Bill to permit ‘vertical agreements’ of the kind the superstores strike with their suppliers.

The BRC is also ‘ready to shape the Brussels agenda in the same way it does the UK Government agenda’. In Europe it has lobbied for ‘flexible’ consumer guarantees and against the European legislation requiring companies to inform and consult their workers. It has influenced European food safety standards and defended its members against the European requirement that the pesticides used on the foods they sell should be listed on the packaging. It has succeeded in keeping the definition of ‘free range’ as broad as possible.

Government is not the only realm in which the influence of superstores and their employees raises public concern. Sainsbury, for example, is a sponsor of the Soil Association, which regulates organic standards in Britain. In 1998, the Sunday Times alleged that a chemist from Sainsbury’s presented much of the case for the preservative sodium nitrate to the government’s United Kingdom Register of Organic Food Standards. The chemical is banned from organic produce in Germany and Holland, partly because, in large doses, it has been linked to cancer. What the Sunday Times did not discover, however, was that one of the members of the register is Robert Duxbury, an employee of J. Sainsbury Plc. Sainsbury was also one of the three sponsors of the Town and Country Planning Association’s inquiry into the future of planning, a subject in which the superstore chain has more than a passing interest. The Chairman of the Post Office, Neville Bain, is also a non-executive director of Safeway. This causes alarm to some of the people campaigning to keep post offices on the high street and out of the superstores.

In 1999,. the government published the first of its ‘annual reports’, which would tell the nation how well it was doing. It was launched not in Westminster, but in the Kensington Tesco’s. The Prime Minister’s office had given the supermarket chain an exclusive contract to sell it. It officially entered the public domain when Jack Cunningham, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, handed a copy of the head of Tesco. (Captive State, pp. 203-206).

So Sainsbury’s, Tesco’s and the rest are involved in making sure that road and planning policy reflects their interests, as does employment and agricultural legislation. They have ensured that a known carcinogen is permitted as a pesticide in this country, and have campaigned to keep the minimum wage low. It is therefore absolutely no surprise that the same exploitative gang have been so keen to back workfare. One of the personal stories recounted on the Boycott Workfare website is from someone who was taken on by the supermarkets. At the end of their official stint, they were asked by their boss to stay on. When they asked if they would be paid, their boss stated quite openly that there was no need for him to do so, when he could simply get more unpaid labour from workfare.

Britain is rapidly descending into a corporate oligarchy like America, and the supermarkets are at the centre of this mess of political corruption. It’s about time they were cleaned out, along with the rest of the corporatists occupying government posts.

Boycott Workfare Demonstration Against the Salvation Army 2nd May

April 13, 2015

The anti-workfare organisation, Boycott Workfare, have announced on their post ‘Sanction the Salvation Army’ that they are holding a protest against the Sally Ann on the 2nd May, from 12.00 to 1.30 pm, at the church’s international HQ by the Millennium Bridge in London. They’re organising the protest as the Salvation Army is one of the dwindling number of organisations still using forced unpaid labour from the government’s workfare schemes. They want to shame the church into stopping using this form of exploitation.

The article’s at http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=4281, and includes a link to the protest’s Facebook page.

Boycott Workfare Announce Welfare Action Gathering May 30th

March 19, 2015

The campaigning group Boycott Workfare are organising a Welfare Action Gathering at the London Welsh Centre, on Saturday May 30th from 10.30 to 5.30. The day is intended to be a networking and mutual support event, in which protesters and activists can learn from each other how to organise and resist the government’s attacks on the welfare state and the poor, the sick and the unemployed.

Their page on it is entitled Welfare Action Gathering – 30th May. They state

Faced with policies that are pushing ever more people into precarity and poverty, thousands of us have been coming together to support each other. We are pushing back workfare, standing up to sanctions, challenging the work capability assessment and fighting insecure, unaffordable housing.

If you are concerned about:
◦Job centres being places of intimidation and sanctions,
◦Private providers bullying claimants on ‘welfare-to-work’ schemes,
◦35 hour jobsearch under Universal Credit,
◦ESA assessments putting sick and disabled people in fear of destitution,
◦Welfare rights for young people being abolished and replaced with unpaid work,
◦Workfare being required to be eligible for social housing,
◦Housing benefit being part of sanctions under Universal Credit,
◦Claimants in work being sanctioned under Universal Credit too…

…then do something about it and come to the Welfare Action Gathering to hear from other people organising across the UK! Learn about our rights and share ideas and tactics!

This isn’t a day for speakers from the front. Party political representatives aren’t invited. It’s a day for people at the grassroots to get together and work out how we can support each other, defend our rights and continue successfully to campaign against workfare and sanctions.

Organised by Boycott Workfare with Haringey Solidarity Group. Workshops and contributions from other groups are very welcome!

Go to http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=4243, for details of how to register, help with transport costs, access information, a list of similar workshops, and information on their Facebook event. They are also interested in talking to anyone, who is keen on holding a similar event near them.

Boycott Workfare’s Day of Action against Jobcentre Bullies

February 22, 2015

Boycott workfare have called for a day of action against jobcentres up and down the country on the 25th. This is in support of an activist with the Scottish Unemployed Workers Network, Tony Cox, who was arrested at Arbroath jobcentre. Cox had accompanied a female claimant, who suffers from severe dyxlexia and reading problems. She was having several severe panic attacks every day caused by the stress of filling five Universal Job Match applications every day. Cox was there to represent her. The jobcentre refused to consider reducing the numbers of applications she should make, and insisted that signing up to UJM is compulsory. It is not. They objected to Cox’s presence, and he was arrested when he left the building.

The article begins

Solidarity with unemployed activist arrested for representing a jobseeker – call out by Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty.

Take part in a day of action at job centres Britain-wide, 25 February 2015.

Scottish Unemployed Workers Network activist Tony Cox was arrested on 29th January after Arbroath Jobcentre management called police to stop him representing a vulnerable jobseeker. We urge you to join a Day of Action on 25th February at Jobcentres round Britain to show your solidarity.

We must fight back against this clear attempt to intimidate claimants and deny us the right to be accompanied and represented. Tony will be in court in Forfar on 25th February facing charges of “threatening behaviour, refusing to give his name and address and resisting arrest”. That same day we call on people to descend on jobcentres round Britain to show their solidarity with Tony and distribute information to claimants urging them to exercise their right to be accompanied and represented at all benefits interviews.

As we face unprecedented sanctions and benefits cuts, it’s more important than ever that we support each other and stand up to the DWP bullies. The Scottish Unemployed Workers Network, Dundee Against Welfare Sanctions and other groups have established a strong presence at the Jobcentres in Dundee and in nearby towns and cities like Arbroath, Perth and Blairgowrie, supporting claimants in opposing sanctions and harassment.”

The article gives details of individual protests in Scotland, and provides links to leaflets that can be given out outside the jobcentres. There is also another link to a petition you can sign. They also urge you to write in support of Mr Cox to Noel Shanahan, the Director of General Operations at the DWP.

This is a major issue. As Mike over at Vox Political and Johnny Void have repeatedly covered in their blogs, there are major issues with privacy and protecting the civil rights of claimants with Universal Job Match. It is not compulsory, and contains any number of defects and flaws. Such as false, spam offers of jobs by agencies seeking to increase their profile on the Net. And also, I think you’re entitled to want to avoid it as it’s IDS vanity project. It’s been set up by the man responsible for 51,200 deaths per year due to his sanctions regime.

And the jobcentres definitely hate anybody coming in to give support to claimants. Before I was effectively thrown off benefit, I used to come in with my mother. The last time I went there, a woman on the ground floor told me that only I could go up to the interviewing area. Mum had to stay downstairs. I really do wonder what they’re afraid of, when they object to the presence of a respectable lady in her mature years.

Their cowards and bullies and definitely need to be tackled.