Monday – Friday Online actions – see the Boycott Workfare website for details of who to contact each day.
Monday’s action: 24 hours to stop IDS rewriting history and robbing £130 million – Day 1 in the Workfare Week of Action
Picket of Poundland, Corporation Street.
Join the facebook event and invite your friends to let them know this is happening.
This picket has been called by the newly formed West Midlands branch of SolFed, who have been campaigning on workfare alongside Boycott Workfare. Poundland has been chosen because of its continued involvement with unpaid workfare schemes, despite the recent court ruling which said that Cait Reilly had been illegaly sent on such a scheme to their store in Kings Heath.
This ruling means that anyone sanctioned under the Work Experience Scheme, Work Programme, Community Action Programme and Sector Based Work Academies from 2011 until new regulations were put in place last month should get their money back. However, Ian Duncan Smith has introduced retroactive legislation so that he can go back in time and change the regulations so they always fitted the court ruling and no-one should get their money back because it wasn’t illegally stopped. Shockingly, the Guardian have reported that the Labour Party will support this bill, and when Liam Byrne spoke at the Bedroom Tax demo on Saturday he was booed and heckled for it. Asked afterwards if they were supporting the bill, Liam presented a typical politician non-answer (we’ve since been told that the timetabling is the only thing they can oppose, but don’t know the processes well enough to know the truth of this matter).
[update: Shiv Malik from the Guardian is now saying Labour will abstain from the vote, which is as good as voting for it]
If the bill goes through £130m of sanctions that was stopped will not be repaid, robbing claimants of an average of over £500 each. The DWP are worried that the ruling could also affect sanctions on Mandatory Work Activity. Since October 2012, sanctions on Jobseekers Allowance range from 4 weeks to 3 years. Disabled claimants face 70% of benefits being stopped indefinitely for anyone who refuses workfare. Unsurprisingly, sanctions cause huge problems, with people going hungry, into debt or behind on bills or rent as a result of having no money for a minimum of one month. Sifa Fireside, a Birmingham charity working with homeless people, say they are finding
housing benefit is increasingly suspended if people are being sanctioned by Job Centre Plus” (p81).
As a result of campaigning last year, the Work Experience Scheme had sanctions removed, but if you say no, the regulations for Mandatory Work Activity state that this can be used as a reason to force you to do a workfare placement and it is used in this way. This state of affairs means that all schemes must be considered mandatory.
Even without the recourse to Mandatory Work Activity, there is still the fundamental problem that giving a steady supply of unpaid workers to a profit seeking organisation will result in them looking to reduce the amount of paid work they have. This means the taxpayer underwriting the wage bill of companies like Poundland, and increasing the number of people looking for work, or more commonly hours get reduced. The use of workfare placements as unpaid temporary staff is so rife that JHP Employability even advertised it as “Free temporary staff for up to 4 weeks” (their website has been changed since the screenshot on the left was taken).
So join us in this week of action to end workfare. In recent weeks, charities and companies have been withdrawing from the schemes in the face of public pressure. We can win this – even the DWP say that protests against workfare could see the schemes collapsing. Whether it’s online or on your high street, be a part of it.
Workfare doesn’t work – all the evidence shows that it has no effect on how many people get a job and the nature of the schemes means that new jobs cannot be created so all they do is change who gets a job, having no effect on employment levels.
Workfare is unfair – people are forced to leave voluntary placements; people are sent on useless placements which leave them with no time to look for an actual job; sanctions push people into debt, hunger and poverty; A small amount of work experience makes no difference when you are competing with 1,700 people for 8 jobs at Costa Coffee in Nottingham.
Workfare replaces paid jobs – why would any manager pay someone to stack shelves when they can get it done for free?.