From Boycott Workfare
B&M Stores has won an award from the workfare industry for their support for forced unpaid labour. The harsh reality of their involvement is exploitation of claimants – people working for nothing under the constant threat of sanctions – and workfare being used to reduce overtime and replace paid staff.
“B&M stores started using workfare Jan 2013. Receiving free labour and stopping overtime for employees with contracts. The people forced to do this free labour are not happy and neither are the other workers.”
Boycott Workfare has had several reports of reduced hours for paid staff as well as the practice of employing paid staff on a trial basis, sacking them after 12 weeks, and replacing them with workfare…
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You know, if the Greens really got their act together, they could clean up at the next general election. Who else is left for us to vote for ?
Labour’s workfare plus a sandwich scheme is no better than the Tory’s current workfare and is every bit as badly thought out.
Labour’s Compulsory Jobs Guarantee takes the worst elements of almost all previous welfare-to-work style schemes and has rolled them all into one giant and hugely expensive fuck up. Possibly hundreds of thousands of people are to be forced to work in part-time temporary jobs with wages pegged at the minimum wage or face their benefits will be stopped.
Many people in these compulsory jobs may find themselves worse off then someone on current Tory workfare schemes. The jobs will only be for 25 hours a week, meaning those over 21 will receive just £156.70 under current rates. For the vast majority of claimants, who have rent to pay, this is likely to…
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Hello Mr Pot…have you met Mr Kettle ?
(not satire – it’s the Tories!)
Here’s what Mark Harper – the Tory immigration minister who has just resigned for employing an illegal immigrant as a cleaner – said in parliament just last Novemberabout ‘unscrupulous’ employers who employ illegal immigrants:
“There is some agreement about the need to crack down on unscrupulousemployers. One is their exploitation of individuals in the United Kingdom; another is that by treating individuals in the way they do they undercut legitimate employers who obey the law and follow the rules. That iswrong. Unscrupulous employers also help to facilitate one type of illegal migration, in which individuals are, frankly, duped into coming to the United Kingdom with the promise of a better life only to end up working in unsatisfactory conditions and not receiving a good income, and so would have been better off if they had never made the…
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Yet whilst the so-called fighting PCS Union has dithered over benefit sanctions and workfare that is exactly what has happened under their very noses at the DWP.
As spotted by @boycottworkfare, Employment Minister Esther McVey recently boasted that 4,300 unpaid workers on the Government’s Work Experience scheme have been press-ganged into working for the DWP over the last three years. This could represent up to one million hours of forced labour – potentially replacing nearly a two hundred full time jobs over the same period.
Whilst the Work Experience scheme is officially ‘voluntary’ claimants who refuse to work for free at the DWP can face being sent on a mandatory workfare scheme instead. George Osborne even recently announced
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This is a few months old, but well worth reprising…
One of the purported achievements of the Coalition government’s disastrous economic policy of austerity, has been the unemployment figures. Pundits say that at 7.8% (2.51m) they are nothing to shout about but not the disastrous rates seen in states such as Greece (26.9%) or Spain (26.3%). In reality, the unemployment rate is more than double this in many areas, while those in employment are facing ever worsening conditions to retain their non-jobs.
We have the Thatcher government to thank for the majority of the statistical trickery which currently renders the government released unemployment figures redundant. Prior to 1979, the unemployment rate was anyone registered as unemployed, this was converted to a percentage of the total workforce and that was the published unemployment rate. Then some changes came in:
- Redefining Unemployment: originally defined as those ‘registered’ unemployed, changed to only count ‘claimants’ – this obviously reduced the number greatly as many unemployed people do not, for various reasons, claim benefits.
- Cutting Benefit Entitlements: By making changes to the benefit system (who is eligible and not) the government can magic away unemployment numbers by simply removing eligibility for benefits. If the person cannot claim, they are not classed as unemployed.
- Training Schemes & Work Programmes: the conservative government of the 80’s began to double count those in training & work programmes. First, they excluded them from the unemployed figures, then they added them to the total workforce figures – this means that simply by recruiting people into a work programme, the government has reduced the unemployment figures. Prior to Thatcher, these schemes were not counted as employment.
The Thatcher government was able to show a drop in unemployment of 550,000 in July 1986, and 668,000 in 1989 by transferring those unemployed into work programmes. They also kept an average 90,000 unemployed under 18 year olds off the books by making them ineligible to claim benefits.
Sadly, none of these changes have since been reversed, giving the UK public a much skewed view of unemployment and underemployment. If we look at the research prepared by other bodies without such downright deceitful exemptions, we reveal a more realistic picture of the economic woe being meted out across the country.
A study put together by Sheffield University last year set out to establish the real level of unemployment in the UK, given that there has been little change in the published unemployment statistic, we can suppose they still hold relatively true. The study found:
- For Britain as a whole in April 2012, the new figures point to more than 3.4 million unemployed. This compares to just 1.5 million on the claimant count and 2.5 million according to the Labour Force Survey – the government’s two official measures of unemployment. The difference is attributable to extensive hidden unemployment.
- An estimated 900,000 unemployed have been diverted onto incapacity benefits. These are men and women with health problems who claim incapacity benefits instead of unemployment benefits. They do not represent fraudulent claims.
- Hidden unemployment is disproportionately concentrated in the weakest local economies, where claimant unemployment is already highest. The effect has been to mask the true scale of labour market disparities between the best and worst parts of the country.
- In the worst affected districts, the real rate of unemployment is often around 15 per cent. Knowsley in Merseyside tops the list with a real rate of unemployment estimated at 16.8 per cent.
- The older industrial areas of the Midlands, the North, Scotland and Wales mostly have the highest rates of unemployment. In large parts of the south of England the rate is still only 3-4 per cent.
- Comparisons with similar data for earlier years shows that Britain was still a long way off full employment before the 2008/9 recession. Full employment is now still further away and the real rate of unemployment is higher than at any time since 1997.
- The report casts serious doubt on the likely impact of the Coalition government’s reforms, notably the Work Programme and Universal Credit, which are founded on the assumption that unemployment can be brought down by encouraging the unemployed to find work. The evidence points to large and continuing shortfalls in job opportunities away from the most prosperous parts of southern England.
One of the more worrying points in the survey is the widening gap between ‘claimant count’ and unemployed , as ever increasing numbers of people fund themselves without a job or eligibility to claim social security. For this expanding pool of people, exploitation beckons.
The government is pressurising people into ever more exploitative work programmes in order to reduce unemployment figures by threatening withdrawal of social security for non-compliance. In 2011, the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government announced a plan to increase uptake of Workfare (the term given to these schemes) by 100,000. They also made changes to the programme they inherited from New Labour as follows:
1. A jobseeker who leaves a placement after 1 week loses their welfare payments for 6 weeks. If they do this a second time, they lose them for 13 weeks. The third time, three years.
2. Placements can be mandated for up to 30 hours a week for as long as 6 months.
3. The scheme has been opened up so corporations in the private sector can exploit this taxpayer funded, forced labour.
This means that someone who finds themselves unemployed must work up to thirty hours a week, for up to six months at a time, stacking shelves for Tesco or Poundland simply to receive as little as £53 per week, which they are already entitled to as part of the social contract of Britain. Also, Tesco isn’t paying the £53; we are, through our taxes.
Although an interview is supposed to be guaranteed at the end of the term, it is not required that the workfare provider has a vacancy open. An interview for a job that doesn’t exist is no interview at all.
Corporations get free labour, the government gets to massage the unemployment figures (Workfare victims are counted as employed) and the unemployed get shafted.
Anyone doubting this critique would do well to read the findings of the DWP’s own analysis of the performance of their work programmes. These schemes cost the taxpayer £5bn, yet only 1 in 10 people found employment lasting up to 3 months. The figures are even worse for the sick and disabled people forced into the work programmes – only 1 in 20 finding lasting employment.
The picture doesn’t get any rosier for those who have managed to find employment either.
Employers are less likely to provide real jobs than ever. As the market favours the employer, there has been an unprecedented month on month fall in wages through the entire 36 months of the Coalition government, and wages were already falling before they arrived.
On top of hidden unemployment, the UK also has an ever growing problem with underemployment; the case of people unable to find jobs with sufficient hours/pay to meet their needs.
A recent paper by researchers at the University of Stirling revealed that underemployment rose from 6.2% in 2008 to 9.9% in 2012. The rate hit 30% among 16 to 24 year olds.
We have also seen the rise of ‘zero hour’ contracts. Almost unheard of a few years ago, more than a million UK workers are now under these contracts. These contracts have no specified working hours – meaning that an employee is placed on permanent stand by until or unless the employer needs them. While classed as employed, the person has no wage security as they cannot guarantee their pay from one week to the next. They also receive no sick pay, leave or other basic terms and conditions.
The Resolution Foundation recently published a review of ‘Zero Hours’ contracts which found serious issues of the spike in their use:
- Those on ‘Zero Hours’ contracts earn less than half the average wage (£236 vs. £482 per week) of those on proper contracts.
- Workplaces using ‘Zero Hours’ contracts have a higher proportion of staff on low pay(within £1.25 of minimum wage) than those who do not.
These factors have allowed the UK Labour Market in recent years to combine a relatively high level of employment and an unprecedented squeeze on wages.
- Those on ‘Zero Hours’ contracts work 10 hours a week less, on average, than those who are not (21hrs – 31hrs).
- 18% of those on ‘Zero Hours’ contracts are seeking alternative employment or more hours versus 7% of those in ordinary contracts
These factors have contributed to the rise in underemployment in the UK since 2008. An ONS survey last year revealed more than 1 million people had been added to the rank of the underemployed since the 2008 bailout of the banks.
- ‘Zero Hours’ contracts are hitting young people the hardest, with 37% of those on such contracts aged between 16-24.
- ‘Zero Hours’ contracts are more likely to be held by those without a degree, and with a GCSE as their highest level of education.
- Non UK Nationals are 15% more likely to be employed on such a contract than UK Nationals.
It is not difficult to see the advantages of ‘Zero Hours’ contracts to employers – they can achieve maximum flexibility of their workforce, effectively retaining them on a pay as you go basis. It is also clear that in the short term, the government of the day also enjoy the advantage of hiding the true effects of their cut throat economic policies. But the ordinary human being seeking to meet the rising cost of living is losing on all counts.
Between 2008 and 2012, inflation rose 17% according to the Consumer Price Index, while incomes increased just 7% – this translates to a real terms pay cut of 10% for working people. But the Consumer Price Index measurement tracks the rising cost of an imaginary list of products and services that the poorest workers are unlikely to ever buy. The UK Essentials Index however tracks inflation of the bare essentials that would the poorest would buy – and these have risen by an eye watering 33% during the same period. This means that not only is the impact of unemployment hitting the country disproportionately, but underemployment and exploitative employment conditions are too – with the poorest being the worst affected.
There was a piece on the Guardian this morning talking about the triple boost to the UK economy of increased factory output, house prices and car sales, and trumpeting this as a sign of economic recovery.
But what is the point of this increased GDP if it is won at the expense of people wages and livelihoods? Surely, if the inequality in the UK between rich and poor is growing, unemployment is rising, underemployment is rising and wages are falling – this is a recession. It speaks volumes for the broken economic measures of growth at play here that a real world recession for the majority, is applauded as a recovery, when all that is recovered are the profits for transnational corporations and incomes of high earners, most of whom pay little or no contributions in tax.
Boycott Workfare – get involved in the campaign to outlaw workfare
UKUncut – get involved in demanding proper tax contributions from those corporations benefitting from these nightmare employment schemes.
DPAC – Disabled People Against Cuts do extraordinary work highlighting the state’s assault on disabled people. Please support them
Source – BS News, 07 Aug 2013
Will any organization in the North East follow this lead ?
Beginning in April next year thousands of unemployed people will be forced into six month workfare placements with charities or community organisations. The scheme is a huge roll out of mandatory workfare and depends on the so-called voluntary sector playing ball to be successful.
Volunteer Centre Liverpool’s re-assuring statement this week pledges they will not take part in Osborne’s workfare and encourages others to think carefully about any possible involvement in workfare. As they rightly point out, forced work, under threat of destitution, is not volunteering:
“There has been a lot of talk recently about the latest scheme to help people who are unemployed, with mention of “compulsory volunteering” as part of the “Help to Work” programme. DWP do not refer to it as volunteering, but others are starting to, which…
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THE North East’s leading university has become embroiled in a pay row, after advertising unpaid “voluntary” teaching jobs.
On its own website, Durham University is offering what it calls a “voluntary development opportunity” for PhD students to design and offer “extracurricular seminars” for undergraduates in its Department of Theology and Religion.
The University and College Union (UCU), which represents academics, said unpaid posts undermined the principles of equal pay, exploited people able to work for free and discriminated against those who could not afford to do so.
UCU regional support official Jon Bryan said: “The advert says its requires applicants to devise and deliver courses without payment, which is completely at odds with the firm commitment Durham gave us last year that it does not recruit unpaid staff.
“The university needs to make a clear statement outlining its position on people working for free.
“We simply do not accept the defence that teaching for free is a development opportunity – clearly it is not available to people who cannot afford to work for free.
“Universities should be striving for excellence, not seeking to exploit those who can afford to work for nothing as free labour.”
However, a Durham University spokesperson said the seminars were set up in response to demand from its postgraduate students who wanted to broaden their teaching experience for their own professional development.
The spokesperson said: “Participation is entirely voluntary and feedback has been positive from both the postgraduates designing and delivering the courses and the undergraduates who take them; many said it improved their understand and appreciation of the subject area.
“A wide range of paid teaching assistant opportunities are also available within the department and our postgraduates have the opportunity to apply for these.”
Durham, one of the world’s top 100 universities, charges the maximum £9,000-a-year in student tuition fees and has been criticised by the trade union Unison for allegedly paying hundreds of its workers less than the living wage of £7.45 an hour while vice-chancellor Professor Chris Higgins picks up a salary of £232,000 a year.
Source – Northern Echo 22 Oct 2013