Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

UNITE Union Boycotts Workfare.

with 9 comments

Workfare’s ‘state sponsored slavery’ condemned as Unite announces boycott

28 June 2012

The country’s biggest union, Unite, has announced a total boycott of workfare, the government’s work experience programme for young people aged 16-24 years of age.

Unite is the first union to announce that it will boycott the programme.

Denouncing the scheme as ‘state-sponsored slavery’, the union says that it will mount vigorous opposition to any attempt to enforce workfare schemes on workplaces where Unite organises the workers. Under the scheme, unemployed young people will have their benefits stopped if they refuse a place.

Unite pointed to the evidence from the United States which shows that workfare does not fulfil its aims of reducing the number of benefit claimants overall and has ‘zero effect’ in helping people back into employment (see below). Further, the multiplicity of schemes on offer and the lack of a common approach across the UK’s four nations reveals a lack of coherence by government about what it is trying to achieve for young people.

The union is calling instead for British business to follow best practice to build skills for the nation, pointing to the apprentice schemes in the automotive sector which offer paid, high quality training for tomorrow’s workers.

Announcing the boycott at the union’s conference in Brighton today, Steve Turner, Unite’s executive director of policy said: “Workfare shows this government is among the cruellest this country has had the misery to endure.

“Leaving one million young people on the dole is cruel, pricing them out of education is cruel, denying them the chance to leave home and start their own lives is cruel.

“The scheme belongs back in the nineteenth century, along with Oliver Twist and the workhouse. It is nothing short of state sponsored slavery – and this union will not be complicit in it.

“It is high time we asked who does it actually benefit? Not the taxpayer, who is forced to pay the wages of privately-employed workers. Not the paid worker, whose job may be replaced by a benefit claimant forced to work for free. Not the benefit claimant, whose chances of getting paid work are not helped one iota.

“Workfare only benefits private companies, who get their payroll taken care of by the public purse, aided and abetted by a government incapable of growing our economy.”

A 1993 review carried out by the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC) in the US concluded that there is “little evidence that unpaid work experience leads to consistent employment or earnings effects” and highlights that workfare is least effective in a weak labour market. More recently, the government’s own peer review study, published in June of this year, found that Mandatory Work Activity ‘had zero effect in helping people get a job’.



Written by Andrew Coates

June 30, 2012 at 3:00 pm

9 Responses

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  1. At last, the unions seem to be doing their job. They were all over the plce 6 months ago, completely failing to capitalise on the success of last November. Hopefully this is a fully unified moral approach with the requisite commitment and follow-through. Workfare is wrong on all counts.

    Ghost Whistler

    June 30, 2012 at 3:06 pm

  2. Good news.


    June 30, 2012 at 3:19 pm

  3. Unite you are legends Its nice to see someone care about us I could kiss you lol )


    June 30, 2012 at 3:48 pm

  4. What took them so long?

    Charlie D

    June 30, 2012 at 6:08 pm

  5. Better late than never.
    But it’s not just the under 25s. Let’s see them come out against all forms of workfare including MWA and the CAP.


    June 30, 2012 at 7:25 pm

  6. Shame the other unions don’t seem to mind slaves replacing their members in workplaces. Trouble is that the union bosses are generally about as far away from reality as the politicians are; while most of the rank and file members are tabloid carrying scroungerphobes who believe any nonsense the mass media puts their way. The bulk of the unions are doing nothing to try and educate their members, and by this failure are digging their own graves – when all their members have been replaced with slaves, of course, it will be too late


    June 30, 2012 at 8:40 pm

  7. Let’s get this right are they just boycotting workfare for `young people`, if so is slavery ok for the older person? Can’t you just see the politics in this; it seems they are only following TUC laid out policy to encourage work experience only under their auspices. Denounce workfare for the young and get membership through the apprenticeship scheme which is generally under their guidance.

    I would say start to ask some questions over motivation here and then just what other negotiating their willing to do out of self-interest. The fool who says this is a step in the right direction hasn’t learnt from the past and union support of the new deal.

    I look for the day that unions come out on strike for the unemployed… then they will prove themselves beyond a shadow of doubt. This is however unlikely as already mentioned union members through surveys have proven themselves to be as right wing as the Tory hardliners. This doesn’t mean you have to be anti-union, just realise that the scope for them to act in the unemployed person’s interest is ZERO!


    July 2, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    • If the unemployed are looking to the unions for support they may as well depend on a broken stick. It is time the unemployed disabused themselves from all this “solidarity”, “union” crap. The unions don’t give a stuff about the unemployed – never have, never will

      Ex-union shop steward

      July 2, 2012 at 2:42 pm

  8. Well, Unite could have waited for April 1st 2013 to reveal this news.

    Why the long delay?! Its around 4 years late…

    Work Programme

    July 3, 2012 at 9:43 am

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