Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Posts Tagged ‘Boycott Workfare

News From the Welfare Front, from Boycott Workfare to Universal Credit.

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Image result for boycott workfare

Boycott Workfare, the admirable campaign group against government schemes for unpaid work for the out-of-work, has resurfaced with a chapter in a book published by Pluto Press.

A new book chapter using testimonies compiled by Boycott Workfare exposes the violent impact of forced labour.

When we talk about what’s wrong with workfare, we often mention the horrifying material impact on people’s lives of the benefit sanctions that underwrite it. The political impact of unwaged work is also important – the way it attacks workplace rights and destroys our freedom. And workfare is psychologically violent and humiliating: it is coerced labour that’s supposed to build skills and motivation but obviously does nothing apart from offer free work to businesses and charities.

Now, in a freely available chapter of The Violence of Austerity, just published by Pluto Press, the accounts of 97 people who were on workfare schemes between 2011 and 2015 show how workfare is not only ruthlessly exploitative, but can also mean being forced into dangerous work in which health and safety laws are violated as a matter of routine. As the authors write:

If being employed in workfare schemes can be read as a forced and therefore violent process in itself, it should also be read as a process that contains the potential for a different type of violence: the violence that confronts workers when they are told to stand in the cold, to lift heavy loads that they physically cannot lift, or to endure other forms of physical and psychological degradation.

‘The violence of workfare’ documents 64 concrete allegations of breaches of health and safety legislation, at 43 workfare exploiters across the UK – in charities, social enterprises, maintenance companies and discount stores, as well as in environmental, agricultural and recycling projects. The first-hand accounts that the chapter is based on were all submitted to Boycott Workfare via the name and shame section of this website. These ‘employers’ benefited from 1,139 weeks of forced labour from the 97 people whose testimonies are included. That’s almost 22 years of coerced, unpaid labour.

These testimonies make clear how people have been forced to carry out hard labour or heavy lifting, despite existing medical conditions which make this work agony. The testimonies reveal how people have been denied access to protective equipment, and how people have been exposed to dust, chemicals and other hazards. In some cases, these accounts document how organisations have refused workfare conscripts access to food or water, and denied them even short breaks.

At the same time, the testimonies collected together in this chapter provide evidence of workfare exploiters threatening to ‘sack’ people who don’t work fast enough, or try to complain or try to gather evidence of the conditions they are being forced to operate in. People on workfare face being sanctioned if they are unwilling to work in unsafe conditions or if they take any kind of action to draw attention to these conditions.

And some workfare exploiters, it is made clear, are more than willing to exploit the fear that the sanctions regime generates to try and force people to accept dangerous working conditions. That same fear is used to ensure as much management control over workfare conscripts as possible. ‘The fear of sanction can intensify and generate yet more unreasonable demands from employers,’ the authors write. ‘Workfare, as a form of forced labour, effectively permits employers to breach health and safety laws with impunity’. Dangerous working conditions are an effect of unfree labour, compelled by the threat of sanctions.

But we can fight.

We are all entitled to the same basic health and safety protections in workplaces, and in the next few weeks, Boycott Workfare is aiming to bring out a ‘know your health and safety rights leaflet’ that can be used to provide information on these rights, and how to challenge dangerous conditions. And we must continue to name and shame exploiters, and expose the conditions in which they force people to work. Public pressure works, and now that workfare exploiters can no longer hide behind anonymity, we can consign workfare to history.

‘The violence of workfare’, by Jon Burnett and David Whyte, is available for free here. You can read more about the chapter, and the rest of the book, in this article from Disability News Service.

Background:

Boycott Workfare is a UK-wide campaign to end forced unpaid work for people who receive social security.

We are a grassroots campaign, formed in 2010 by people with experience of workfare and those concerned about its impact.

We expose the companies and organisations profiting from workfare and we take action against them. We encourage organisations to pledge to boycott workfare. We inform people of their rights at the jobcentre and we provide information to support claimants challenging workfare and sanctions.

Boycott Workfare is not a front for any political party, or affiliated with any political party. Anyone who shares our aims is welcome to get involved. Email us: info@boycottworkfare.org, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Unfortunately, Boycott Workfare do not currently have the capacity to take on casework. We recommend that claimants contact local organisations for one-to-one advice and support.

Meanwhile on the Universal Credit front….

Public Finance.

Council housing managers have urged the government to halt the rolling introduction of Universal Credit, which they said is causing “considerable hardship” to tenants.

The National Federation of ALMOs (NFA) and the Association of Retained Council Housing (ARCH) also called on ministers to scrap the seven-day waiting period for new claims.

They said that almost four years on from the initial introduction of Universal Credit “our research shows that delays in the assessment process, poor communications between DWP and landlords, and the seven-day wait period continue to cause significant problems to both landlords and their tenants”.

Rent arrears among Universal Credit claimants remained “stubbornly high” at 73% – equivalent to £6.68m – and 40% of households had accumulated arrears as a consequence of claiming.

Meanwhile, households faced mounting debts, as the average arrears for Universal Credit claimants had increased from £611.73 in March 2016 to £772.21 a year later.

NFA managing director Eamon McGoldrick said: “We are strongly urging government/DWP to halt the roll out of UC and ‘pause for thought’ until the system works properly for both claimants and landlords.”

The NFA and ARCH said their members generally supported the principles of Universal Credit and had launched initiatives to support tenants into work.

But they warned: “It is clear that support provided to tenants by landlords alone is not sufficient to resolve the problems being experienced and is not scalable as the roll out accelerates across the country and many more families and children become a part of the Universal Credit system.”

ARCH chief executive John Bibby said: “If the level of intensive support needed to vulnerable tenants is to be sustained during the planned rollout additional resources are essential.”

He also called for provision of a transition fund to enable landlords to support vulnerable tenants.

The DWP defines Universal Credit as support for people on low incomes or out of work, intended to ensure they are better off in work than on benefits.

It replaces: income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance; income-related employment and support allowance; income support; working tax credit; child tax credit; housing benefit.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 27, 2017 at 3:02 pm

Charities Being ‘Blackmailed’ to Stop Using Slave Labour – Workfare.

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Anti-Workfare ‘Terrorism’. 

The Void reports on this:

Exclusive: charities blackmailed into dropping work scheme

Charities are being blackmailed into ditching government work-for-benefit schemes by a national campaign group – with some being threatened with closure if they continue.

Three charities – one of which is currently helping survivors in Nepal – have told TFN they are being forced to drop their involvement after being blackmailed, intimidated and bullied by campaigners associated with Boycott Workfare.

The campaign group denies this but the organisations, which all support vulnerable people, have told TFN of their despair at being forced to drop the scheme because of intimidation waged against them.

Tactics used involve instigating spot checks from council officials, health and safety visits, inspections by the fire brigade as well as staff being approached by unidentified people saying they are working for a “slave labour” employer.

A campaign of anonymous, threatening phones calls, emails and letters then accompanies this. All of these can happen in just one day and continue indefinitely, the charities claim.

Despite overwhelmingly positive outcomes being achieved for the majority of individuals taking part, the charities say this harassment just isn’t worth it.

This bit really sticks in the craw:

Another charity said it had been effectively blackmailed into subsmission by Boycott Workfare campaigners.

“We resent these blackmailing tactics. They claim to be representing the vulnerable but instead they are intimidating them,” said a spokesperson.

“Anyone who challenges them are subjected to abuse and terrorism. It’s not responsible behaviour – there are other ways and other approaches to achieve the same outcomes.”

You can read more of this barely veiled attempt to get the public authorities to mobilise the police and anti-terrorism forces against anti-=workfare campaigners through the above link to Third Force News.

Johnny Void comments on this tirade.

The charity who accuse Boycott Workfare of terrorism  along with an organisation who claim to have received a threat of arson are not named by Third Force News, so there is little way of checking the truth of these allegations.  What is certain however is that Boycott Workfare had nothing to do with this or any other violent threat.  To attempt to blame every single incident on one campaign group is as ludicrous as blaming the fucking RSPCA if an animal right’s group torches a slaughterhouse.

There should be no doubt.  Threatening workfare using charities or their staff with violence is a dickish way to behave.  The person you are threatening might be on workfare themselves for a start. But whilst there are laws against sending communications which are threatening, obscene or designed to cause anxiety there is nothing wrong with firmly telling a charity what you think by writing to them or posting on their social media pages.  Or holding a protest outside their premises.  That is all Boycott Workfare, and hundreds of other claimants and supporters, have ever called on people to do.  In the case of Glasgow the Caring City they didn’t even do that.  They merely informed people that an offshoot of this charity were using workfare.

There are dozens of groups actively fighting workfare in the UK and possibly thousands of individuals.  Martin Himes, the CEO of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) who publish Third Sector News is one of them.  All are resisting in different ways.  Some have opted for civil disobedience.  Others have protested online.  Perhaps as Third Force News claim a few have grassed up charities to health & safety representatives or the local council.  This is not surprising given the appalling conditions some people on workfare have to endure.  It is hardly fucking terrorism though is it?

The truth is that many people are disgusted that charities are involved in forced labour schemes which are backed by punitive benefit sanctions that are leading to horrendous suffering.  These charities may claim that all their forced workers are happy fucking slaves, but they never see the impact on those sanctioned because they couldn’t or didn’t want to work for them without pay.  The homelessness that sanctions cause, or people queuing at foodbanks, ill health and poverty.  Workfare using charities are responsible for those consequences, no matter how they squirm and spin and try to blame everyone except themselves.  To pretend otherwise is shameful.  For Third Force News to smear those trying to bring this vile system to an end by publishing ludicrous claims of terrorism is beneath contempt.

Third Force News are on twitter @ThirdForceNews if you want to tell them what you think of this trash (in a non-threatening, non-obscene way of course).

Boycott Workfare are holding a week of action against workfare and sanctions this week, join in and spread the word.

We say:

  • Back our Friends at Boycott Workfare Against the Charity Bullies!
  • Stop all Workfare Schemes!

 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 30, 2015 at 4:04 pm

SEETC: Vindictive, Benefits Sanction Happy, Company Seeks Job Coach in Suffolk.

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Boycott Workfare’s Take on Seetec.

Hat-Tip: JJ Joop.

New Job Opportunity!

Job Coach (Field Based Role)

(Today: CV Library)

£19000 – £22000/annum.

Suffolk.

Seetec.

Due to our ongoing success we are seeking driven and passionate individuals to deliver our CWP front line services, working to help the long term unemployed attain meaningful engagement and Work Placement opportunities. We are seeking talented individuals who enjoy a target driven environment and are looking for an opportunity to help make a difference in people’s lives by assisting them to develop the skills, confidence and experience to enhance individual’s employment goals and prospects. You will proactively support customers into employment by:- *Carrying out initial assessment on your customer caseload to enable the creation of personal action plans. *Delivering initial engagement meetings *Running Job Search Sessions to support individuals in finding suitable employment. *Carrying out reviews and monitor activity, provide customer support and assistance. *Producing and maintain a customer portfolio *Ensuring systems, procedures and compliance of the programme standards are met. *Undertaking activities to find customers employment and placed into work.

Skills and Experience:

*Ability to demonstrate Seetec’s values. *Positive, enthusiastic approach to problem solving with a “can do” attitude. *Target & results driven individual. *Ability to negotiate and influence outcomes. *Demonstrate a genuine commitment to the personal and occupational success of the long term unemployed. *Excellent verbal and written communication skills. *Excellent all round IT skills

Additional Info: Full driving licence, own vehicle and full business insurance required. Seetec is an equal opportunities employer and positively encourages applications from suitably qualified and eligible candidates regardless of sex, race, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, religion or belief, marital status, or pregnancy and maternity.

Background,

“Refuted criticise Seetec on the basis that referrals for potential benefit sanctions are significantly higher under Seetec compared to other welfare-to-work companies participating in the Work Programme.” Wikipedia.

More: Seetec and Ingeus: Most vindictive benefit sanctions happy Workfare and Work Programme providers.

How are they in the position to inflict such misery?

Northern Voices adds this:

Seetec has the contract for delivering Mandatory Work Activity in London and East England and has numerous contracts for the disastrous Work Programme. We’ve already heard they’re not big fans of Boycott Workfare, complaining that placements are more difficult to find as a result of your campaigning!
One in five people sent on Mandatory Work Activity has their benefits stopped. Sanctions can now last for up to three years. These managers ruin people’s lives on an industrial scale.
Seetec ‘values’: workfare, sanctions, making money off the backs of claimants.

Claimant Segmentation Survey: More Nosey-Parker Questions.

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Claimants to be Lab Rats for Iain Duncan Smith’s Latest Mad-Cap Plans.

We recently covered  the DWP’s intention to give claimants psychometric tests.

Boycott Workfare posts today on the department’s plans as they will soon be rolled out, to use so-called “segmentation survey”.

Now it’s first of all important to note that your answers are part of a test using you as lab-rats to sound out their plans to make your lives harder (if that’s possible…).

The DWP states, 

“The Claimant Segmentation Trial is being rolled out to 27 Jobcentre Plus (JCP) offices across  the country. It aims to test what the impact of weekly jobsearch reviews (WJRs), also known  as  weekly  signing,  is  on  claimant  success  in  finding  work,  and  most  importantly  identify  which groups of claimants respond best to WJRs.

The trial will use an approach known as ‘Randomised Controlled Trials’ (RCTs) to rigorously test  the  impact  of  WJRs.  This  means  that  we  will  need  to  randomly  assign  claimants  to  either  WJRs  or  standard  fortnightly  jobsearch  reviews  (FJRs),  also  known  as  fortnightly  signing,  and observe the outcomes.

This is the bit we’ll be interested in (all from DWP link above) with instructions for your lab technician (job ‘coach’):

NINO and consent 

To begin a new survey, click ‘Begin new survey’. You must then enter the claimant’s National Insurance number. Please ensure that this is correctly entered as this will be the only means we have  to  track  claimant’s  data.  If  the  number  entered  is  not  a
valid NINO you will be prompted to correct it.
 
You must then ask for the claimant’s consent for us to collect information  about  them.  This  is  necessary  because  we  are collecting additional information beyond what is necessary for the  claims  process  for  the  purposes  of  research.  Please  read out the passage to the claimant and ask if they are happy with this. Please click either the ‘Agree’ or ‘Disagree’ buttons.

If they disagree they will still be part of the trial using the data  we already have available and the questions about your views  on the claimant, and the NINO must still be entered.

If the claimant has any questions about this trial, see the FAQs below,  which  should  address  most  of  their  concerns.  If  the claimant  requires  further  information  still,  please  seek  advice from your SPOC or manager

The DWP repeats this point saying,

Q: What if the claimant refuses to take part? 
A:  The  claimant  may  refuse  to  answer  the  survey  questions;  however,  they  cannot  opt  to not take part in the trial. 

The trial is looking at the impact of receiving WJRs / FJRs, and as such  they  must  adhere  to  the  signing  regime  they  are  assigned  so  long  as  their  claim  is active.  If  a  claimant  is  worried  about  being  part  of  a  trial, explain  that  their experience  of claiming  JSA  will  not  differ,  except  in  the  frequency  of  the  signings  which  is  nationwide policy.

Boycott Workfare says,

These surveys are completely unethical. Attempting to classify people according to their feelings about work is being used to stigmatise and pathologize certain claimants. The tests are part of the DWP’s efforts to pretend that unemployment and a low wage economy are a result of individuals’ bad attitudes, rather than a deliberate policy. Esther McVey talks about ‘psychological resistance to work’.  The test assesses people’s attitude to work through just 20 widely varying and unrelated questions, placing claimants into in the following four bizarre rigid categories:

1 Willing but nervous Jobseeker
2 Eager Jobseeker
3 Ambivalent Claimants with few barriers
4 Other Jobseekers

You do not need to be a docile lab-rat.

Boycott states,

These are the facts:

  • If you are asked to agree to take part in the Claimant Segmentation Survey you can disagree to take part (see picture ) – it is an entirely voluntary survey.
  • Refusal to take part or answer will not affect your benefits in any way: you cannot get sanctioned for refusing to answer any of the test questions or for refusing to take part in this test [Link 3]:

“There is no obligation to answer these questions and it has no bearing on your entitlement to benefits whatsoever.”

  • Your advisor has to ask for your consent before going through the questions, because they ‘are collecting additional information beyond what is necessary for the claims process for the purposes of research’.

They conclude, and we agree (repeating our earlier posts),

“Workfare and others have consistently called on the British Psychological Society to challenge the use of ‘psychometrics’ and ‘psychological surveys’ and ‘attitude profiling’ to scapegoat and coerce claimants. And we do so again.”

 

Workfare Conference Today: Ipswich Unemployed Action Takes Note.

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We would love to be there (from the Void).

We met some people from Boycott Workfare in London a couple of weeks ago and were impressed.

Apart from congratulating them on their actions, IUA  gave our solidarity.

But we will not be at this demo.

On Monday 2nd December the welfare-to-work industry will be splashing out yet more tax payers’ money on their annual workfare conference in a plush Central London venue.

Workfare exploiters like the Shaw Trust and the Salvation Army will be gathering to discuss how to further profit from the huge increase in unpaid work. From April next year hundreds of thousands of unemployed people will be forced to work for free for six months or face losing benefits completely. The cost of this scheme is estimated to be £300 million. Most of this cash will end up lining the pockets of the welfare-to-work sector – companies like A4E, G4S, Ingeus and Serco who specialise in forcing people to work without pay.

Many of these companies will be present at Monday’s conference where tickets cost up to a whopping £534 in some cases. Claimants are clearly not welcome at the conference unlike Employment Minister Esther McVey and Matthew Sinclair from hard right think tank the Tax Payer’s Alliance who will both be giving speeches at the event. The Tax Payer’s Alliance recently released a report calling for permanent workfare for those out of work even if this is due to sickness or disability.

The conference is being organised by ERSA, the trade body established to represent the welfare-to-work racket along with the Centre for Social Inclusion (CESI).

Boycott Workfare will be holding a noise demo outside the conference from 12.30pm as part of the Week of Action Against Workfare and Sanctions . A day of online protest has been called targeting the sponsors of the event who hope to gain some positive publicity from being associated with this workfare love-in. Contact them on social media and let’s make sure that doesn’t work out quite in the way they hoped as they are named and shamed for their support of forced work.

What we will do is track down and nail every workfare exploiter in Suffolk.

Help welcome.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 2, 2013 at 12:17 pm

Community Work Placements.

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Boycott Workfare announces,

Community Work Placements are the workfare part of the ‘Help to Work’ scheme. This was announced by George Osborne in September, and will begin in April next year. The other parts are daily attendance at job centres (for 35 hours per week) and compulsory training.

This means that once again we’re seeing ads for workfare subcontractors that target the Community & Voluntary Sector. While some charities (e.g. YMCASalvation Army, The Conservation Volunteers &Groundwork) are dedicated workfare exploiters, many others say they do not support workfare, but still end up helping to deliver it. The supply chain is so (deliberately) complex, it can disguise what’s going on.

The government’s Information Pack for Delivery Partners  contains these details,

From April 2014, Community Work Placements will be one of the three intensive options available through Help to Work support for  Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants (JSA) returning from the Work
Programme. This will be available alongside the Mandatory Intervention Regime, an intensive offer of adviser support currently operating in Jobcentre Plus, and daily signing.

Six months on a work placement will provide the opportunity for claimants to develop their vocational and employability skills, to add significant experience to their CV, and to demonstrate their capabilities
to employers. The associated jobsearch will help them use these skills and experience to secure paid employment as soon as possible.

We have evidence that the placements will help claimants: evaluation of a trailblazer run in 2012 found that taking part in Community Work Placements had a positive impact on jobseekers’ confidence and workrelated ambition, and led to them spending fewer days on benefit than a control group.

The evaluation also found that job satisfaction and the work routine of placements resulted in increased motivation to work, even among participants initially opposed to the idea of a work placement.

These are the criminal exploiters who are eligible to bid for forced labour in the East of England, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire; Cambridge, and Suffolk; Essex; Norfolk.

A4e Ltd
Atos IT Services UK Ltd
Avanta Enterprise Ltd
Ingeus Deloitte Ltd
Learndirect Ltd (formerly JHP Group Ltd)
Maximus Employment and Training Ltd
Reed in Partnership Ltd
Remploy Ltd
Seetec Business Technology Centre
The Corporation of Newcastle College

 

Trades Councils Call to Boycott Workfare.

with 14 comments

   Trades Union Councils* Annual Conference 2012 – Resolutions.

This was passed.

  A CALL TO BOYCOTT WORKFARE SCHEMES – carried unanimously with amendment

This Annual Conference of Trades Union Councils notes:

        1.      That under the new ‘Single Work Programme’, benefits claimants will be placed on 
                compulsory workfare placements. Something similar is already in place under
                Flexible New Deal.
        2.      Under these reforms, ‘volunteering’ will lose its voluntary aspect and become 
                compulsion, watched over by charities. Voluntary groups will be expected to
                monitor the attendance of people on these work programmes, report on their
                behaviour, and provide other information to the DWP that can result in severe
                penalties for recipients.
        3.      Compulsory work placements are being offered to the voluntary, public and
                private sectors. If the voluntary sector refuses to participate, this would make the
                programme much less viable.
        4.      The reform is being rolled out at a time when education and training schemes,
                housing benefit and other public services are being cut. Unpaid work inevitably
                replaces paid jobs and pushes wages down.
        5.      There have been 679,820 ‘New Deal Sanctions’ since the year 2000 creating great 
                hardship for the poorest of those amongst us. Under workfare, this hardship will
                only be exacerbated.

The Annual Conference of Trades Union Councils believes:

        1.      That everyone is entitled to decent work, training and income. Benefits are a right,
                not a privilege and need to be protected.
        2.      That we need to act in solidarity with the most vulnerable in society to protect
                benefits as part of defending society against a wider attack on the welfare state as
                a whole.
        3.      That many claimants wish to contribute to their communities and learn new skills
                through freely choosing to do voluntary work. Compulsory placements cause
                resentment, are against the ideal of volunteering and take advantage of the most
                vulnerable.

The Annual Conference of Trades Union Councils resolves:

        1.      To support the call for a boycott of workfare placements
        2.      To boycott all forms of unpaid work (replacing paid work p ositions) such as internships
        3.      To publicise the campaign, as well as the details of different claimants’ support 
                groups, amongst charity and union networks and amongst members of the Trade
                Union Council movement.

       GREATER LONDON

Amendment
Delete final paragraph and replace with:

“1.    Support the occupation of companies carrying out workfare schemes.
 2.   Leading and supporting a boycott at local level of workfare placements and naming and
      shaming all companies currently involved in this exploitation.
 3.   Support the boycotting of all forms of compulsory unpaid work, including internships.
 4.   Fully support and publicise this campaign and support claimant support groups and the
      “Unite the union community branch programme”

 

* Trades Councils are the lay local wing of the Trades Union Congress. They are made up of affiliated unions on a town, city and county basis. Ipswich Trades Council supports this motion, which updates one we drafted a few years ago on Flexible New Deal and the threat of workfare.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 3, 2012 at 9:46 am