As part of the week of action against the government workfare and affiliated schemes, Newcastle targeted upmarket retail chain, Marks and Spencer. M&S seek to profit to the tune of 1 million pounds using its own workfare scheme. While M&S attempt to put a worthy spin on its free labour, only a small percentage of people find work because of workfare. Not only is workfare an attack on unemployed workers but threaten the positions of those in work, potentially pitting worker against worker. Marks and Spencer's were no different to all the pickets Newcastle SolFed has taken part in, 15 minutes in sending out their security guard to try and harass us - to no avail. What made it different was people really stopped and took time to listen to what the picket was about.
The British Heart Foundation Uses Forced Unpaid Labour.
We also picketed Poundland, Dorothy Perkins, Burtons, Top Man/Top Shop and Debenhams. If previous holidays are anything to go by Workfare companies will have had people in working for nothing on Workfare rather than pay their regular staff holiday pay for the Bank holiday.
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A picket of Poundland was organised in Manchester on May Day to coincide with the IWA days of action against Austerity, Exploitation and Oppression. Poundland is making use of the government's Workfare programme that forces the unemployed to work for nothing. The picket was organised by Manchester Solfed and was supported by members of Manchester AF. The picket took place at the Poundland shop in the Arndale Shopping centre and we were soon approached by security staff who demanded we stop our protest on the grounds that it was taking place on private property. A few hundred leaflets were distributed and the picket was generally well recieved by shoppers.
Hull SolFed recently held a picket against the Workfare scheme outside of the new Poundland store, in the centre of town. Four SolFed members were joined by three members of the local unemployed peoples group in distributing leaflets and asking shoppers not to use Poundland. The picket managed to both turn customers away and engaged a lot of sympathetic passersby in conversation about the workfare scheme. The stores managers were unpleased with the picket, asking Humberside police to move us a small distance away from the doors (Approx 6 inches, in fact!). One member decided to respond with loud slogans, causing more interest than before.
The continuing struggle against workfare was taken, by Bristol Anarchist Federation, to the door of shameless exploiters at Homebase. Bristol Solidarity Federation responded to the request for support and turned up to spread the clear message - "Workfare is Slavery"
After it was recently revealed that management at the Haringey branch of Homebase had it tapped into a seemingly endless source of free labour. It was clear that a new target of anti-workfare activists was emerging. The Haringey store bosses had been caught bragging about that it was getting 750 hours of free labour every week in their store.
In the morning some of us went to the 1000 Mothers March against the benefit Changes in Tottenham with Haringey Solidarity Group. There was good turn out of 5-600 and a lively local march made its way from Tottenham green up the high street. We peeled off and headed down to Turnpike Lane to picket Poundland along with members of Solent Solfed, (who'd come down for the party later that evening) from 1pm onwards. We moved down to Homebase at about half 2, despite the rain, and the response at both stores was good. We had a lot of people taking leaflets, a few cheers from teenagers passing by and a few stopping for a chat about their experiences on the work programme. We packed up around 4 and headed home/to the café for a well earned cuppa.
North London SolFed and Haringey Solidarity Group picketed Homes for Haringey on Wednesday 10th April. It was our second picket there over the use of workfare by the council housing provider and a charity Groundwork. After sacking one third of their gardening staff two years ago, they are now forcing benefit claimants to do the work for no pay.
Despite the freezing temperatures and snow showers on Saturday 23rd March, members of Feminist Fightback, North London Solfed, Boycott Workfare and other local groups, residents and anti-workfare protesters picketed Argos in Leytonstone and Poundland in Wembley.
In Leytonstone, for a large demonstration the reception from the public was generally very positive, with residents driving past slowing down and opening windows asking for leaflets. Plenty of people stopped to chat despite the cold.
We picketed Argos as part of the Boycott Workfare week of action and we were originally going to picket Superdrug as well who pulled out a day before the demo; no doubt in part due to pressure from anti-workfare groups and campaigns across the country.
Yesterday North London Solidarity Federation picketed the Homes For Haringey offices in Wood Green and the depot for Groundwork, in Tottenham, who are employed by the Council to provide gardening and improvement services on estates in the area. The demonstration was against Groundwork's use of workfare; unemployed people are forced by Jobcentres to do the work. They are not being paid for it and they can't refuse or they would lose their benefits for two months.
There are over 6,500 people looking for work in Tottenham and this number keeps on increasing. The area has the highest unemployment in London. What is Haringey Council doing? Hundreds of people providing essential services have been made redundant and now they are being replaced by unpaid workers.
On the 2nd of March, Solent SolFed with comrades from Bristol and Brighton locals along with CNT-AIT Caen, Forest of Dean Anarchists, Wessex Solidarity and others, picketed Poundland in Portsmouth as part of our rolling campaign against the mendacious workfare provider (they keep staying they’ve pulled out). This particular shop had two employees working for JSA however.