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Report: Combating Workfare in Birmingham

Brief report on the Boycott Workfare demo in Birmingham 3rd March.

About 60 people in Birmingham today protested against the government’s Workfare schemes, which see people forced to work for up to 6 months in order to keep their benefits for already obscenely profitable companies. Boycott Workfare had organised March 3rd as a national day of action, including London, Brighton and Belfast.

Many companies have already pulled out of the scheme due to public outcry, including, TK Maxx, Sainsburys and Waterstones. Protestors hoped that greater pressure will force more companies to pull out of the scheme.

Factsheet: 5 kinds of workfare

Currently there are currently five workfare schemes in use in the UK, below we explain them

 

Resources

 

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Lets put an end to workfare!

Brighton SF are backing the March 3rd national day of action against workfare called by Boycott Workfare. We'll be supporting the actions organised locally by the Brighton Benefits Campaign. We urge all SF Locals to do the same, supporting local events or organising something if nothing is planned. We think workfare is an attack not just on the unemployed, but also undermines the conditions of workers in paid employment. We think concerted direct action can beat it, and will be redoubling our efforts to this end.

The logic of workfare

Workfare means unemployed people being forced to do unpaid work for their benefits. Tens of thousands of people are being forced into unpaid work, household name firms are profiting from free labour and disabled people face unlimited unpaid work or cuts in benefit. Workfare began under Labour with the New Deal in 1998, which became the Flexible New Deal in 2009. It is now being expanded by the Conservative-Liberal government under a number of different schemes including: ‘Work Experience’, ‘Mandatory Work Activity’, ‘the Community Action Programme’, ‘Sector Based Work Academies’, and ‘the Work Programme’.

Organising against workfare

Workfare is a growing problem, as demonstrated by recent stories of a number of supermarkets had volunteered to be providers for the scheme and that young people were providing 30 hours a week of unpaid labour. This presents a problem both for the claimants trapped by this scheme, essentially as slave labour, and for the providers' workforce who are being undercut by those doing their job at practically no cost. Equally worrying is that, despite the growing anger over government attacks and emergence of anti-cuts groups across the country, nothing is being done to challenge this.

Unpaid Labour in the South East

Courtesy of our friends at the Brighton Benefits Campaign, what follows is a list of companies in Kent, Surrey and Sussex that have taken advantage of mandatory work placements through the Government’s Work Programme in which unemployed people are forced to work without pay. The placements are arranged by a private company called Avanta Enterprise Limited:

National day of action against the Flexible New Deal

Wednesday June 16th marks the first National Day of Action against the Flexible New Deal called by the No to Welfare Abolition network. All over the country groups who are campaigning against recent welfare reforms will be taking action against the companies who are involved in running welfare-to-work. Here in Brighton we will meet at the Clocktower, outside Boots, at 11am on Wedneday 16th June.

What is the Flexible New Deal?

Newsletter #1: ‘Brighton Agitator’

Newsletter for the Radical Workers Bloc - Sussex uni redundancies, voting Green, nursery closure, workfare (2010)

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