Week of Action Against Workfare

SLSF Press release on week of action against workfare

FIGHTING AGAINST WORKFARE

South London Solidarity Federation will be joining a week of action against Holland and Barrett's involvement in workfare from 7th to 14th July. The week will see stores picketed all over the country and SLSF are calling protests outside several South London branches of the multinational-owned store.

Workfare involves job-seekers working for their benefit at businesses that would otherwise need to employ people. If they refuse they can have their benefits stopped. This is a massive subsidy to Holland and Barrett – usually employers expect to pay at least minimum wage for workers.

The group are keen to stress that the protest is not just aimed at the use of subsidised coerced labour. Member Jack Foster said: “Workfare is an attack on all workers; firms like Holland & Barrett and Argos have cut the hours of regular staff and used workfare placements to take their place.”

The group are also keen to hear from people affected by workfare: if you have been forced to work for your benefits, or have lost shifts or hours because your employer has had workers for free, please tell your stories.

Posted By

martinh
Jul 5 2012 23:54

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wojtek
Jul 6 2012 02:14
Quote:
Holland & Barrett blagged on Facebook yesterday:
At Holland & Barrett, we take our responsibilities as a retailer and employer very seriously, and any possible compromise to the safety of our staff and customers from opponents of our work experience scheme is treated with great importance.

This factor, together with the planned introduction of a new full time, salaried apprentice scheme, means that the 60 people currently undertaking the work experience scheme will be the last to complete the eight week placement. After this time Holland & Barrett will not participate further in that scheme

https://www.facebook.com/hollandandbarrett/posts/329040160515167

I'm assuming we're not going to take H&B at their word right what with the proof being in the pudding and all that?

Anecdotally, I know of three people who've been on workfare. Two worked part-time/unconventional hours (I forget which), hated it, but got jobs at the end. The third worked 9-5 and still didn't get hired.

no1
Jul 6 2012 12:00

Article from Brighton SF:

Quote:
A domino falls: Holland & Barrett quit workfare after direct action

Campaigners are claiming a major scalp in the battle against workfare after retailer Holland & Barrett announced they were pulling out of the scheme. On hearing the news, Brighton Solidarity Federation tweeted "we've won an important battle against workfare, but the war is far from over." The announcement came just 24 hours before a planned national week of action against workfare organised by the Boycott Workfare Network. Holland & Barrett had strongly backed workfare, announcing that they were committed to taking 1,000 people on unpaid work schemes this year alone (out of a workforce of just 3,500).

However, since their April announcement at a workfare conference organised by Department for Work and Pensions Minister Chris Grayling, escalating protests have singled-out the firm with regular pickets across the UK turning away shoppers shocked at the firm's involvement in the scheme. Outraged customers have also been bombarding H&B's Twitter and Facebook accounts with complaints. The sustained pressure has forced a u-turn, with Holland & Barrett's official facebook page announcing late last night that: "the 60 people currently undertaking the work experience scheme will be the last to complete the eight week placement. After this time Holland & Barrett will not participate further in that scheme."

Holland & Barrett intend to replace unpaid work placements from the Job Center with a salaried apprentice scheme. The Solidarity Federation will keep a close eye on Holland & Barrett and meet any backsliding with renewed direct action, but for now we are celebrating a victory against unpaid work. As a revolutionary union initiative made up of workers and claimants, the Solidarity Federation sees workfare as an attack on all workers by undermining pay and conditions. For example, staff at Holland & Barrett told us that overtime was no longer available in some stores as it was being done by unpaid workfare labour instead.

We will now support the national week of action called by the Boycott Workfare Network against remaining workfare firms before meeting to discuss the next steps.

Solidarity Federation - Brighton Local (workfare working group)

http://solfed.org.uk/?q=brighton/a-domino-falls-holland-barrett-quit-workfare-after-direct-action

Thanks to all the comrades in Afed, Boycott Workfare, UK Uncut, and lots of local groups like Staines Anarchists and individuals who took part. SolFed are in the best position to react to the news publicly and think about who the next target could be, but this is all our victory and Holland & Barrett wouldn't have given in had it not been for all of us.

Chilli Sauce
Jul 6 2012 14:13

AWESOME!!!

Choccy
Jul 6 2012 14:37

smile

the button
Jul 6 2012 14:46

Of course, the fact that this campaign has been in any way successful illustrates that it is in fact reformist.

jonthom
Jul 6 2012 16:13
the button wrote:
Of course, the fact that this campaign has been in any way successful illustrates that it is in fact reformist.

confused of course it is - what else would it be?

one question I do find interesting though is why this campaign has had some degree of success where others don't. groups can spend years - even decades - trying to press companies into a change of policy and make absolutely no progress, while the workfare stuff seems to have succeeded in pressuring several companies out of the scheme in a matter of months.

a few possibilities spring to mind - workfare harming their brand image to the point they had to pull out, them not relying on workfare that much in the first place and having less to lose by quitting, workfare itself being offensive to mainstream ideas ("a fair day's wage for a fair day's work" and all that), etc. - but don't really have much of an idea beyond that.

Harrison
Jul 6 2012 21:10
the button wrote:
Of course, the fact that this campaign has been in any way successful illustrates that it is in fact reformist.

Mr. T

baboon
Jul 7 2012 10:52

A couple of months ago Poundland (or whatever they're called) promised under some pressure to revise their workfare involvement. But nothing's happened around here and they've carried on exactly the same. It's possible this is true of others?