liverpool anti-workfare action report

Adam Ford took to the streets as part of a lively national campaign

 

On Saturday, around forty activists responded to a callout by Liverpool Solidarity Federation, and picketed companies profiting from the coalition government’s workfare scheme. The demonstrators generally won a sympathetic reaction from the public, and the contribution of local musicians provided a much-needed morale boost as the skies opened. Continue reading “liverpool anti-workfare action report”

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‘how do we break workfare?’ conference report

On Saturday May 26th around fifty activists from around the country (although mostly the South-East) met in Brighton for a conference entitled ‘how do we break workfare?’. Here, Ollie Sutherland summarises the main conclusions of the conference

What is workfare and why we need to break it

Workfare is a direct and violent attack on regular working people. It is forcing those unemployed into unpaid labour to receive their benefits, claimed to be valuable work experience to make them more employable. However, the labour is things like stacking shelves – hardly valuable work experience, and is given to businesses (big or small) which have no intention of hiring more staff. In fact, because the businesses can get unpaid labour from the JobCentre or private work providers, they can fire existing staff who they have to pay minimum wage for. Some businesses, like Holland & Barrett, have explicitly said this is their aim – to exploit working people, using what is technically slave labour. The scheme originates from the government’s close ties to business: workfare is the state subsidising private companies, as in making people work in private companies to receive their benefits, the state is paying the workers’ wages (£2/hour or lower) while the businesses get free labour. Continue reading “‘how do we break workfare?’ conference report”

love nor money: unpaid work at tesco

Sharon Borthwick looks at the absurd ideology behind last month’s row over workfare schemes

What a joke to have a national minimum wage if you are then allowed to pay your employees nothing at all. “Stacking supermarket shelves is better than dreaming of stardom via TV’s the X Factor”, smarms Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith. For a quiet man he doesn’t half come out with a lot of shit. What of young persons more pragmatic dreams, to gain paid employment after education?

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“The idea that we should allow a bunch of extremists to get in the way of providing genuine, voluntary help for young people is just crazy” says the indignant Chris Grayling referring to the successes of left groups including Boycott Workfare and Right To Work in either getting firms to withdraw from or postpone their involvement with the government’s workfare programmes, including Mandatory Work Activity whereby claimants can have their benefits withdrawn for thirteen weeks for not working for zero wages  for eight weeks. Continue reading “love nor money: unpaid work at tesco”

back in the DHSS

Terry Liddle looks back on a life working at the Department of Health and Social Security

Having graduated from university on to the dole and then working on a short-term Community Enterprise Programme, which I tried to organise into the NUPE union with little success, I was back signing on. One day the counter clerk at the Unemployment Benefit Office asked: “How would you like to come and work for us?” The “us” was the local DHSS office in Lewisham. After a literacy test, I started work on a Monday morning as part of the lowest grade – clerical assistant.

The work consisted of linking letters to claimants’ files which were never where they were meant to be often being buried under piles created by overworked Clerical Officers. It was boring and the pay lousy, but better than the dole! Continue reading “back in the DHSS”

giz a fightback: the ‘80s unemployed

Unemployment threatens to hit early-1980s levels: but how can the jobless stand up to the government? Terry Liddle reflects on his experience of the unemployed movement in those years

In the early 1980s there were 3 million unemployed and students were moving straight from graduation to the dole queue. No exception, I went to sign on at Spray Street dole office in Woolwich. Outside a group of people were leafleting. They were Greenwich Action Group On Unemployment (GAGOU).  As the factories which lined the river from Erith to Deptford closed down, it was set up by the newly unemployed and a community worker from Greenwich Council, shades of things to come!

GAGOU spent a lot of time on individual cases of which there were many. In this we enlisted the help of sympathetic staff at the dole office. And in turn when they were in dispute our banner would appear on their picket line. But we did not make links with local union branches, many of which would not let the unemployed join, or with the Trades Council. Continue reading “giz a fightback: the ‘80s unemployed”

reflections on june 30th strike day: a movement taking its first steps

For Izzy Parrott, the J30 day of action was about more than pensions: but it didn’t have the feel of a wide, grassroots movement. 

I went to the strike with Hackney Welfare Action, a benefit claimant and unemployed workers’ group in Hackney, where members support each other with problems at the Job Centre, take action collectively and campaign against ‘work for your benefits’. This is sister group to the Hackney Housing Group, which I’m personally involved in.

Hackney Welfare Action members first went to the picket line at Hackney Benefits Centre, which was a useful show of support for the three workers on the picket line, including one trade union representative. Only fifteen out of three hundred workers crossed the picket that was made up of three workers and roughly thirty supporters. The workers were pleased to have the support and the dialogue we had reminded me that the picket line is still a great place to have conversations! Continue reading “reflections on june 30th strike day: a movement taking its first steps”

more work, no pay

editorial of The Commune

On 7th November the ConDem coalition announced its plan to force unemployed people to work a 30-hour week of manual labour to ‘earn’ the £65 Jobseekers’ Allowance.

Tory Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said the Work Activity scheme will “make work pay”. Quite the opposite. It will make people work for free, slaves to the state.

Government rhetoric claims that people in work are having to support the “work-shy”, and that this tax is unfair. Yet the whole coalition cuts project means that working-class people will get less services for the tax money they have to pay to the state, which is of course as high as ever. Continue reading “more work, no pay”