David Chivers

David Chivers

29 February 2012

Workfare 1It now seems like a dailyoccurrencethat I find myself shouting, swearing and pouring uncontrollableanger at theTV. If it’s not biased newsjournalism, then why are carefully selectedmembers of thepublic being trooped in front of the television cameras to defend the Coalition’s Right-wing “we’re all in this together” mantra? It’s thepoliticians ingovernment that mostly get my stress levels up to breaking point! Since the Coalition assumed power we have moved from the negative pro-cuts situation we were about to experience under New Labour to a damn right total all- out attack on the poor through the austeritypolicies of a rulingcabinet jam-packed full of millionaires. IfI’mnotshoutingabout the NHSprivatisationbill, the cuts to our services,tuitionfees,Workfare 2employment rights, job losses, Atos making sick people, includingcancerpatients, look for work, and even more attacks on Welfare, the list goes on and on. I couldprobablywrite a Blog on every issue. The new policy that has really struck a chord, however, being from a section of the unions which represents young people, is this workfare scheme the has caused a media storm in the last few weeks.

Workfare is thegovernment’s flagship so- called workexperienceprogramme for the unemployed,Workfare 3particularlythose million-plus in the younger workers category whowill be forced to work for only Jobseekers Allowance and a pittance in expenses in mainly large chains ofretailstores for up to 12 weeks/ 30hrs per week. Regardless of the media lies failure to comply after one week will mean a loss ofbenefit, and there is no jobguarantee when it ends. These large employers,particularly stores likeTescowhoprofitedover 3 billion last year, are now beginning to experience a massive onslaught of grass-roots opposition to this programme, and the campaign is gaining momentum and success on an almost daily basis as thepressurehas forced some to pull out

Make no mistake about it,regardlessof what the anti- employment rights lobby thinks of ‘workfare’ it is a form of modern-day ‘enslavement’ as it forces those seeking employment to work for an employer which may not be appropriate totheirgoals, choices and ambitions. Whyshouldn’tyounger people have the same employmentWorkfare 5chances as everyone else?How demoralising must this forced situation feel for theindividualjob-seeker? And for the rest of us in employment it puts our well- fought- and- earned terms andconditions atsevererisk, thusengagingin what theTorieslove historically most of all-dividing and conquering. But it’s not working!In my town of Worthing, many people have already experienced the Workfare programme and have confirmed the popular opinion that it ought to be scrapped.Currently, the Brighton branch of Poundland has suspended participation in the scheme due to popular protest, and with more large companies responding to thepressure, this must be intensified as we dare notbecomplacent.

Workfare must be scrapped so that our 16-24 year old workers can be saved from this terrible exploitation exercise. It is morally wrong for richcorporationsto expand their profit margins at the expense of the British taxpayer and our desperate friends and relatives looking for rewarding employment .Ibelieveif we don’toppose Workfare in a big way it will result in worsening pay and conditions in theWorkfare 4workplace for every worker. Unscrupulous employers will use those of us who have been forced to work for them at the expense of the taxpayer as leverage in contractual negotiations. Indeed, the evidence is now mounting that some medium and large employers – Asda is only one recent example – are reducing the hours of their paid employees while they make profitable use of the Government’s supply of unpaid labour. They must be stopped.

In a fair and justsociety we should all be campaigning for a decent living wage for everyone. Lets demand the end of Workfare, and we should bring to the attention of the wider public that this is the same old nasty Tory party doing what they are ideologically programmedto do – to ensure that we barely exist in a more unequal and inequitable society.

David Chivers YAC Vice Chair
Southdowns Amal SE No 1