Monday, 21 November 2011

ARBEIT MACHT FREI - Government scheme for the unemployed, condemned as slavery!

The disgraced former MP for Stalybridge & Hyde, tory boy, James Purnell, is the scoundrel who introduced forced labour for the unemployed when he was Secretary of State for work and pensions, during the last Labour government.

Under the guise of work experience, the unemployed are now being dragooned by the Con-Dem Government into working unpaid for supermarkets and budget stores for up to two months in return for their dole money. The work experience programme exempts young jobseekers from the national minimum wage (NMW) for up to eight weeks when undertaking placements of up to 30 hours per week, without pay, which must be completed if they are to keep their Jobseekers Allowance (JSA). Although the scheme is voluntary and allows claimants a one week 'cooling-off' period, a person undertaking work experience, loses their benefit if they fail to complete the scheme after the first week.

Yet young people who have participated in the scheme, have told The Guardian that they were told by the Jobcentre that the scheme was mandatory and they have complained that they were kept in the dark regarding the one week cooling-off period. Many also confirmed that they were doing 30 hours unpaid labour and had to be available, between 9.00am and 10.00pm in return for their £53 a-week JSA.

The Department of Work & Pensions(DWP), have confirmed that jobcentre staff can force the unemployed into taking a placement once they have "expressed an interest" and that a person, will lose their JSA if they pull out after completing one week.

Many major high-street stores are participating in the scheme. Sainsbury, Argos, ASDA, Tesco, Poundland, Primark, have all offered no pay, work-for-your-dole placements, with no guarantee of a job at the end of it.

Cait Reilly (22), who graduated last year with a BSc in Geology, told The Guardian that she had been working for her benefits stacking and cleaning shelves for Poundland in South Birmingham, with five other claimants. Cait said:

"It seems we were being used as free labour in the run-up to Christmas."

Although she told her jobcentre that she didn't want the placement, Reilly says she was told it was mandatory and that she would lose her benefit if she didn't take it.

In Warfield, Berkshire, James Rayburn (21), spent seven weeks stacking and cleaning shelves for Tesco, unpaid, and sometimes worked the night shift. He says he was given little instruction or support but was told by his jobcentre that he would lose his benefits if he did not work without pay. He also confirmed that he was not told by the jobcentre that he had one week to refuse the placement.

While some might call this type of forced labour, slavery, which is providing big business with a pool of unpaid labour, Tesco told The Guardian that they were under the impression that the placements were voluntary and added:

"These placements are not a substitute for full-time employees."

No doubt, young Mr. Rayburn, would beg to differ. He told the newspaper:

"I reckon they should have paid me...I was basically doing what a normal member of staff does for Tesco."

Though Tesco told the newspaper they would not be offering placements over Christmas, in August, they told The Guardian that they were -

"co-operating with jobcentres to provide 3,000 four-week placements this year, and Poundland rather brazenly said that taking on unpaid benefit claimants 'doesn't replace our recruitment activity but adds to the number of colleagues we have working with us.' Neither of them, nor the equally placement-friendly ASDA, answered a question about what 'work experience'actually involves, though the clue is perhaps in the title, Work?"

Though the DWP say they do not know how many hundreds or thousands of benefit claimants are working without pay, employment minister Chris Grayling, told the newspaper:

"Our work experience scheme is proving to be a big success with over half of young people leaving benefits after they have completed their placements. It is not mandatory but once someone agrees to take part we expect them to turn up or they will have their benefit stopped."

Other government schemes such as 'mandatory work activity', and the 'work programme', also involve claimants undertaking forced labour for companies. Solicitors from 'Public Interest Lawyers' in Birmingham, who are acting on behalf of two clients involved in the 'mandatory work activity' programme, are seeking a judicial review of the scheme. They maintain that their clients were forced to work against their will, which amounted to a breach of their human rights under article
4(2)of the Human Rights Act which states:

"No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour."

Forced labour is something which one normally associates with totalitarian regimes, like NAZI Germany and not so-called free and open liberal societies, like Britain. Despite this compulsion, and the fact that these government work-for-dole schemes clearly pose a threat to people in paid employment or those seeking employment, due to the potential for displacement and substitution of dole labour for paid labour, there has been barely a squeak of opposition from the trade unions.


Anonymous said...

This is happening all over the UK: and not just to the young. In Bournemouth too, 'mandatory' work was being given at a firm who were at the time in the process of sacking over 200 other workers; training was being given on a software system that was 10 years out of date to computer graduates,and the system was being run for profit by the local (almost bankrupt) university, in cahoots with an organisation called BCHA. Absolutely pointless!

Northern Voices said...

Could you give us more details about the firm in Bournemouth and the 'mandatory work' scheme that was taking place at the firm?