A call for organisations to boycott workfare

As workfare, i.e. compulsory work for benefits, is being rolled-out across the country, we call on public sector bodies, voluntary organisations and businesses being offered these placements as well as union branches to join others in signing a pledge to boycott the scheme.

We have knowledge of claimants being inadequately trained for the work they do (particularly health and safety training), working exceedingly long shifts, and bullying in the workplace. Claimants are often not given any choice as to where they work or the sort of work they do. In no sense can this be called voluntary work.

Workfare placements will not benefit your organisation:

  • Signing the pledge will improve your public image.
  • It will help ensure that your volunteers are truly volunteering.
  • Bad publicity about taking part in the workfare scheme could result in a reduction in donations or sales for your organization.
  • Compulsory unpaid labour will create an atmosphere of resentment.
  • No organisation wants to be seen to be using slave labour.
  • This is even more important to charities whose public image and charitable aims often depend on helping the poor.

We want decent work, training and income. Workfare will not provide any of these. It is being rolled out at a time when education and training schemes, housing benefit and other public services are being cut. Unpaid work inevitably replaces paid jobs and pushes wages down.
You may be asked to accept workfare placements for compulsory “volunteers” for anything from a month to six months as part of the new ‘Single Work Programme’.  Something similar is already in place under Flexible New Deal.

Many claimants wish to contribute to their communities and learn new skills through freely choosing to do voluntary work. However, under workfare arrangements voluntary organizations will end up having to police the very people they want to help. Voluntary groups will be expected to monitor the attendance of people on these work programmes, report on their behaviour, and provide other information to the DWP that can result in severe penalties for recipients.

There have been ‘679,820 New Deal Sanctions’ since the year 2000 creating great hardship for the poorest of those amongst us.

We are asking you to refuse to participate in compulsory work placements and to do so publicly.  Even if your organization has no intention of accepting workfare placements it would help us prevent the imposition of workfare elsewhere if you would sign the pledge.

Signed by:

Welfare Action Hackney
Kilburn Unemployed Workers
London Coalition Against Poverty
Disabled People Against Cuts
Notts IWW (Industrial Workers of the World, Nottingham & Notts General Membership Branch)
Kilburn Boycott Workfare
Arts against cuts
Precarious workers

Please contact us if your organisation or union branch will sign the following pledge, so we can add your name to the list:

Pledge to boycott workfare placements
We the undersigned commit to refusing to participate in compulsory work-for-benefits placements. We want volunteering to remain just that!

Since the start of February the following organisations have signed up to the pledge:

  • Unite Central London Branch – LE/524 (The union branch for many of the charities and voluntary sector organisations in Central London)
  • Hackney City Farm
  • International Federation of Iraqi Refugees
  • Shiny Ideas
  • Unite LE/785 Branch, Community, Youth Workers and Not for Profit Sector
  • Campaign Against Arms Trade

Please download the Union motion – boycott workfare to bring to your trade union branch.


2 responses to “A call for organisations to boycott workfare

  1. Pingback: Take action this month : London Coalition Against Poverty

  2. Pingback: Responding to Workfare: challenges for the voluntary sector | rhizome: participation|activism|consensus

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