Tag Archives: boycott workfare

On stealing food

Iceland Foods - Kentish Town RoadWithin a mile of the Iceland on Kentish Town Road (the Trussell Trust’s find-your-nearest-foodbank map provides this information) there are two foodbanks: Chalk Farm and Camden.

A recent food banks report discovers 960 emergency food providers (food banks and soup kitchens) operating in the UK, and this may not be a complete list.

The Kentish Tower ran an article on then-new foodbank at Chalk Farm Baptist Church in April last year:

Who comes to the foodbank? In theory, people can receive a maximum of three vouchers in a row to discourage reliance, although longer term support is available at the discretion of the foodbank manager. “One thing that has surprised me is how open people are,” said Sammy, “when talking about their current situation. A lot of it is delayed benefits – or people who’ve had an injury and can’t physically work.”

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Filed under About Food, Charities, Children, Poverty

Workfare, welfare, and freedom of information

So long as the government’s workfare programmes were kept slightly blurred, it was easy for people otherwise of good will to support them. (Ideological cheap-work conservatives would support workfare all the more for understanding what it is, but genuine believers in that faith are always rare, even if not quite confined to the 1%.)

Long-term young unemployed, school-leavers or recent graduates, never had a job or at least out of practice with getting up and out of the house every day to get to a job and sticking to their work, getting experience at work which is done for the public benefit. Put that way and it sounds positively like an excellent idea, doesn’t it? Even the news that disabled people and the chronically-ill would be required to work for their benefits might not have affected the public view of workfare much, since there has been a strong public perception created that people in receipt of disability benefit are all scroungers.

Christina Patterson wrote in The Independent on 3rd March 2012:

You’d have thought that the people who can see, and hear, and move their legs and arms, and do an awful lot of things without having to think about how they’re going to do them, would think that they were lucky. You’d have thought that they’d look at the people who did have to think about those things, and wonder what they could do to make their life easier. You wouldn’t have thought that those people would be shouting nasty things at those people, and saying that they’re “scroungers”.

But apparently the impulse to shout “scrounger” is pretty strong, as Patterson was writing only a fortnight earlier Continue reading

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Filed under Benefits, Disability, George Orwell, Poverty, Supermarkets

Workfare in Scotland: FOI denied

On Saturday 3rd March the Boycott Workfare campaign plans a national, UK-wide, day of action against workfare – and I had been wondering why no locale for a demo had yet been announced for Edinburgh or Glasgow, both of which have healthy UKUncut groups. Though companies have been backing off from the scheme since it became clear that even Daily Mail readers were switching sides (in January, Jan Moir penned one of her vitriol-loaded columns dripping bile and acid on Cait Reilly for thinking that if Poundland wanted her to stack shelves they could pay her: only a month later the Mail runs an article asking why big companies like Poundland and Tesco are getting workers for free).

According to Stephen Naysmith at the Herald, the answer is horrifyingly simple – the DWP have decided not to tell us which companies and charities are making use of unpaid workers: Continue reading

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Filed under Benefits, Poverty, Scottish Culture, Supermarkets

No union should support workfare

Minimum wage: it’s not just a good idea, it’s the law.

In the UK, if you are over 21, your employer must pay you a minimum wage of at least £6.08 per hour. If you are aged 18-20, your employer must pay you at least £4.98 per hour. If you are 16 or 17, the legal minimum is £3.68. And apprentice wages were lowered still further in October last year, to £2.60 per hour for all apprentices under 19 and all first-year apprentices regardless of age.

None of this now applies to people who are 16-24 and claiming JSA. They can now be made to provide 30 hours work a week for a month at a time, for what amounts to a wage of £1.76 per hour. This wage is not paid by their employers: it is provided by the government. The employers get paid by the government to “accept” this free labour.

I joined the Manufacturing, Science and Finance Union in 1999, after some discussion with an adviser at the STUC about which union was more appropriate for my line of work. MSF got folded into Amicus and Amicus into UNITE, so I’m now a UNITE member. But I could easily have decided to join the Communication Workers Union in 1999. And it appalls me that any union would, on any justification, agree to endorse a policy of bringing in unpaid labour for weeks at a time.

Yet that’s just what CWU have done, adopting the corporate line that workfare is a “work experience programme”.
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Resist the supermarkets

When supermarkets come to town, they wreck local businesses, set up a flow of money out of the community, increase traffic, and generally act like bullies who think they’re too big to fall. They make use of workfare labourers to save themselves hiring temp workers in rush periods, they override planning permission, and once they’ve shut down all the local “competition”, you can’t even boycott them, because where else can you shop?

When was the last time you read something really radical in the Guardian?

What is to be done? Oddly enough, perhaps one mad answer lies in the other Tesco-related story of the week. Just possibly – and obviously entirely unwittingly – shoplifting chef Antony Worrall Thompson has suggested an act of civil disobedience. If a critical mass of shoppers were to decide to do a Wozza for moral reasons, then the robotic scanners would become less economically viable than human checkout workers. Pilfering from Tesco would become a political act. – Marina Hyde in the Guardian

*sings* You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant

Because: You know, if one person, just one person does it they may think he’s really sick and they won’t take him. And if two people, two people do it, in harmony, they may think they’re both faggots and they won’t take either of them. And three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people walking in singin a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out. They may think it’s an organization. And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day, I said fifty people a day walking in singin a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out. And friends, they may think it’s a movement.

Except in honour of the man who inspired it all perhaps it ought to be You can get anything you want at AWT’s Restaurant.

After all, since Tesco had approved Bob Robbins, head of Tesco’s UK stores, making £47,450 by selling Tesco shares when he had insider information that their value was going to drop, you’d have to steal an awful lot of cheap cheese to even approach the kind of shady dealing that Tesco’s chief executive, Philip Clarke, says was just fine: Robbins sold 50,000 shares for £202,250 just 3 days before they dropped so substantially in value, for “necessary family expenditure”, and haven’t we all had Christmases like that?

Carole Cadwalladr in the Observer:

It’s probably not a good idea to break the law and helping yourself to items from Tesco’s deli counter isn’t to be recommended. But when the chief operating officer sells his shares eight days before last week’s profits warning, netting himself £200,000, isn’t that a bit obvious and offensive too? The company has defended Bob Robbins’s actions. Of course. But there are some who say pocketing £200,000 is a greater offence than taking a tub of reduced-for-quick-sale coleslaw. That Phil Clarke’s multimillion pound bonus somewhat overshadows the price of a packet of cheese.

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What is Christianity, anyway?

Tesco share price dropped by 15% today. Tesco blames the recession – not enough shoppers over Christmas to make up for the “Big Price Drop” they were advertising from September onwards.

Of course much of the “Big Price Drop” was misleading advertising:

In September, Tesco announced the ‘Big Price Drop’, promising savings worth £500million a year. It said this represented a change in strategy which would deliver permanently low prices to struggling families.
Asda retaliated with its own Rollback deal, claiming prices had been slashed across 3,000 essentials.
It later emerged that many of the products involved in the promotions had seen prices rise in the weeks before they were cut.
Richard Lloyd, executive director at Which?, said: ‘Supermarkets must do more to help people in tough times by offering real deals, not fake price cuts, and by making it easier to compare prices.’ – Covingtons

I haven’t bought anything from Tesco in a long time. I can’t say I never do, because sometimes there’s literally no alternative – but if I just have to walk a bit further or pay a bit more to shop somewhere else, that’s what I’ll do.

From the This is Money report: Sainsbury’s reported a 2.1 per cent increase in like-for-like sales (excluding fuel) over the Christmas shopping period (14 weeks to 7th January 2012), but analysts estimated sales would have been flat – no increase at all – if VAT was taken out of the figures. But Kantar research figures reveal that Tesco’s market share for the 12 weeks ending on Christmas Day dropped from 30.5 per cent a year ago to 30.1 per cent. (I notice this is not exactly the same time period. A lot of people do shop in the week or two after Christmas when suddenly a lot of unsold Christmas luxuries are for sale at half-price.)

Tesco is part of Grayling’s Workfare scheme:

A spokesperson for the Boycott Workfare campaign, which encourages companies not to take people on this type of unpaid work placement, said: “Huge companies making billions are profiting from people being made to work without pay while in fear of losing everything. These companies can afford to hire and pay staff yet perversely they are increasingly reliant on a workforce subsidised by taxpayers. Councils are replacing paid positions with Workfare and charities are replacing paid and voluntary vacancies with unpaid mandatory workers. Workfare as a policy doesn’t make sense in this economic climate. We want to see a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.” Ethical Consumer

Could this drop in profits be related to the Boycott Workfare campaign?

Christian Voice doesn’t think so:

The news follows a Christian Voice campaign of prayer for confusion in the Tesco boardroom, backed up by emails to directors complaining at the ‘Gay Pride’ decision and leafleting at Tesco stores. Just before Christmas a panic-stricken Tesco announced that the 2012 ‘Gay Pride’ donation would be its last. Hours later, in the face of a homosexual backlash, it had to clarify that gays and lesbians were really important and promise that it would support its homosexual contact group ‘Out at Tesco’ in other ways in 2013, which only made matters worse.

A few weeks after the news broke that Tesco was making use of people living on £53 a week as free labour, even the pittance per week paid by the taxpayer, Francis Phillips wrote in the Catholic Herald that she was concerned that Tesco was throwing

its enormous weight behind a marginal group (but which also has a determined and sinister political agenda) that does not in the least reflect the huge majority of its customers – why?

She didn’t mean the Tory party, though. She meant lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. People who are transgendered, especially, are more likely to be stuck in long-term unemployment (ref Gires – PDF) and vulnerable to workfare. But workfare doesn’t seem to intrinsically bother Phillips. She’s being a Christian. Poverty isn’t what bothers her. Or unfair treatment of people who already have so little. She’s worried about how “Western civilisation was crumbling before our eyes” because of the Gay Agenda.

Remind me. What is this “Christianity” thing anyway?

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Filed under About Food, Benefits, Poverty, Religion