Guest post: Boycott Workfare!

This is a guest post from Izzy Koksal of Boycott Workfare

On Monday 26th March, protest at Grayling’s workfare conference and then onto a ‘farewell Emma’ party at A4e.

Chris Grayling, Minister for Work and Pensions, will seek to reassure nervous employers this Monday that it’s ok to force people to work for their benefits under the threat of sanctions that could result in destitution. The workfare conference is called ‘Tapping into talent: putting employers at the heart of the Work Programme’. The title is surprisingly honest – this is not about working in the interests of the unemployed, but an opportunity for employers to squeeze profits out of them through workfare.

The last month has seen various creative actions – including occupations, ‘workfare walks of shame’, and a ‘Boycott Workfare’ post-it spree in a local Tescos – in protest against the high street stores up and down the UK using workfare. This enormous public pressure has resulted in numerous companies pulling out of the government’s workfare schemes and has greatly undermined them. However, the government is still set on using workfare to ‘discipline’ those who are struggling to find a job in this difficult economic climate.

Unlike the government, the general public clearly understand that workfare is not only morally wrong, but it simply does not work. Having ‘workfare’ on your CV unsurprisingly does not help you get a job. Being forced to work for free decreases the amount of time that you have to look for paid employment. Workfare actually exacerbates the issue of unemployment as paid workers find themselves being replaced by unpaid workers.

Workfare is a distraction from the real problem – the lack of jobs – a problem which will only get worse as the government pursue their ruthless attack on our public services.

On Wednesday I stood in UK Uncut’s dole queue with hundreds of others to make the point that ‘austerity isn’t working’. Finally reaching the front of the queue that was snaking its way down Whitehall I found myself sent to work for my benefits at the Tescos around the corner.

More nasty surprises were contained within the Chancellor’s budget including further cuts to benefits of £10 billion for the next parliament on top of the £18 billion already planned. As the Guardian notes, ‘taking such eyewatering sums off the welfare bill is not only worrying – it also sounds implausible’.

Yet somehow the government has found over £5 billion of taxpayer’s money to pay multi-million pound ‘welfare to work’ companies such as A4e, currently being investigated for fraud, and G4S, currently being investigated for the death of Jimmy Mubenga. These companies are receiving millions of pounds of taxpayer’s money to put people onto workfare and make their lives miserable, whilst the government makes brutal cuts to benefits.

On the morning of Monday 26th, join our protest outside of Grayling’s workfare conference where we will remind him and his friends that we will not tolerate this exploitation. We will then move on for a tour of other nearby workfare sites, including the local A4e where we will hold a ‘farewell Emma’ party for Emma Harrison, the recently resigned chairperson. There will be balloons, party hats, and cake!

Workfare doesn’t work and isn’t fair!

Join us on Monday March 26th 9am outside Centre Point, London to greet Grayling. Or join us there at 10.30am to head to Emma’s leaving do.