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Tesco’s Secret Workfare Slaves

riotact | 16.02.2012 17:05 | Workfare | Public sector cuts | Social Struggles | Workers' Movements

Furious shoppers are threatening to boycott Tesco after their use of forced labour schemes came to light yesterday.

An advert on the Jobcentre Plus website (1) is calling for night-shift workers who will expected to work for just Jobseekers Allowance (paid by the Government, not Tesco, at a rate of £53.45 per week for under 25s) plus expenses. The position is advertised as permanent.

Tesco have claimed the role is not permanent and that this was a mistake which they have asked the DWP to remove from their website. So far it is still there.

Tesco, who seem unnerved about the extent of their involvement with forced labour being revealed to customers, have today gone on the offensive (2). Tesco claim that over 300 people have been given permanent positions with the firm since they began using free workers and that they are ‘giving young people valuable experience of the workplace‘. That Tesco are attempting to claim this is some kind of charitable gesture just shows that they think their customers are fucking stupid.

This is the company that rips off suppliers, workers and customers alike. The company whose aggressive expansion policy has ripped the heart out of communities resulting in over 450 local campaigns against them according to Tescopoly (3). Tesco ensure any local resistance to their presence is bulldozed away, sometimes literally, as in the destruction of popular local beauty spot Titnore Woods (4).

So let’s not pretend Tesco are in the midst of some grand humanitarian crusade. Tesco don’t do ethics, they do profit. Should that change their shareholders might well have something to say about it.

If Tesco had 300 positions available for young people then why didn’t they recruit through the usual channels, without forcing them to work for free first. And despite the firms promise of a ‘guaranteed interview’ (big fucking deal), Tesco have forcibly recruited 1,400 people onto workfare since they started using the scheme. So barely 1 in five of them was finally offered a no doubt minimum wage job at the end of it. Are these the only young people Tesco have recruited in that time? Perhaps they’d like to tell us.

Previous workfare schemes have failed because providers have been unable to find enough placements for claimants bullied onto them by the DWP. This has led to thousands of young people being forced to sit around for 30 hours in the office’s of poverty pimps like A4e, or face losing all benefits. With Tesco finally getting involved (along with other major employers including McDonalds and ASDA), it is possible that economy of scale may have finally resulted in corporate sharks working out how to make a profit from it.

That Tesco, and ASDA (5) are forcing workers to work nights, for which they would usually pay their paid employers a premium, shows that what counts here is the bottom line. There’s money to be made from these Workfare schemes. Of course that means they will take on less paid staff than they would have done, and as an added bonus it can be used to put pressure on wages and conditions for all staff.

The most cynical predictions about Workfare, that it will lead to higher unemployment and lower wages, appear to be coming true. Forcing young people to work nights is particularly vile, especially as the health risks to night time workers is now well documented (6). It also reveals that this scheme has nothing to do with helping young people find work, leaving them little time for job hunting if they are knackered from doing a night shift.

The weasel words from Tesco’s marketing department will do little to dampen the outrage. Already on their facebook page (7) they can’t delete comments fast enough from furious customers whilst on Twitter the #boycotttesco and #tescogate hashtags are taking off. Tesco customer services can be contacted (for free) on: 0800 505 555.

Sainsbury’s, Waterstones and allegedly Superdrug have all announced they will no longer be taking part in workfare. With the 3rd of March called as a National Day of Action Against Workfare (8) then this abandonment of the government’s flagship scheme sure to spread. If workfare is now profitable then direct action, boycotts, pickets and demonstrations outside stores will at the very least help to make it less profitable.

It’s a sad and crazy world when Tesco can claim they are helping young people by forcing them to stack shelves all night for no pay. With the recent announcement that boss of workfare provider A4e paid herself £9 million of tax payer’s money last year (9), supermarkets getting night shift workers for free at the tax payer’s expense and even charities clamouring to pick up lucrative ‘Work Programme’ contracts it seems that the benefits system is indeed a gravy train. Unless of course you happen to be a benefit claimant.


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Display the following 7 comments

  1. haha just imagine the stunts you can pull — joe blogs
  2. dole leeches — anon
  3. Thanks anon you gave me an idea... — Expect us...
  4. maybe its because I'm clumsy — luka
  5. Picket — Barney
  6. Boycot — Shopper
  7. Reporting the illegal state subsidy — happy shopper