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Workfare: Enslave us and we'll shut you down!

IMC uk features | 05.03.2012 12:23 | Workfare | Public sector cuts | Workers' Movements | Birmingham | Sheffield

Protests took place outside stores across Britain on 3rd March 2012 as campaigners stepped up their opposition to the ConDem workfare slavery scheme, (started under Labour,) by taking the online campaigns, which have resulted in many firms pulling out, onto the streets .

In Edinburgh two Tescos were 'invaded' and pickets were mounted outside a Poundland and British Heart Foundation store. The Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty delivered a letter to the BHF store insisting “that BHF withdraws completely from the Work Programme and all workfare schemes”

Bristol cops arrested two protestors at a picket of a McDonalds, and a solidarity action was held outside Trinity Road cop-shop later in the day. In Birmingham about 50 campaigners stopped off at Sainsburies and Superdrug to congratulate them on pulling out the scheme, whilst pickets were held at Poundland and McDonalds. In Sheffield campaigners who were chucked out of a Tesco on West Street, continued their tour with visits to stores which included Marks and Spencers, McDonalds and Primark. Nottingham campaigners picketed Wilkinsons before moving on to other stores

In Lewisham, McDonalds, Boots, Greggs, BHS and Primark werre targeted by a group of about 30, whilst Oxford Street saw a few dozen campaigners target outlets including McDonalds, Pizza Hut and Holiday Inn in a game of cat and mouse awith the police. On Friday Ian Duncan-Smith was challenged by protestors as he arrived at a conference in Tottenham. He insisted that "workfare is a brilliant scheme".

[Read more.]

Newswire: Workfare conference cancelled due to protest | Workfare Unravels | 'It's exploitation and it's repellent' | Tesco’s Secret Workfare Slaves | Demo shuts Westminster Tesco | GMB Union Promotes Workfare as Answer | DWP Locks Down FOI Responses | Legal Challenge to Government’s slave labour scheme

Links: Boycott Workfare | Asda and Argos choose workfare over work | The Homelessness Charities Involved | Anti-workfare action in Brighton | Create Jobs – Scrap Workfare | Edinburgh Tescos invaded |

Photo: Oxford Street by rikkiindymedia(At)gmail[dot]com
Photo: Oxford Street by rikkiindymedia(At)gmail[dot]com

Back in 2008 when workfare was proposed under the Labour government, SWAN said that the proposed "reforms seem to be about cheap labour, reducing costs, a Victorian notion of the ‘undeserving poor’ and creating a new market off the the backs of some of the most vulnerable in the UK", and they have been proven right as corporations have jumped at the chance to to replace paid workers with the "voluntary" free labour that the unemployed are forced to undertake to retain their benefits.Compulsory work for benefits came into law on 12th November 2009, under Labour.

The Boycott Workfare campaign had it's first public protest in June 2011 when the “Making Work Pay” conference was cancelled due to pressure from campaigners. Two months later, riotact wrote, "Workfare, the government’s forced labour scheme, could be the latest policy to unravel as encouraging momentum builds against the proposed reform of the welfare system". In September 2011 Corporate Watch exposed major retailers taking part in the scheme. In November 2011 legal action against workfare was launched. In Feburary 2012 Tescos was exposed for using workfare labour.

Corporations have happily used the free labour scheme to do things like staff ASDA over Christmas, but the on-line campaigns and protests have now resulted in many companies pulling out, however there are still over 90 involved, the ones who have withdrawn are, TK Maxx, Sainsbury’s, Waterstones, Shelter, Marie Curie, 99p stores, Maplin, Oxfam, Mind and Disability Works UK group (this includes eight major charities), BHS, Burger King (although they have only mentioned one of the five workfare schemes), HMV and Boots.

IMC uk features


EHRC Article 4

07.03.2012 12:36

The Law.

The main legal challenge to workfare is based on Article 4 of the European Human Rights Convention

What the law says

Article 4: Prohibition of slavery and forced labour
1. No one shall be held in slavery or servitude.

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

3. For the purpose of this Article the term "forced or compulsory labour" shall not include:

a) any work required to be done in the ordinary course of detention imposed according to the provisions of Article 5 of this Convention or during conditional release from such detention;

b) any service of a military character or, in case of conscientious
objectors in countries where they are recognised, service exacted instead of compulsory military service;

c) any service exacted in case of an emergency or calamity threatening the life or well-being of the community;

d) any work or service which forms part of normal civic obligations.

(BTW working for nothing for a profit making corporation is not part of everyone's 'normal civic obligations' d) above, so don't accept this as a justification. It amounts to the same thing as saying unemployed people have special 'normal civic obligations' where the rest of the population don't have this 'normal civic obligation' which is prejudicial against the jobless)

Here's what the Equality and Human Rights Commission says about the restrictions.


Your right to be protected against slavery and servitude is absolute. It can never be restricted.

The law relating to forced labour is also absolute. But it does not apply to work that you have to do as part of a prison sentence or a community sentence. Nor does it apply to work the government requires you to do in a state of emergency. Finally, it does not include normal civic obligations, such as maintaining a building if you are a landlord or deducting taxes from your employees’ wages if you are an employer.

So certainly bother these people with a call if you are a victim of this latest corporate-government abuse (or even if you're not ;o).

Equality and Human Rights Commission
'Creating a fairer Britain'
0845 604 6610
0845 604 5510
0845 604 8810