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Legal Challenge to Government’s slave labour scheme

JSA Claimant | 18.11.2011 03:07 | Workfare | Public sector cuts | Repression | Workers' Movements | Birmingham

Britain's biggest supermarkets are now using slave labour as young unemployed people are being sent to work for them for up to two months with no pay and no guarantee of a job. During this period they will be exempt from national minimum wage laws.


As reported in the Guardian [1] Cait Reilly, 22, who graduated last year with a BSc in geology from Birmingham University, is working five hours a day stacking and cleaning shelves at Poundland in King's Heath, South Birmingham but receiving no pay for the work.

The work experience programme was originally advertised as being voluntary but it now appears this is not the case. Reilly was told by the jobcentre that she would lose her benefits if she did not take the Poundland placement. The DWP says that once people "express an interest", including verbal consent, in doing work experience they will lose their JSA if they pull out after their first week into the placement.

It has now emerged that there is a clause which allows jobcentre case workers to force unemployed people into slave labour. Other stores now using slave labour include Tesco, Sainsbury's, Argos and Asda

Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) in Birmingham have begun a legal action [2] challenging the Coalition Government’s ‘Mandatory Work’ Scheme, which it argues amounts to unlawful forced labour and represents a form of slavery under the Human Rights Act (HRA).

PIL sent a ‘letter-before-action’ last night to the Work and Pensions Secretary Ian Duncan-Smith – the first step in a High Court judicial review action on behalf of 33 year-old Jonathan Shaw from Birmingham. PIL are arguing that the Mandatory Work Scheme amounts to exploitation, with jobseekers forced to undertake up to four weeks of unpaid work. At the end of their placements, jobseekers are often not considered for permanent employment and many are simply replaced by other jobseekers who, like them, face losing their jobseeker’s allowance if they fail to carry out the work.
Slavery and forced or compulsory labour is prohibited by UK and European human rights law, in particular by Article 4(2) of the European Convention on Human Rights. There are limited exceptions for work such as that carried out in prison. Also excluded is work forming part of a “normal civic obligation”, but such obligations are limited to work as part of jury service and military service and the like. Forced labour has also been prohibited by international law since 1930.

Jonathan Shaw (33) completed an Access course in Humanities at a Birmingham college last year. He wanted to go to university to study History, but felt unable to as a result of high tuition fees. He has been out of work since March. Like thousands of jobseekers, he now fears that at any moment a Jobcentre Plus adviser could decide to force him to undertake what he sees as a pointless and demeaning process, during which he will have no time to actively seek employment. “Actively seeking employment” is one of the conditions on which Jobseeker’s Allowance is paid.
Tessa Gregory of PIL said: “This Government scheme of forced labour unlawfully exploits individuals. The only beneficiaries are participating companies, who get their workers for free”.

Jim Duffy from PIL added: "Forcing jobseekers to work for free may benefit big business but does nothing to break the cycle of unemployment and poverty. Instead it amounts to exploitation, decided at the whim of a Jobcentre Plus adviser."

The Government has 14 days in which to set out its position in full.

The unemployment rate is the highest since 1996 and the number of unemployed people is the highest since 1994.[3]




JSA Claimant


Hide the following 6 comments

Compulsory services in exchange for food tokens.

18.11.2011 08:38

Well done for challenging these powers.
Imagine all citizens gathered in the morning, deciding what they wanted to do, while sharing out the food and opportunities.
Instead of mutual respect, an agency has been 'developed' to make it clear to "jobseekers" that having no money implies a debt to society. Any suggestion that society is failing the people is dismissed as a minority report.
Everyone should be given enough money to live on, because everything else has been taken from them. When people have nothing, they should take what they need.

Anon starter

i wish you all the best....

18.11.2011 10:00

with this....It is a disgusting practise and must be stopped.

no pasaran!


Deliottes pet company Ingeus

18.11.2011 10:32

I think this may also be part of a larger strategy that may extend to include social housing as well.

Deliottes pet company Ingeus, providing the latest incarnation of the Welfare to Work program is encouraging social housing providers to involve themselves in providing lucrative but unimaginative work training scenes (the usual CV writing and trite pep talks)

Apart from the odd bit of nation building, Deliotte its-self specializes in advising multinationals on tax evasion, and were one of the principle architects of economic strategy which lead to the rise, and demise, of the Tiger economies. They advised multinationals to move their plant to developing nations, and brokered deals for them to receive huge tax incentives. Then they advised them to withdraw when the time came these counties could reasonably expect to have some return, which effectively bankrupted them.
They encourage multinationals to move manufacturing out of this country, which caused mass unemployment in the first place, and in addition through the pre-pack system of receivership they allowed directors to buy back their assets while escaping their creditors, bankrupting smaller providers of goods and services which lead to further job loses.

Wages for a large proportion of the population do not meet rent rises. How better to control and subjugate an increasingly itinerant workforce than by linking social housing to labor (especially if the work is poorly paid or unpaid) and to do this effectively they are removing our right to be anywhere and our right to seek shelter (squatting) and are counting our individual existences as a dept to the state.

This is a long term strategy that is being slowly implemented through the good offices of all our political parties as part of the drive to liberalize the "world economies" or globalization.

UK- A safe haven for exploiters from around the globe, and heavily policed billets for the poor. (while your useful)


sort it out

18.11.2011 19:45

>> citizens gathered in the morning, deciding what they wanted to do, while sharing out the food and opportunities.

All people arn't equal. You can divide all the wealth, land, opportunities fairly. 5 Years later, one man will have sat in the pub and pissed it away, another man will have put it all into building a big house or a business......... you end up back to square 1
Your logic is completely flawed..... how often are you actually going to do this? Everyone year or so? Whats the point in working, if you is just taken off you and given to people who don't really wan to work?

>> Instead of mutual respect, an agency has been 'developed' to make it clear to "jobseekers" that having no money implies a debt to society. Any suggestion that society is failing the people is dismissed as a minority report.

The debt to society is the taxes people have to pay to put food in these people's bellies.

>> Everyone should be given enough money to live on,
WTF!?!! where did that come from????!

>> because everything else has been taken from them.
They have had nothing taken off them

>> When people have nothing, they should take what they need.
No....... they should work/start a business/get a job/etc.... and pay for what they need like everyone else. THeres plenty of jobs in the job market, advertised, with big commissions being paid out to agencies if they can find the right people.


How many unemployed?

18.11.2011 21:37

Like 3 million? Well all of you unemployed-take to the streets! Nov 30 is a start - join the strikers. There's not that many copscum in this country-time to tell the rich fucks what we think of them-to the fucking streets!


lots of trolls these days

19.11.2011 10:22

Fuck off Max, you brain-dead Tory troll ( no doubt licking your greasy lips at cheap and slave labour ). The LAND ( wherr we could grow food and build shelter ) has been stolen from us. Bottom line. Now go swing from a gibbet. Taxes - protection racket ruin by the friends of the offshore haven masters spreading misery around the globe, robbing everyone blind and dictating policy i.e. policing.

come the revolutuion