Saturday, 25 February 2012

Proof that Workfare is indeed slavery

On 17 November 2011, I wrote the following piece (here) in order to bring to your attention the fact that the Tory 'work programme' was compulsory (or mandatory). As an historian, not a lawyer, I had to check the legal interpretation of the word mandatory with a legal friend. They assure me that in legal term mandatory carries weight in law and means 'permit no option'.  I also include the screen dump of the exact DWP document that lays out the compulsory nature of the work programme. This is no longer available on the main DWP website. Several articles this morning, on other sites, have complained that the DWP (and Grayling) are trying to cover up that it was ever on the website, but I can reveal that an archived version is still available from this link. In legal terms, the screen dump below is proof that the scheme is without choice or pay, and therefore compulsory. The government boast that this work programme is the 'centrepiece' of plans to reform the welfare to work provision but given that the alternative is a loss of benefits and starvation, I see no reason to alter my absolute view that workfare is slavery.

I set the government two tests before I could consider changing this opinion. 1. Make the placements only for third sector companies, or small businesses who could make genuine use of the labour in a constructive way that would further the interests of worker and company.  2. Give the participants a little extra for taking part (ideally a wage) so that they can look their loved ones in the eye and feel like they are earning a crust, however thin. Even Thatcher gave participants of her scheme an extra tenner.
If you are unemployed, the only way you will be able to escape this is if you do not claim benefits and live under the good will and hospitality of a loved one, be it a partner or parent. Failing that, you are compelled to work for full time hours unpaid. Those who will be compelled to work include the disabled.

For more see a) this link and b) this link

30 comments:

britishroses said...

http://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/dwp-rewrite-history-mandatory-work-disappears-from-the-work-programme-providers-guidance/

Jake Shell said...

The archived link on DWP site has been delted - surprise, surprise....

Chris White said...

I made a Freedom of Information Request for the mumbers involved in this table on Thursday as part of my plan to ask an FOI a day. Once I have a reply I will circulate

Chris White said...

I made a Freedom of Information Request for the mumbers involved in this table on Thursday as part of my plan to ask an FOI a day. Once I have a reply I will circulate

Latentexistence said...

You can also find lots of examples of "Mandatory" on page 7 of this DWP Work Programme Statistical Release. (At least until they remove that too.)

even-steven said...

More thatcher than thatcher this gov

even-steven said...

More thatcher than thatcher this gov

Verity Smart said...

Can we simply not contest it under provision that we are protected under forced labour laws, under section 71 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 and Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights? I would simply not give consent to be used as a slave.

Ummmmmm said...

And if you lose your benefits you lose your home :(

Twisted News Reviews said...

Does the dwp get the claimant to sign the mandatory agreement or is it always the 'host company' or work programme provider that gets the claimant to sign? http://dwp.gov.uk/docs/wp-pg-chapter-3.pdf NB the work programme providers are told to ensure that they mandate correctly or the dwp will not be able to sanction the claimant. Is the dwp not doing it themselves so as to make others legally responsible for not paying minimum wage etc.?

Graeme said...

The last time I checked it wasn't "mandatory" to claim JSA when you were out of work.

Harry Matthews said...

...but they are getting JSA, ie money. So basically Workfare is about the Government paying people to work for the money they used to get by filling in a few forms &c. Doesn't sound that unreasonable...

Harry Matthews said...

...but they are getting JSA, ie money. So basically Workfare is about the Government paying people to work for the money they used to get by filling in a few forms &c. Doesn't sound that unreasonable...

scott said...

1. The work is forced labour.
2. Its rate of pay is a fraction of the minimum wage.
3. It is apparent from the document that the reason it is forced is to get round minimum wage and therefore implicitly to undermine it.

Lynda Phillips said...

Had a letter from DWP yesterday putting me in the 'work related activity group' from April 2012. I cannot walk outside my home safely alone, have other horrible conditions which I will not detail just in case someone's eating... Two years ago I suffered an horrific series of illnesses including a coma for five weeks. Lets just say that no employer could accommodate even some of my needs and certainly not all of them. It would also be very unfair for other people working with and/or around me. I cannot use public transport, have returned my driving licence to the DVLA because I'm way too disabled to drive. DLA wouldn't cover taxis back and fore work even if I could find a taxi company willing to take on the task due to my health issues... Do I need to go on? There are many people that are in worse condition than me and they are being targeted too... In principle, I would love to work for my income but it just isn't possible.

Ceebs said...

Well My attitude is that As it is the DWP that has insisted I'm on the scheme then it's the DWP that should be paying me Minimum wage, The fact they have someone subcontracting the administration seems to me immaterial

Ceebs said...

might fall foul of this http://www.consent.me.uk/workfareexploiters/

"we are now invoking the exemption because it has become clear in recent weeks that there are a minority of people who appear to be seeking to undermine the goodwill of employers who are prepared to offer opportunities to unemployed people by attempting to harm those companies’ commercial interests. "

Bill Quango MP said...

I never employ someone without experience. I don't know any employer that does apart from the big supermarket chains. Even chainstore would rather not take on a worker who knows nothing.

How do young people get experience?
They get a job
And how do they get a job without experience?
Erm..

My company wasn't taking part anyway. We already had the meeting and decided that the costs would outweigh the benefits and the good publicity could be overcome some bad. So I feel sure on Monday they'll be lots of back slapping and 'phew..dodged a bullet there,'moments. The HR dept will get a gold star.

Your assertion of slavery is just left wing nonsense. It clearly isn't as even a cursory look at slavery throughout history would tell you.

That said. What you propose, a little extra for taking part, makes good sense. It really encourages the less motivated and removes much of the negative publicity.

Mason Dixon, Autistic said...

"Your assertion of slavery is just left wing nonsense. It clearly isn't as even a cursory look at slavery throughout history would tell you."

Oh please do elaborate on this point Mr Quango.

For Dr Clarke and the rest, I'm currently writing a blog-post explaining just what the government appears to be doing. In a nutshell, when this started becoming an issue ministers appeared to deliberately confuse the Work Programme with the separate Community Action Plan and other DWP work experience schemes. Once that curveball had been thrown, they then started making some pretty ludicrous accusations of their critics: they blamed the Socialist Workers Party, Chris Grayling is alleging his e-mail was hacked according to the Mail and of course they also accused their critics of...mixing up the Work Programme with the work experience schemes.

They pulled a similar trick if you remember with DLA and ESA; repeatedly saying things that sowed confusion about what DLA was for and then saying part of the reason for DLA reform is because of the 'widespread perception that it is an out of work benefit when it isn't'.

Benjamin Smith said...

I am on the work programme (Seetec) and work experience is definitely mandatory, I have been told this repeatedly by my Work Programme advisor when questioning the validity of it.

It also isn’t confined to community projects, as my advisor has been looking for work experience placements for me with private profit making companies.

What also concerns me is that there is no limit to the length of the mandatory work experience, one could be forced to work unpaid till they find a job under this scheme.

With the majority of unemployed, including myself only claiming JSA, we could be forced to work full time for a sum of £53.45/£67.50 a week. This is in breach of minimum wage law, the DWP however guides providers how to avoid minimum wage law by labelling the full time work being carried out as work experience.

“Where you are providing support for JSA participants, which is work experience you must mandate participants to this activity. This is to avoid the National Minimum Wage Regulations, which will apply if JSA participants are not mandated.”

This scheme isn't limited only to those without work experience, people in their fifties and sixties with decades of work experience are also being mandated onto this scheme and face unlimited unpaid work experience. Even more worrisome is the fact that the sick and disabled being mandated to this scheme.

Longrider said...

While it's true that it costs businesses to take on employees - even for a short period, much of the induction and H&S costs are unnecessary - an induction can be carried out in a few hours. Also, for simple tasks such as shelf stacking, very little training or supervision is required. A trainee can be productive in the course of one or two shifts. Here speaks the voice or experience.

The point, though, is that even on work placement, they are doing work and therefore adding value to the employer's business in exactly the same way as the employed staff are and for the same costs.

There is only one ethical way to manage this; a fair day's work for a fair day's pay. Anything else is exploitation.

As an aside, not mentioned here, but I did mention it when discussing this matter over at my own place, is that if the job-seeker takes the initiative and seeks training that will improve their work prospects, they will be penalised by the JC+ as they are not available for work.

Ponder upon that...

Blue Eyes said...

So slavery would be OK if it was small business that was taking advantage?

Cali said...

Can you please send this to that smirking Dimbledumb who controls Question Time on the BBC. Never seen such a bunch of moronic so-called 'leaders' who had no idea of the truth of the situation!

EML said...

Please Labour attack this measure, it will only reinforce the perception that you are on the side of the workshy.

EML said...

Please Labour oppose this measure, it will only reinforce the idea that you are on the side of the workshy.

Bill Quango MP said...

Its not really worth arguing is it?

All the business leaders on radio/TV and on all the panel and discussion programs,This Week, Daily politics, in the Guardian, in the Times, on Dateline etc, were all agreed that it was a great opportunity.

But you think its terrible exploitation.

I agree that for those who have been working and find themselves recently out of work thanks to the recession that its probably a waste.
But for long term unemployed, getting back into work, its a godsend.

Doesn't matter now anyway. Scheme will be dead in a month. All those ex miners can carry on being ex miners. No point retraining, is there?
Coal is making a big comeback isn't it?
Along with British Leyland, docks and steam engines.

Longrider said...

Yes, sure. Just pay them for the work they do. Not too difficult a concept, is it?

DJ Lone Wolf said...

Maggie was hard, but she WAS fair.
These unctuous, smarmy bastards since (and including) Bliar are rotten to the core. Only in the job for what they can get out of it, and, as Bliar tried, for what they can get AFTER they're thrown out.

DJ Lone Wolf said...

Maggie was hard. But she WAS fair.

These unctuous, smarmy bastards since (and including) Bliar are only in the job to get what they can out of it, not for the welfare of the country, or the people. Themselves.

Also, as Bliar tried, for what they can get AFTER they're thrown out....

We need another revolution. Soon. Only this time, without someone as venal and corrupt as Cromwell leading it.

AJRDLawrence said...

This workfare scheme is just an old scheme marketed a little differently so Chris Grayling can pretend he is doing his job and is worth every penny, or it is much more likely that he was just ignorant as to what opportunities existed for clients already - workfare has also been carried out by many of the Department for Work and Pension's training providers, which are also via a mandatory referral and incidentally, whilst JSA claimants are there they do not count as an unemployment statistic.

Announcing old schemes as new policies is not uncommon to the coalition as the same has been done by Conservative ministers Grant Shapps and Eric Pickles, amongst others. David Cameron seems to follow Ed Milibands lead on many issue a month later... though it is difficult to get a read on what policies Ed Miliband actually supports.

The voluntary scheme is BS when people are coerced to volunteer to take part or volunteer to starve, but this isn't any different from workfare under Labour, sorry. The Secretary of state for Work and Pensions may change every few years, but the boots on the ground, their schemes and their attitude doesn't change as often.

AFAIK this is just the same stuff which was happening a decade ago, it is just that these days there are deep budget cuts, an occupy movement as well as social and mainstream media attention.