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February 22, 2012

Arguments in Favour of Workfare, Explored

As you are probably aware a storm has been raging over “workfare” programmes. I have had numerous conversations on the subject recently and have found that the same, apparently reasonable, superficially appealing arguments are being put forward, in their defence.

Iain Duncan Smith wrote an article for the Daily Mail yesterday [no link provided - I would rather direct you to donkey porn], in which he suggested that “the battle lines have been drawn” on this issue. He suggests that on one side of this “war” are “those prepared to do everything they can to give a chance to young people”, which includes the government and august charitable institutions like TESCO. On the other side “armed with an unjustified sense of superiority and sporting an intellectual sneer, we find a commentating elite which seems determined to belittle and downgrade any opportunity for young people”.

I thought you might find it useful to have a summary of the arguments in favour of such schemes, together with a short explanation of why they are – how do I put this delicately? – codswallop.

We must end the “something for nothing” culture

Many folks do not seem to understand these schemes. They appear to believe that, for instance TESCO, will pay a participants Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA) for a number of weeks while they work for them. This line was sadly repeated by Andrew Neil on today’s Daily Politics.  This is incorrect. As can be easily gleaned by the literature on this, it is the state which continues to pay:

Participants will remain on benefit throughout the period of the sector-based work academy and Jobcentre Plus will pay any travel and childcare costs whilst they are on the work experience placement. There is no direct cost to an employer for sector-based work academies as the costs are covered by government funding.

It is a mystery that traditional right-wing commentators like the Tax-Payers Alliance and the Mail object to funding an individual’s benefits, but appear quite happy to cross-subsidise a huge conglomerate with global revenues of $100bn in 2010. To my mind, it is simply the latest symptom of the same malaise which means ordinary people and small businesses are fined or dragged to court for filing their tax return a couple of days late, while giants like Vodafone can simply refuse to pay their tax bill and negotiate £6bn discounts.

Such programmes do not end the “something for nothing” culture. They elevate it to the corporate level. They allow TESCO to get something for nothing on a grand scale.

Work experience improves employability

As IDS pointed out, this is a great way to get training, add a line to your CV and get people in the habit of getting out of bed in the morning. This sounds very sensible in abstract, but what happens if one were to assess it against real cases? This is the actual job being offered by TESCO:

The concept that one needs six weeks training in order to stack shelves is patently ludicrous. The idea that, whatever training is required, should not be paid for by the employer, equally so. And the less said about the impenetrably stupid notion that six weeks of night-shifts would get me in the habit of getting up in the morning, the better.

I am in the happy enough position to have only had to rely on benefits once in my life, for a short period. During that period, looking for work in my chosen field was a full-time, nine to five job. Six weeks of night-shifts in TESCO would be about as useful as a hole in the head.

Every professional knows that crafting a career and structuring a CV can benefit from the right experience, but can also be damaged by the wrong experience. It is interesting to examine the case of Cait Reilly who is trying to get a job working for a museum, but was told to give up a work placement she had already organised at a museum in order to stack shelves in Poundland. Can anyone who can tell me how this improves her employability?

TESCO have explained that of the 1,400 people who have been made to serve them (because to use the verb “employ” would require some consideration on the part of TESCO), 300 got a job with the company. Now, this means one of three things: Either

(1) TESCO were genuinely trying to fill 1,400 positions, but  they were only capable of training roughly one in five people to stack shelves in SIX WEEKS. Or

(2) There were only 300 positions in the first place (probably due to natural turnover, which I imagine is quite high), but TESCO decided they might as well conduct six-week interviews on our buck. Or

(3) There were 1,400 genuine vacancies in the relevant stores, but why the hell would they fill them with paid employees, when they can have a rolling six-weekly army of 1,400 free ones?

I am reminded of the words of Gerrit Smith:

We must continue to judge slavery by what it is, and not by what you tell us it will, or may be.

It is a good way to tackle benefit fraud

We all have a mental image of what “dole-scum” looks like. We see it daily on the Jeremy Kyle show. We are force-fed it by the Mail and the Sun, like aspirin, every hour on the hour. It is easy to invoke that image and think “Yeah! Let the bastards stack shelves.” It is comfortable to invoke that image and sleep soundly.

But here is an alternative: Tens of thousands of servicemen and women are being laid off by the Ministry of Defence; 33,000 from the RAF alone. Some were told by email while still on tour. The first lot of those sackings was last June. Some will be coming up to the six-month mark now – the “compulsory” bracket of these work schemes.

Is it equally comfortable to invoke the image of an RAF pilot, who six months ago risked life and limb, forced to stack shelves for no pay? Will you sleep just as soundly?

And it is precisely the majority of such people that will be forced into these schemes. You know why? Because they are honest. The tiny minority which we see on Jeremy Kyle, are supremely adept at cheating or circumventing the system. They have been doing it for years and most of them will find a way to do it now.

If the genuine desire is to tackle benefit fraud, then tackle benefit fraud. Nobody is arguing we should revoke every driving license to stop the few that drive drunk. On the other hand, if the purpose is to benefit big corporations, depress wages and “magic” thousands of people off the unemployment total, this is the scheme with which to do it.

Blame the Government not TESCO

There may be some limited traction to the argument that, if the government puts in place a scheme, companies are at liberty to take advantage. There would be more traction, if we hadn’t spent the last month listening to speech after stomach-churning speech about Moral Capitalism from the cabinet.

TESCO, and organisations like it, did not get in trouble for acting illegally on this issue. They got in trouble for displaying scruples that would raise eyebrows in the court of Caligula. And rightly so. The cold, hard fact is that there are two signatories to this Faustian pact. I blame both. In exactly the same way that I blame those who use perfectly legal means to avoid fairly due tax.

____________________________________________________

But the IDS argument that truly incenses me, that really puts the “noxious” back in “obnoxious”, is the idea that objecting to this scheme is somehow elitism; intellectual snobbery. That it devalues the work of men and women who do stack shelves for a living. It is barely worth pointing out – through gritted teeth – that nobody has said anything against people who do such jobs for a living. But it must be FOR A LIVING.

I realise, of course, I am probably being unfair to Iain Duncan Smith. After all, he probably didn’t write the article. He probably paid his wife Betsy a couple of thou of public money to do it. [insert intellectual sneer] Now that is “something for nothing”.

44 Comments leave one →
  1. Jill Pay permalink
    February 22, 2012 2:36 pm

    Basic flaw – the work experience being offered is for night shift – so encouraging those “lazy oafs” to get up really late and go to bed in the morning – ha ha Iain Duncan Smith!! This whole thing is disgraceful. I agree with all you say on the subject Alex. Well-written article as per usual.

  2. Barbs permalink
    February 22, 2012 2:50 pm

    someone tweeted that the number of placements is for 3 months and the number of jobs which came from that is for at least 1 year. they didnt post source so I cant verify. Great blog. thenk you xxx

  3. February 22, 2012 2:57 pm

    This is the best-written and most thoughtful demolition of this pernicious scheme that I have read so far. Thank you for making it SO clear! Of course the Taxpayers Alliance and the Daily Fail don’t object to giving large corporations “something for nothing” – why would they? The words ‘pee’ and ‘same pot’ spring to mind!!! When, oh when, will a political party emerge in this country that actually understands the context of the words ‘social’ and ‘justice’ when used in conjunction?

    • February 22, 2012 9:12 pm

      I don’t know what country you are in Ms MacKenzie, but in Scotland the SNP has a pretty good stab at it. :)

      • February 22, 2012 10:20 pm

        Och, I know that fine, Tris! I lived in Scotland for 20 years and was a member of the SNP for most of that time – I wish to God I’d never come back South!! It seems to me that Scots have a built-in sense of social justice that is completely lacking in England. And you have some honest politicians, too. John Swinney was my MSP and lived nearby – he is an absolute darling and as straight as the proverbial die. Down here it’s definitely a case of “Woe unto thee, O Israel!”

  4. February 22, 2012 2:57 pm

    Oh! This is SO well summarized! Everything in this is explained brilliantly. Thank You.

  5. Sean Bastable permalink
    February 22, 2012 3:02 pm

    Well done again Alex you are spot on on this one, this is a disgusting policy by a disgusting Government.

  6. Pen Creed permalink
    February 22, 2012 3:09 pm

    I don’t think I would object so much if the scheme were enabling struggling small businesses, public sector organisations or charities to benefit from some additional labour, in return for providing some training for the job seekers and a reference at the end of it. The fact that TESCO, large enough to co-ordinate themselves, can profit from this scheme and that it is inflexible and mandatory is what annoys me.

  7. February 22, 2012 3:12 pm

    Reminds me of the ‘Youth Opportunities Scheme’ under Thatcher. Six months on the job ‘work’ paid for by the goverfnment. Of course, at the end of the period the kids were shown the door another YTS trainee took up residence. What a national scandal.

    Good article again Alex.. and well throught through.

  8. February 22, 2012 3:12 pm

    Fantastic blog post, very well-written and reasoned. Keep up the pressure!

  9. Ben permalink
    February 22, 2012 3:21 pm

    It really is difficult to see how this scheme benefits anyone other than the companies themselves.
    It doesn’t benefit the taxpayer, since their taxes are still being spent paying JSA (not to mention other benefits towards housing, council tax etc the individual involved might be entitled to).
    It surely doesn’t benefit the government statistics, since if they are still getting paid JSA anyone pushed into one of these schemes must still show up in the figures as claimant.
    It doesn’t benefit the person involved for many of the reasons you’ve outlined above, particularly if that person has any sort of higher education. I don’t think it’s snobbery to suggest that 6 weeks stacking shelves is not going to add much to the CV of anyone with more than just GCSEs to their name.
    It can’t be good for the people who already work for Tesco et al either. Having someone new coming and doing the same job as you for less money every 6 weeks would, I think, make most regular staff somewhat nervous. How long before some bright spark in HR suggests that your job be given over to one of these workies to save the company a few bob each week?

    • February 22, 2012 5:55 pm

      Couldn’t agree more, Ben. Totally pointless from anyone’s point of view except the large organisations involved.

    • trichquestions permalink
      February 25, 2012 9:25 am

      When I worked in retail a few years ago, I spent most of my time struggling to maintain a regular set of shifts because most companies employed me on a contract of only a few hours a week. If this scheme had been in place then, I’d have been terrified. If there’s any way big businesses can avoid paying their service staff, they will.

  10. February 22, 2012 3:46 pm

    Workfare is the nail, and this article is the hammer smiting it on the head.

  11. February 22, 2012 3:58 pm

    And to make this even worse, DWP now want to extend the principle to people in the ESA Work Related Activities Group, who by DWP’s own definition are currently too disabled to work; they want to be able to force disabled people into these assignments indefinitely (not even the non-disabled scheme has that proviso), and have it enforced by sanctions that could see the disabled person losing their right to benefits for up to 3 years if they refuse to participate (and there have to be plenty of disabled people who, like me, would find being asked to undertake a normal job not just unreasonable, but downright dangerous). I’ve dealt with the DWP Disability Employment Advisors who would be enforcing this, and clueless about disability doesn’t begin to cover it. You can pretty much guarantee it will end with DWP being prosecuted for failing in their duty of care, but how many disabled people will have been harmed before the courts force DWP to get a clue?

  12. February 22, 2012 5:11 pm

    “The tiny minority which we see on Jeremy Kyle, are supremely adept at cheating or circumventing the system. They have been doing it for years and most of them will find a way to do it now.”

    Damn,having never watched the show, I thought for a moment it was now bringing the bankers and their political PR henchmen to task.

    Now I’ll have to go back to searching for the benefit scrounger on £26k per year.

  13. February 22, 2012 6:25 pm

    I found this from the start of another article about workfare:

    Title: “Low income people may reject workfare”

    Workfare is unlikely to appeal to welfare recipients because most
    suspect their jobs will be menial and with little possibility of
    advancement, a new study said Saturday.

    “The vast majority of low income people who participated in this
    study wanted very much to work,” the new report said. “For most
    of those surveyed, including those who received help from
    government programs and those who worked in low-paying jobs,
    employment – or better employment – was the best way of
    achieving the self-sufficiency they desired.”

    The report was released in the USA on a Saturday in… 1986.

    The coalition’s Workfare policy is a rehash of discredited rubbish from the Reagan era and needs to be called-out as such!

    Original source: http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=943&dat=19861221&id=yrRPAAAAIBAJ&sjid=dFMDAAAAIBAJ&pg=6900,5379567

    Text (for copy/paste) retyped here: http://pastebin.com/aR0hF5sK

  14. February 22, 2012 7:50 pm

    It’s a well written article, but the debate isn’t an issue of left and right/Guardian vs DM or whatever. I would traditionally position myself to the right of centre, but on this issue, anyone with a shred of empathy would agree that workfare is farcical. The situation is worsened by the relentless lies of IDS, Grayling et al. Basically, anyone with a vested interest.

    Whilst one small element of Workfare may have a voluntary element (18-24 year olds on the “Work Experience programme”, IF they leave within a week), the vast majority of jobseekers are placed on the “Work Programme”, which is entirely mandatory. Easily confused, as any debate on the issue will testify. You may have noticed the rhetoric has moved from it being “completely voluntary…” to it being “completely voluntary for the thousands of young people…”. This is a smokescreen. Almost all those on Workfare are involved in the mandatory “Work Programme”, including everyone over the age of 25 (or similar schemes, such as the “Mandatory Work Activity” scheme). Very few are involved in the “Work Experience Programme” – the only facet of this scheme with a voluntary element, albeit with conditions.

    Like I say, it isn’t an issue of left and right. Some of the most staunch opponents of Workfare are on the right on the basis of its adverse effects on a free market economy. The complete transparency of the lies, however, is what offends me most. Whatever Labour did, and truthfully, I do believe we’re in this position because of their mistakes, I never felt like I was being personally lied to. I won’t be voting for this shower again, but with such inept opposition, it feels like this is just the beginning. With Lansley’s NHS reforms on the horizon, I’ll be a comrade at this rate…

    • February 22, 2012 8:05 pm

      I do believe that this coalition is the best recruiting tool the Labour Party are ever likely to have, Gareth. Sadly.

  15. nick james permalink
    February 22, 2012 7:52 pm

    Spot on once again Alex.

    You know these schemes are crap, I know they’re crap, any rational person knows they’re crap. IDS is either a fool or a liar if he chooses the intellectual elitism of his critics as the basis for a defence. But then that conclusion applies to virtually every member of the coalition that opens his/her mouth.

    Perhaps this is yet another demonstration of the intellectually challenged being more likely to be conservatives.

    • February 22, 2012 8:02 pm

      Nick – He’s both a fool AND a liar! And a pompous twat to boot!!

      • nick james permalink
        February 23, 2012 10:03 am

        Wendy – decorum please! Oh fuck it, you’re right.

  16. February 22, 2012 9:17 pm

    First class demolition of the foolish arguments put up by Grayling and his boss to support this nonsense.

    As someone who works in the employment business, I can assure you that this kind of scheme does more harm than good.

    I’m attempting to get a full list of the companies (besides Tesco, where I never shop), which are participating in this scheme, so that I can withdraw my custom and advise everyone I know to so do.

    Once again, superb article. I wish I could write as well as you do.

  17. February 22, 2012 10:17 pm

    Please read, ” I WANT THE WORLD PLUS 5% ” its also on youtube

    its only a story

    would love your view after you have digested this story and then read this post again !

  18. omgz permalink
    February 23, 2012 1:48 am

    Just want to point out Tesco’s deception:
    They made headlines a couple days ago claiming that they would pay people while they trained. They have not withdrawn from the Workfare scheme, and the paid training is a separate scheme.
    So all they did was to call the first 4 weeks of a paid tesco job a training scheme, and still take the workfare slaves and work them for no money, but they may or may not be offered that ‘paid training’ (unsecured employee filtering period) before starting a job with a job title. Good stuff. I bet they spend a lot of time training in that first month, and very little doing the job of a regular worker, right.

  19. February 23, 2012 10:23 am

    I agree with everything that you say. There is another point: Presumably on the aims of getting the unemployment benefit is to have some income while you are LOOKING for a job. Let me insist on this: The unemployed person is supposed to get up, go on the internet, read jobs advertisements, write “tailored” cover letters and edit his/her cv (or so the job agencies tell us) and send job applications, rather than waste his/her energy in stacking up shelves or doing night shifts. Am I wrong?
    The “workfare” plan is a just another scheme to disguise the simple fact that there are not enough jobs.

  20. February 23, 2012 2:49 pm

    Another huge lie is that a lot of the rhetoric is around young people wit few qualifications. However I heard a Radio 5 phone in programme the other day, where a 60 year old man with professional qualifications who had been made redundant was close to tears explaining how he had been forced onto one of these programmes. I can’t remember what his profession was, but how will it help a carpenter, engineer or accountant get back into employment if they’ve spent 6 weeks stacking shelves instead of preparing themselves back into the job that they already have training and qualifications to do?

  21. February 23, 2012 5:45 pm

    Much as I position myself firmly on the left in this debate, I also feel that a lot of the debate has lost sight of some of the main points of the workfare scheme. So much of the debate is ranging around Tescos and Poundland, that a lot of the other companies involved have been ignored.

    It seems prudent to highlight that although Tescos are on the programme, placements were also offered from a wide range of both companies and charities. Friends of the Earth, Marie Curie, RSPCA to name but a few of the charities signed up to the scheme. The full list has been published here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/pub?key=0AjbuwLkiIDvjdHNtYjBPVXJDamFHdHRmNlJ4RTAtWkE&single=true&gid=0&range=A1%3AC200&output=html

    Although it is easy for critics to slam Tesco, or Poundland, or the greasy coalition, are we tarring these charities with the same brush? FOE and Marie Curie have both withdrawn from the scheme, and at a fundamental level this makes me sad.

    I work as fundraiser for charity, and many of my colleagues lament how hard it is to break into the charities sector. By attacking work placement schemes like this, we may hit the Tesco purse, but we also deny possible entry to charitable and local organisations that are there to give people a helping hand.

    One thing which isn’t generally published in the media is that the Work Programme is only mandatory to those a) between 18-24 who have been unemployed for nine months; and b) those over 25 who have been unemployed for over a year. Horror stories spread widely through the media, and can distort any good work being on the periphery.

    Has anyone asked how many ‘slaves’ Marie Curie took on? Does anyone know how many of them gained a full-time position?

    Yes, there is a major problem with huge chains making money from tax payer funded schemes, but by showering hate at Tescos can distort any good work being done bt smaller organisations, trying to offer help people back into employment.

    To say no work should be compulsory is ludicrous. Some elements of the scheme in theory are good policies: we should not in this country propogate a system that means people are entitled not to work. Lets, I beg you, not throw away the baby in the bath water.

    it would be a shame if people couldn’t do voluntary work for charities because of a prejudice against Tescos. Anyone interested in how much taking on new employees (paid or unpaid) costs, should read Matt Wardman’s blog here: http://cityunslicker.blogspot.com/2012/02/slaves-cost-more-than-you-think.html – an excellent, unbiased writer.

    I like the piece, it puts across one side of the argument. But if the left go all Daily Mail, then we lose the voice of reason.

    • Ben permalink
      February 23, 2012 9:15 pm

      To a certain degree I think any charities involved in this scheme do deserve a few tarry fingerprints.

      Volunteering for charity work is a noble thing, but the key word is volunteer. It’s all very well saying that the scheme is only mandatory for those who’ve been out of work for 9 months or a year, but surely it would be better for the charities to have people who want to be there, not people who’ve been forced into it through economic necessity.
      To say that we should keep this ill-thought abortion of a scheme going because it provides some small benefit to a few charities is (at the risk of hyperbole) like saying slavery was good because at least it meant the slaves had a roof over their head and a good Christian upbringing.

      • February 23, 2012 9:57 pm

        Ben, I agree with you when you say:

        “To say that we should keep this ill-thought abortion of a scheme going because it provides some small benefit to a few charities is (at the risk of hyperbole) like saying slavery was good because at least it meant the slaves had a roof over their head and a good Christian upbringing.”

        I am not keen on keeping the scheme as it stands. What I am keen on is any scheme that helps people back into work, or encourages business, charities or any other organisation incentive to help people do it.

        Workfare isn’t working in many ways, but instead of slamming the whole scheme, we need to look at where it is working, and build on that, while scrapping the bits which don’t.

        All this outrage is only going to make struggling enterprises, charities and the like recede into their shells. It would be ideal if charities had people who want to be there, but maybe the people who put their names down for workfare with charities do want to be there.

        The third sector has been hit hard by the recession, can you blame them for taking an incentive to provide experience?

        All the debate is achieving is to polarise the left and the right (again), and arguing too far from one side or the other isn’t helpful because the debate comes down to scoring rhetorical points.

        Lets ditch the points scheme and have a debate that really works, because as I see it all that is being said is:

        Right: people doing any job is better than none so lets incentivise people into any job that will have them…

        Left: some jobs aren’t what people like to do unless they get paid, so best to keep them on benefits for nothing than make them do something uncomfortable.

        Like the Labour party now, all the responses to Coalition policy – not saying it is right or wrong – is to whine and complain. When will the left produce a credible alternative, instead of just whinging? It’s easy to suffer and stand on a high horse, what’s hard is to suffer and make a difference.

  22. Payguy permalink
    February 23, 2012 8:59 pm

    Alex is completely right (and witty) in all things he writes. Unfortunately the Tories care not a jot for logical argument. The only thing they will care about is direct protest.

    Join ukuncut, go on a march, buy a balaclava. Just don’t sit there and be oppressed by the kleptocracy we are suffering.

  23. mike pennell permalink
    February 24, 2012 8:00 am

    I understand and agree with the main thrust of the article but where is the link to the donkey porn? Perhaps a hashtag is required.

  24. February 24, 2012 11:09 am

    I was offered this scheme in 2010, during which time I was trying to become self employed. The company I was “working” for didn’t bother to register me as part of the scheme, the job centre didn’t bother to notify them and, as per the “rules” i was told to not only leave the placement, but that I would get no benefits for the week I “worked”. Add to this the fact that the “work was unpaid, since I was meant to receive JSA for it, and you can say I got roundly screwed by the system. Over the following 4 months, again while STILL trying to set up my business, I was told that I “needed to apply for jobs, otherwise my benefits would be stopped” and that “there is no longer a discretionary fund to help with setup costs, so you have to raise all the money yourself”. I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment that the “honest” get shafted while the cheats get paid! I now work a 60+ hour week for around £1.50 an hour self-employed. There is no government help for me, as I do not qualify for any tax credits, nor benefits. There is the answer to why people now expect something for nothing, because doing nothing is the only way to get something!

  25. Len permalink
    February 24, 2012 11:34 am

    Would agree somewhat, getting people stacking shelves in TESCO is not right. Both unmoral and unethical and all in all sickening.

    Why not propose charities or community work for one day per week. This would be a happy medium which could instill work ethics, sense of worth and give back to society during the difficult periods of being unemployed?

  26. February 24, 2012 12:40 pm

    To those who say I am an “intellectual snob” for opposing workfare for unskilled jobs, I am also opposed to unpaid internships for graduates which undermine the chances of those who cannot afford to pay their way into employment. I know from personal experience that those who have been able to fund themselves through three months of internship have got better paid, higher profile jobs than graduates of equal ability who cannot.

    It is untrue that unpaid employment provides opportunities. On the lower end (workfare) it provides free labour to multinationals without any educational or training outcomes, on the upper end (internships) it cements class division.

  27. February 24, 2012 1:14 pm

    From Ireland I find this topic quite interesting. Over here we have a larger unemployment problem, but we approached it in a different way. I as a company owner if I recruit someone with more than 6 months of unemployment then I don’t have to pay company tax on their earnings for the first year. The idea of this scheme is to make sure than people don’t become disillusioned and give up trying to re enter the work force. The second scheme they offer is similar to your scheme but much more tightly controlled. I can get a “intern” from the state for 6 months, they are paid by the state for the duration but I must document prior to hiring what training courses and projects they will work on. There must be a verifiable “knowledge or training” gain to the individual. It targets college graduates that need that first year of experience in their career, it be eligible to for this you need to basically spend their wage on training them, however from the individuals point of view its of great benefit. I don’t think “stacking shelves” would count.

  28. February 24, 2012 4:53 pm

    “…TESCO, and organisations like it, did not get in trouble for acting illegally on this issue. ”

    That’s a massive assumption concerning yet more rushed legislation.

    Given the obvious labour issues, it would be remiss of Tesco etc not to seek legal advice – so did they, who from, and what was the advice? Similarly for government.

    As for acting illegally, that’s still to be tested in court – as one commentator to a Guardian article posted:

    “These schemes are illegal under British and international law. 
    Why no one has thought of a class action suit is beyond me, and why the TUC haven’t taken this to the ILO is also beyond me. 
    These schemes include the provision of labour, these jobs are utilizing unskilled labour, they are not apprenticeships, there is no training, and, under international agreements the UK is a signatory to, all workers have a right to collectively bargain. 
    You can’t collectively bargain your benefits and those on these schemes are denied the opportunity to join workers unions for the organisations they are working for — in Tesco’s this would be USDAW. 
    This makes the schemes illegal as they undermine workers’ rights to collectively bargain, before we come to question of forced and coerced labour and not being paid.”

    (Comment to: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/feb/21/free-labour-job-snob-iain-duncan-smith )

    So where’s the discussion on prosecution and criminal compensation? (Noting: benefit payments might be deducted from any compensation awards and affect the entitlement to such benefits.)

    Re Benefit fraud prosecutions – How does the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act relate to companies illegally benefitting as/through Provider Referrals, when…:
    “The fraud investigation service’s position is clear: ‘Stealing is still stealing even if you don’t have very much money’. … If someone is found by the team to be wrongly claiming, payments will be stopped, the DWP will seek to reclaim the money and may also impose a fine. … They don’t bother prosecuting for less than £2,000…”
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/feb/01/benefits-fraud-investigators

    Private Eye
    No. 1308, 24 February – 8 March 2012
    BLANK CHECKS
    The rush to get Iain Duncan Smith’s Work Programme going and the delay in the IT system being designed to handle it means the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is in danger of paying out millions of pounds unnecessarily.
    The DWP estimates it will pay £60m to workfare contractors before it can use the IT programme, called Provider Referrals and Payers (PRaP), to check whether they actually earned the payments by getting unemployed clients into jobs.
    The Work Programme was introduced so quickly the government forgot to start the necessary upgrade to the computer system. PRaP was supposed to be ready by last month, but is now predicted to be working by April. The National Audit Office says that “in the meantime there is an increased risk of fraud and error”, adding: ” The department also estimates that 10 percent of these payments could fail the check to prove that employment has started.”
    A DWP spokesperson suggested to the Eye that the 10 percent figure was an overestimate and that all payments would be checked retrospectively once CRaP, sorry PRaP, is up and running.

  29. Jonault permalink
    February 24, 2012 8:43 pm

    I remember Youth Opportunities Programmes (YOPs) in the early 1980′s where you worked for £23.50 per week . Boy did the jobs dry up when employers caught on to this scheme. I never got a job through that system, I was just exploited.
    You appear to have made an error on the job losses in the RAF. The total number of service personnel across the Army, Air Force and Navy to lose their livlihoods in the MoD is 17,000 (reducing the RAF to 33,000). Initially, 25,000 civilians were earmarked to go too. This has now been raised to 29,000.

  30. Cliff permalink
    February 25, 2012 1:57 pm

    If this a so called Work Programme then how come the peole doing the work are not paid even the minimum wage? I thought it was law that anyone working had to be paid the minimum wage?

    Again if it’s to help people to understand what it’s like to have a job and work then they need also to have an understanding of the rewards for working ie you get paid? and at least the minimum wage or more?

    This whole thing sucks no matter what way you look at it? And this is the Governments answer to getting people jobs and back into work, god help us.

  31. nicolajames permalink
    May 14, 2012 2:37 pm

    I’m not opposed to work experience. The work experience I have to my name was a major reason why I got my present position. But I have expectations about what work experience entails. And I certainly have expectations about any scheme that claims to be helping people back into work.

    I would expect the scheme to give the person new experience that’s going to serve them well.
    I would expect the scheme to teach the person new skills, skills that employers really are looking for.
    I would expect the placement to either lead to a helpful reference or paid work, on the condition that the person has done good work.
    And, above all, I would expect the person to leave the scheme in a stronger position than they were in when they started.

    And, as far as I can see. Workfare does not meet any of these expectations. And I don’t think they’re unreasonable, considering that it’s being claimed that Workfare is designed to help people back into work.

    Having spent three years working in a supermarket, I’m rather sensitive to those who sneer at retail workers, but Cait Reilly simply wasn’t one of them. She already had extensive retail experience under her belt, she wasn’t being taught anything new and when it comes down to it, there was no chance of this placement ever turning into paid work. And, as you say, she wasn’t idle. She was already working on a voluntary basis. True, the graduate jobs market is tough, and I do agree that graduates need to make sure that their expectations are realistic. Certain concessions will be necessary.

    Compulsory time-wasting is not one such concession. If she’d turned down paid work so that she could continue with the voluntary work at the museum, I’d have a problem. But she didn’t. She simply spoke up about being taken advantage of. Good for her.

Trackbacks

  1. OpinionSourcing: Workfare « Cubik's Rube
  2. When is a job not a job? When it’s ‘work experience’ | QualitySolicitors

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