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campaigners score victory against workfare

A major victory has been scored against WorkFare- the Tory's flagship forced labour programme. Ian Duncan Smith's pet project – to bring the logic of the Victorian workhouse to 21st century Britain (main difference: this time it’s work but no house) has been hated and feared by benefits claimants ever since it slid out whole from the Tory policy sphincter. A spectacularly harsh programme, not even terminal illness is considered a barrier from involuntary, unpaid work at such esteemed establishments as Poundland, Superdrug and Sainsburys – terminal cancer patients with more than 6 months to live could be expected to spend their remaining months, not with family and loved ones, but instead stacking shelves or flipping burgers.

People with jobs have almost as much to fear from the scheme as those out of work. Unions and many economists see the scheme is a way of replacing waged labour with unwaged, a plan to push wages further down as part of the "race to the bottom."

The campaign against Workfare spread like wildfire on Twitter and Facebook, demos have been held around the UK outside (and inside) participating companies, and a case had been brought against it on the grounds that Workfare was against international covenants and human rights legislation on forced labour.

And then, starting about two weeks ago, cracks started appearing in Workfare. First charities (including Scope, Marie Curie and Shelter) pulled out and condemned the scheme. After the high street charities pulled out, high street retailers started to get cold feet. Sainsburys tried to quietly extricate themselves from the scheme, Tescos, Superdrug and eventually even Poundland pulled out, leaving the Tories red faced and desperate for somebody to blame. Chris Grayling, minister for (un)employment even went as far as to accuse the SWP of hacking his emails. As the Trots sensibly pointed out- there was no need to hack his emails to know his intentions, they weren’t exactly a secret in the first place. The Latent Existence blog has a video of Chris Grayling's performance on Channel 4 – arguing that black is white and mandatory is voluntary.

The campaign was so successful because no high street chain could be seen to be associated with a forced labour programme so easily comparable to serfdom and slavery. Once upon a time they might have been able to rely on a tame press and TV to hide extent of nationwide anger against the WorkFare, but, in the age of social media, information (and misinformation) flow unchecked and uncensored. The big brands knew that even if they like the idea of cheap labour, they could not withstand a lively grassroots boycott campaign that painted them as modern day slaveowners.

The Tories are livid. That makes everyone else happy. Killing Workfare didn't rely on the commons or the lords, and so grassroots, popular opposition proved itself (once again) to be the best, if not the only, means to check a government out of control. Now that Workfare is wounded, we need cut off its head and burn its body to make sure that it doesn't rise zombie-like from the grave.

The long term Tory plan is to undo the old post-war welfare state. There is no real opposition from within the political parties, so if we want to defend those few basic rights that our parents and grandparents won that haven't already been lost to the LibConLab experiment we’re being subjected to we need to get angry and take the fight to the enemy. Boycott Workfare have planned for this Saturday (3rd) up and down the UK. See their site for details and join in the fight for the right not to work.

There are 4 comments on this story...
Added By: BoycottWorkfarer - 5th March 2012 @ 3:11 AM
Tesco's haven't actually pulled out they have just spun it to make it seem like they have.

Looky here:
Added By: Katsunobu - 18th March 2012 @ 1:55 AM
Talks, thankfully are eldshuced today as we face week three of the support staff strike on Monday.All in all, it's been quite an education. More than that, it's been a true chance for many of us to step back and reflect on things that sometimes are too easily forgotten.Was the strike costly? Sure. Individually and collectively, and in many what's work going to be like when we get back' ways, to be sure.But there's a cost to the spirit too a cost that for me was only revealed as important when I realized its absence in my life these last few weeks.This something' is what really drew me, and so many of my like-spirited colleagues to the field of education in the first place. And it's something that can not be contracted out, or put into a spreadsheet or even negotiated. In fact, it's a gift. A gift of spirit. A gift that appears en masse in every school, university, and college every September. A gift that most givers of the gift are not even aware of giving us. But it's this generous and real gift that fills, sustains, and compels us to give back. A gift that reminds us how important it is to show trust, support, kindness, patience in our work and the people we work for and with and us to show as much respect as we can manage under whatever circumstances and whomever we face.The older you get, the more precious the gift becomes. It has the incredible power to transform you from a naggingly cynical, and wrinkling curmudgeon to a wide-eyed and nervous youth again in an eye-blink. It reveals to you the truth that despite the mind-numbing speed of technical change in our lives and in our workplaces, that some things truly are universal and eternal to the human spirit.And that beyond a world corrupt with fear mongers and the fear-mongered, the terrorists and the terrorized, there is another vision. A vision that emerged long, long ago from visionaries who were probably just as wide-eyed and nervous as those faces staring back at you in the halls and classrooms of the first week of September. Somewhere in our collective past we decided to collectively acknowledge the nurturing of public knowledge not as a privilege, but a fundamental and critical human right as basic as shelter and food.In Ontario, 1967, the momentum of this vision and the celebration of our fresh-faced nations first centennial collided and created the community college system. An acknowledgement that investing in developing skills in future minds was not only necessary to sustain a healthy economy, but critical to sustaining a healthy society. This was a time when the whole country was filled with the very same gift that our students continue to shyly present to us, every day hope.Hope that change can be good. Good for oneself, good for all. Hope that the only meaningful growth is NOT economic or profit/tax-based driven but much, much, more personal. A growth of understanding, of connection to others past, present and future. A hope that even a sad story can have a happy ending. A story worth retelling not because it sells TV ads, or newspapers but because it gives to the listener, more hope in the telling.And maybe the most important hope of all, a hope of discovery. That somewhere in all of us students, teachers, support staff, parents, voters, taxpayers and (hopefully) management there remains, somewhere, a hope to live our lives as the best we can be for ourselves, and to give back to this world more hope than we receive. To not settle for complacency, to refuse to accept that we are limited to what others, or other interests, insist we must accept as our fate.January first may officially be the time to celebrate a new year, but there's no doubt in my mind that the time to celebrate a new future is the first day of school and the return to youthful hope to the world.And THAT, is what I missed most this September.Thank you students. The HOPE that you bring to me, my colleagues, our schools, and indeed the world is a true, and generously given gift. A gift that if honestly respected, should not be ignored, squandered, or exploited for any purpose other than the spirit it is given in.There's an old African proverb worth repeating: stay hungry, stay foolish.One can only hope.- College-trained support staffer married to a college-trained library worker (with a daughter in her 2nd year of a college program)
Added By: Joginder Singh F - 31st March 2012 @ 4:57 PM
Work Sets You Free....With the emphasis on "Free" and "work"
Added By: freeman - 12th February 2013 @ 9:20 PM
Duncan Smith should be arrested for promoting slavery
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