Saturday, 30 June 2012

National Week of Action Against Workfare | 7-14th July

Liverpool claimants, the Solidarity Federation, the Anarchist Federation and various activist groups have organized 6 actions in the build-up to the National Week of Action Against Workfare. These actions have targeted companies who are using forced unpaid labour, such as Holland & Barrett, Asda & Argos; and one of the main implementers of the Work Programme, A4e. The National Week of Action Against Workfare will see a series of pickets/communication blockades in Liverpool demanding companies stop using Workfare; many of these pickets will be in tandem with actions around the UK.

See the Boycott Workfare press release, below, to find out what you can do and what’s going on in your area during the National Week of Action:

The Queen's Jubilee has seen the disgrace of exploiting the unemployed through workfare. The ‘ethical’ company Holland & Barrett who are due to be signed up to 1100 workfare places will receive its deserved focus of this week of action. Up and down the country groups will been taking action against workfare providers – A4E, Maximus, Reed etc… including those who have signed up on workfare – Holland & Barrett, Tesco, Shoe Zone etc…

Join us and take part in fun and creative actions against workfare.

What can you do?

Join up with your local groups – anti-cuts groups, claimants groups, trade unions and other organisations campaigning against workfare!

Organise a workfare walk of shame on your high street. See a video and how to guide here:

Come to our workfare counter-conference on 10th July in Birmingham from 10am – 5.30pm at the Unite Building, Transport House, 211 Broad Street, Birmingham B15 1AY (Disability access provided)

Do some sleuthing! Help find out where workfare is taking place on your high street:

Know your rights! Leaflet at your local job centre or work programme provider to let people know their rights. Download the latest leaflet here:

Be creative! People have dressed as chain gangs, occupied shops that use workfare, encouraged customers to turn away, delivered a “bullshit detector” to workfare thinktanks, organised a farewell party for A4e and more…

Contact us! Let us know what you’re planning on the Facebook event here: or email or tweet to @boycottworkfare

These actions have been announced so far:

Birmingham – Join our workfare counter-conference on 10th July in Birmingham from 10am – 5.30pm at the Unite Building, Transport House, 211 Broad Street, Birmingham B15 1AY (Disability access provided).

Brighton – 11am 7th July – Workfare walk of shame.

Hastings – 11.30am 7th July Station Plaza.

Leeds – Planning page for the week of action, with workfare walks of shame on Wednesday and Thursday.

Liverpool – Weekly pickets throughout June and the National Week of Action Against Workfare.

London – 12 noon, near Goodge Street station.

York – Fountain Parliament Square 1pm 7th July.

Poole – 1pm 7th July – Kingland Crescent Holland and Barrett.

South West – July 7th will see our campaign take to the streets of Bristol again. The following week will see a variety of action across the region. We currently have news of pickets of workfare providers taking place in Bath, Yate, Wells, Stroud, Swindon and again in Bristol. More details to follow.

You may want to find out more information about workfare providers and those who have signed up to it here:

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Combat Workfare Targets A4e Liverpool

Today, Combat Workfare continued its build-up to the Boycott Workfare National Week of Action with another combination A4e picket and communications blockade in Liverpool. An 11-strong picket lined the entrance to the A4e offices, which also house Avanta, Working Links and the JHP Group —all administrators of the exploitative Work Programme. For those who couldn’t make the mid-week action, a successful communications blockade had A4e Liverpool and A4e Customer Services up the wall answering complaints from all over the country concerning their involvement in the welfare “crackdown” continued by this government.

The picket had shouts of support from people passing by; and from people, not connected with any of the Work Providers, working inside the office complex. Hundreds of leaflets were handed out explaining why the picket was being held and claimants going in and out of the building shared their stories and complaints about A4e & Avanta.

A4e, distancing themselves of any wrong-doing over the allegations of “systemic fraud”, have been on the spin-offensive, lately, churning out mushy, positive-vibration success stories about how they’ve helped ‘customers’ get a job “after just ONE appointment” or, in another instance, helped find someone a job and “a husband”. The most sickening example of A4e’s perverse-spin centres on how they recently turned a customer “from HOMELESS to HOPEFUL in just 3 WEEKS!” propounding the idea that they’re some fucking religio/super-hero/all-healing philanthropists who’ve been sent to planet Earth, from the planet Harrison, to prevent the unemployment apocalypse.  A4e revel deliriously in piggybacking on their customer’s stories, whilst simultaneously coercing profits out of their circumstances —all with a “well done, you” smile-smirk as they turn to their fellow racketeers and crank up the cash counter machine.

A4e can expect more disruption to their profit-incentivised workfare racket over the next weeks and months; and these direct-actions will not go unnoticed by claimants passing through A4e’s doors.  The more disruption we inflict, and the more connections we make with claimants will precipitate a stronger defence against escalating exploitation of the unemployed and employed.

The next direct action in Liverpool is on Sat 30th June, when we will be targeting under-the-radar exploiters Asda at their Smithdown Rd Store. More info here:

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Workfare in the Docks

If you're in London on Tuesday, join Boycott Workfare outside the Royal Courts, in Solidarity with two claimants challenging the legality of the Governments exploitative Workfare schemes:

We will be gathering outside at 9.30am for a visually striking protest - bring home made placards showing your distaste for workfare! Cait Reilly and her solicitor will be giving a statement outside at 9.45 am. We will then head into the courts to watch the proceedings and hopefully see justice served! Hope to see you there!

Workfare in the Docks facebook event:

Press release from Public Interest Lawyers, who are representing the two claimants:

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Springboard Charity Swindles Young Unemployed

Liverpool Jet Services, now Liverpool in Work, recently posted an ‘opportunity’ for Hospitality Training on their vacancies board. The opportunity is provided by the charity Springboard, who help “young, unemployed and disadvantaged people into careers in hospitality, leisure and tourism”. One of the ways they do this is by-way-of a 3-week Summer School composed of pre-employment training followed by a 2-week work placement. This work placement is unpaid, the justification being [sic]:

“No unfortunately not however as this is a great prospects for both student and employer to establish whether each party is happy at the organisation this is a fantastic opportunity to make the role permanent then it will become paid.”

Springboard’s argument will, no doubt, be the pre-employment training and practical experience is sufficient reward, but as @Fight_Workfare pointed out, “part of ‘work experience’ is ‘wage experience’”.

The hospitality industry is well known for its high turnover, which is 'officially' 23%, (but can be as high as 60%) so they clearly have a recruitment problem. For charitable trust Springboard to tackle that recruitment problem by enticing “young, unemployed and disadvantaged people” with the possibility of making, as they so eloquently put it, “the role permanent then it will become paid” is disingenuous, misleading and is comparable to the Workfare schemes that currently feed off the unemployed.

The Summer School takes place across eight cities between the 2nd – 20th July, with the work-placement taking place between the 9th – 20th July. How handy that a recruitment drive by the hospitality industry coincides with it’s peak season. What better bonanza than an influx of new recruits for 2 weeks, and they don’t have to pay them anything except travel expenses?

A little more digging reveals Springboard’s Chairman is Stephen Moss, CBE. Stephen runs a nasty little company called Grosvenor Securities who provide, amongst other things, bailiff services. These medieval shitbags are sent all over the UK to collect unpaid utility bills, Council Tax and remove "unauthorised occupants" —specifically travellers— from commercial buildings or land. They also collect debts for “many household names, from pay-day lending companies to high-street retailers”. That pay-day lending company is Wonga have been in the news recently for sending out aggressive letters to people who can’t afford to pay the stomach-churning 4000% APR on poverty-driven loans offered by the scumbag sharks. The company chasing up Wonga’s terrified customers is none other than Grosvenor Legal, part of Grosvenor Securities.

So, on the one hand we’ve got Stephen Moss CBE doing a supposedly ‘philanthropic’ turn overseeing an unpaid placement scam at Springboard; and on the other, he’s chasing down the poor and happily displacing the travelling community via his Grosvenor Securities empire.

Springboard, although a charitable trust helping “young, unemployed and disadvantaged people into careers in hospitality, leisure and tourism”, are quick to complement their nicey-nicey-helping-the-disadvantaged attitude with deference to the industry that has a big problem with staffing. But for two weeks in July, that staffing problem will be a distant worry as potentially 1000’s of unpaid workers swell the ranks of hotels, restaurants & resorts across the UK.

Peel back the charitable veneer, just slightly, and you see the extent and interconnectivity with which the have-nots are being constantly exploited. How much more do we have to take before we finally plunge our working-class teeth into the hand that is constantly tightening its grip around our throats?

Liverpool Recruitment for the Summer School takes place at:

The Liner Hotel
Lord Nelson Street
L3 5QB
on Monday 18th June
from 10am to 1pm.

Find out more about unpaid work schemes, experience & placements at Boycott Workfare.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Asda Targeted by Combat Workfare

Today, Sat 16th June, a 20-strong Combat Workfare picket —including claimants, members of Solidarity Federation, and members of Anarchist Federation— disrupted trade at Asda’s Sefton Park store outside Liverpool. Under-the-radar Workfare profiteers Asda have swerved the outrage building over the use of forced unpaid workers, so the aim of this action was to let Asda know that their exploitative practices have not gone unnoticed and will not be tolerated.

Our arrival had been expected by both Merseyside Police and Asda security, who early on began sweeps of the concourse outside the store. Unphased, the picket set up outside the main entrance adjacent the car-park, unfurling banners and handing out leaflets to customers. The reception from customers was overwhelmingly positive, with one customer describing Asda's use of Workfare as “disgraceful”. At this point, there was a low-key police presence, but that all changed when The Matrix turned up and swelled Police numbers to 7 Officers. Later another Police car turned up with another 2 officers. The Police then began their usual tactics of goading & misinformation, informing the picket of several complaints that had been made by ‘frightened’ customers.

The picket continued to engage customers about Asda’s use of unpaid workers, which the manager denied ­—going as far as saying that no unpaid workers are being used in any Asda stores in the area. At this point a comrade informed me he’d just been told by an Asda customer that the Sefton Park store was using claimants, as part of the Work Related Activities Group (WRAG), unpaid. Once more the manager flatly denied the allegation. Later, independently, another customer confirmed that the store was using WRAG claimants unpaid.

Although the details of this allegation will have to be confirmed, this shows the potential depths profiteers will plunge to, not only to safeguard a source of unpaid labour, but also to make sure their customers are not informed about the use of unpaid labour by withholding information. One customer asked the manager what was going on and he replied, “Oh, it’s just a protest.”

Asda, like many other food retailers, are using unpaid workers. Yet, still, we do not know the scope of this exploitation because the government refuses to release information via the so-called Freedom of Information Act because they can. An exemption in the Act allows the government and its’ suppliers protection if there is a possibility commercial interests may suffer due to a release of information under the Act. That’s why the national Boycott Workfare campaign is asking people to find out (or sleuth) what companies are using unpaid workers. If they won’t give us the information, then we’ll find out for ourselves!

Unsurprisingly, Merseyside Police announced a Section 14 on the Combat Workfare picket, which decided to move at it’s own leisure, to the main-road entrance of the Sefton Park Store, where we continued to talk with customers and hand out leaflets until the early evening.

This successful picket is part of a series of actions happening throughout June in the run-up to the National Week of Action between the 7th & 14 of July. It is important that we disrupt the trade of these exploiters to the point that they withdraw their participation in Workfare. This can only be done through direct actions that take the struggle to the automatic doors of Capitalism. Workfare is an attack on our Welfare and our Work; it is a simultaneous attack on the waged and unwaged; and a component of the global attack on the working classes.

Furthermore, the fight-back against Workfare must be claimant-led and claimant-organized. If you are a claimant wanting to take direct-action against Work Providers & companies exploiting claimants as unpaid workers, then find out more information at these sites:

For more info on claimant rights visit:

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

As Claimants, We Must Organise Against Workfare

Liverpool combats Workfare over the next 2 months in the lead up to the 7-14th July National Week of Action called by the How Do We Break Workfare? Conference held in May. 

On Tuesday 12th June, Solidarity Federation, Anarchist Federation and Liverpool activists picketed Workfare profiteers A4e Liverpool in tandem with a communications blockade via email, phone & fax. Read reports at Truth Reason & Liberty and at Anarcho-bastard

The next action is a communications blockade of A4e Bootle followed by Combat Workfare in Wavertree on Saturday 16th June.

If claimant-organised networks are to become a reality, ongoing picketing of Prime Providers, such as A4e, must continue so that the fear preventing claimants from mobilizing against Workfare exploitation is broken down. Jobcentres must also be targeted, as well as continued disruption of retailers & charities that seem to have no problem tapping the unemployed as a source of free labour. 

Being ‘attached’ to a Prime Provider for 2 years on the Work Programme is a mind-fuck: constant berating masked by an adviser’s smile, not-so-subtle coercion into unsuitable jobs, and outright bullying of ‘customers’ all have a psychological effect. When claimants are unaware of their rights —however minuscule those rights are— although intuitively know they are being exploited, it’s difficult & frustrating not to able to stand up for yourself when you’re being asked to sign a 50-page document or to have the confidence to refuse a job that isn’t suitable. More often than not, companies, like A4e, are hoping that’s the case because you’re easier to manipulate and easier to make money out of long-term unemployed claimants can be worth £1000’s to Work Programme providers. 

Talking with claimants and giving them the right info & tactics during pickets is a step towards claimant-organised networks bringing down Workfare.

As claimants and/or activists we must set up Jobcentre pickets that engage new claimants who’ve yet to experience the full onslaught of the Department for Work & Pensions’ Work Programme; to kit them out with info & tactics so they at least have some say in their own lives while on the dole. Furthermore, at some point the question of solidarity between claimants & DWP frontline staff has to be resolved. For more discussion on this read Dole Bondage? Up Yours! An account of Wales against the JSA “Only doing your job” starts to wear very thin when you’re being slapped with a 2-month benefit sanction. 

As claimants organizing against exploitation, the preference is solidarity with frontline employees as part of a broader working-class resistance against attacks on welfare & work. With that said, the priority must always be claimant defence & action.

And the pressure must be kept up on retailers & charities, by using pickets and blockades to disrupt operation and custom. For all the exhortations by some companies, like Argos, that they’ve suspended involvement in Workfare, many have sneakily carried on under the radar until found out again.

The fight against Workfare must centre on claimant-organised networks taking direct action against Prime Contractors, Subcontractors and profit-making businesses using unpaid workers.
If you exploit us, we will shut you down!  

For more info on claimant rights visit:

For more info on the national Boycott Workfare campaign visit:

Join Liverpool Claimant Network at:


Sunday, 10 June 2012

Liverpool Combats Workfare

As part of a rolling series of actions combating Workfare in Liverpool, claimants/activists picketed slave labour stalwarts Holland & Barrett on Saturday 9th of June. Customers were successfully turned away from shopping in the Liverpool 'health' store after being informed of the companies Workfare policy and leaflets handed out to passers-by interested in what was going on. Unsurprisingly, a few H & B customers, propped up by the Gov's PR machine, took it upon themselves to regurgitate the bile that Iain Duncan Smith and Chris Grayling spew out on a daily basis. One customer in response to finding out H & B use workfare said, "well, it's better than sitting on your arse" - the implication being that all benefits claimants sit on their arses doing nout. Well, thanks for that sweeping statement straight from the bowels of the DWP shit-tank!

After Holland & Barrett, the 40-strong combat workfare claimants/activists targeted chintz manufacturers Argos, invading the shop floor with sirens & music. By this time, Merseyside Police --so outraged by the use of forced unpaid work-- joined the flying picket in 'solidarity'. One of our activists, maybe 4 or 5 years old, took great offence at the plod following Combat Workfare around the city centre and made her feelings known with megaphone chants of "Fuck the Police!”

Every attempt was made to engage the customers and staff at Argos about the company's flagrant use of Workfare and for the most part we were able to turn away customers from the store and inform staff that they are affected by Workfare as well.

"An injury to one is an injury to all"

The Work Programme claims to help people back into work by attaching the claimant to a private Work Provider for 2 years. The Work Provider is paid by results, so if they cannot get you back into work they don’t make a profit. This profit-incentive has encouraged Work Providers, such as A4e, to force claimants into unsuitable work & into unpaid work, touted as ‘placements' and/or ‘work experience’, at profit-making businesses.

Forcing claimants to work up to 30hrs a week for a month at a time, for no pay, provides free labour to companies, such as Tesco, Asda, Topman, Primark, Holland & Barrett & Argos; it also blurs the idea of voluntary work when you are forced into placements at charities, such as The British Heart Foundation & Age Concern. Local councils, hospitals and many other public organizations are using claimants as free labour under what’s called the Community Action Programme, which means you could be picking rubbish up in parks or changing patients bedding for 30hrs a week on NO PAY.

Not only is this forced unpaid work, it undermines the security & conditions of those already in paid work by giving managers the option of a steady stream of free labour.

Work Providers are also ‘parking’ claimants, who they deem as unprofitable/unemployable, on the sidelines of the Work Programme with no support or contact; and Work Providers, such as A4e, are being investigated over allegations of systemic fraud, centred around claiming money for job outcomes that never existed.

ESA claimants, in some case terminally ill people, are also being made “fit-for-work” by careless assessments, kicked off incapacity benefit or Employment Support Allowance and dumped onto the Work Programme.

 "If you exploit us, we will shut you down!"

Our final target was devious Workfare bastards Tesco, who've brazenly stuck to using free labour despite sounding-off about withdrawing their participation from the scheme. We were able to prevent customers, via leafleting and discussion, not to use Tesco and the response from customers was overwhelmingly positive, with many refusing to shop there.

Over the coming months claimants/activists in Liverpool will be combating Workfare. The next direct action will take place on Sat 16th June: and we urge everyone to join in and shut down profiteers using forced unpaid labour.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

The Merlin Standard & A4e Fraud

Been stumbling across mentions of the odious-sounding Merlin Standard over the last few weeks. The Merlin Standard is described as a

“joint exercise between the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and its providers operating in the Welfare to Work (W2W) sector, to ensure adherence to the Code of Conduct within DWP’s Commissioning Strategy.”


More interesting is that all Work Programme Prime Providers, not only have to pay for the £10,000 assessment to be completed end of June, but also if they fail to gain accreditation can eventually be kicked off the Work Programme. Alas, the Department for Workfare Profiteers gives ample time & opportunity for Prime Providers to meet the Merlin Standard, with a second and third assessment available at another £10,000 each. But, so far, out of the 18 Prime Providers, Serco Welfare-to-Work is the only Provider who has been awarded the Standard. (More on Serco’s treatment of asylum seekers here and recent allegations over its NHS services here

The Merlin Standard seems to centre on making things nicey-nicey around supply chains between Prime Providers and subcontractors, with the main principles of the Standard based on Supply Chain Design, Commitment, Conduct and Review.

A4e Fraud

A4e have not been awarded the Merlin Standard, yet. MP Margaret Hodge has asked DWP Permanent Secretary Robert Devereux to investigate all recent allegations of fraud provided by in-house A4e auditors at a recent Public Accounts Committee hearing, and this will most likely take some time to complete. Fraud, particularly ‘systemic’ fraud within A4e, would naturally affect the supply chain and the conduct of the supply chain.

Principle 3 of the Merlin Standard states:

“Excellent supply chains are led and managed with integrity, honesty and transparency and supported by effective processes.”

Principle 3b.6 states the organization must demonstrate:

policies and practices are in place to assure the safeguarding of vulnerable groups supported by the supply chain.”

The ‘Scandal of charities that bully people off benefits’ was recently posted up on the Disabled People Against Cuts blog and is just one example of the lack of safeguards meant to be in place for vulnerable groups. As for “integrity, honesty and transparency”, you’d think A4e would have serious problems gaining accreditation. 

Ideally, and it is a long-shot, it would be great to see A4e kicked off the Work Programme because they failed to get their DWP Workfare-Profiteer Merlin badge. And, although the likelihood is they’ll all get accreditation, one way or another, it’s certainly worth keeping an eye on how Prime Provider assessments are progressing and what hurdles they are stumbling over to get accreditation. 

Fingers crossed subcontractors start sqealing on Prime Providers.

Here’s a list of Providers with assessments pending:

A4e - Week commencing 28th May
Avanta - Week commencing 18th June
Business Employment Services Training Ltd (BEST)- Week commencing 18th June
Careers Development Group - Week commencing 28th May
ESG Group - Week commencing 22nd May
EOS/FourstaR - Week commencing 12th June
G4S - Week commencing 11th June
Ingeus UK Ltd - Week commencing 18th June
JHP Group Ltd - Week commencing 28th May
MAXIMUS Employment and Training Ltd - Week commencing 25th June
Newcastle College - Intraining - Week commencing 25th June
Pertemps People Development Group - Week commencing 28th May
Prospects Services Ltd - Week commencing 11th June
Reed in Partnership - Week commencing 18th June
Rehab Jobfit - Week commencing 12th June
Seetec - Week commencing 25th June
Serco - Week commencing 30th April
Working Links - Week commencing 21st May

All information on the Merlin Standard can be accessed via

And here’s the documentation on the Merlin Standard, if you can be fucked.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Combat Workfare - Liverpool City Centre - Sat 9th June

Liverpool Combat Workfare (Source: Liverpool Solidarity Federation)

To kick off a rolling series of pickets and occupations against workfare, leading up to the National Week of Action on 7-14 July, we are holding another day of action in the City Centre.

We call everyone who stands opposed to the government's workfare scheme, and the attempt to undermine the rights and conditions of ALL workers, to join us at the Next to Nowhere social centre from 12.30. There, we will announce our target and take action.

The message to every workfare provider in Liverpool is simple: IF YOU EXPLOIT US, WE WILL SHUT YOU DOWN! Help us make that slogan a reality.

Combat Workfare:
Boycott Workfare Campaign:

Friday, 1 June 2012

Body Shop U-Turn on Workfare Participation

Fearing an ‘ethical’-consumer backlash, The Body Shop have hightailed out of a potential nightmare scenario that would have seen their stores nationwide bare the brunt of anti-workfare protests.

In a swift U-turn The Body Shop UK —recently exposed by Boycott Workfare as using unpaid workers in their high-street stores— have released a short Facebook statement withdrawing their participation in the exploitative practice:

“It’s not The Body Shop policy to support Workfare, but a few isolated incidents of store participation has come to light this week. The stores will be brought back in line with our national approach shortly and there will be no further participation from The Body Shop.”

This bodes well for the Boycott Workfare Campaign, but a question still remains over why they were using unpaid workers in the first place. For a company, founded by Human Rights Activist Anita Roddick, that specifically champions the “vulnerable and the disadvantaged”, it is concerning that, not only have they been using unpaid workers, but they would brush it off as a “few isolated incidents”. Surely a company such as The Body Shop would make a company decision to participate (or not participate) in Workfare schemes on a national level in line with their ethical values policy?

Only a full statement from The Body Shop will reveal the true extent of their participation and subsequent withdrawal.

You can demand a full statement regarding The Body Shop’s use of unpaid workers in their UK stores via their twitter @TheBodyShopUK or their Facebook page at

Read The Body Shop statement on Workfare at:

For more info on the Boycott Workfare campaign visit: