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:

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