All this week, companies who’ve been caught out using workfare will be training the unemployed as part of a ‘skills for work week’ called Feeding Britain’s Future. This dubious racket has been set up by food and grocery experts IGD who’ve enlisted the services of supermarket giants, such as Tesco & ASDA, to give “10,000 young people access to real working environments and a feel for what it’s like in the food industry.”
Most people can tell you what it’s like working in the food industry without you having to waste a week finding out. It’s shit: shit hours, shit pay, shit benefits and shit protection. Alas, your Jobcentre Plus adviser has probably inveigled you into attending a useless “skills class” at your local supermarket on the basis that it will give you much needed experience that will encourage employers to hire you, and then potentially fire you in favour of the complimentary labour they could’ve squeezed out of you whilst you were unemployed.
That’s what basically happened at 2 Sisters Food Group —signed up to Feeding Britain’s Future—, in the schnews recently for sacking 350 employees at their Leicestershire pie and pizza factory and then tethering 100 unemployed, to what Jobecentre Plus described as ‘pre-employment training’, at their Nottingham Pizza Factory —the pseudo-carrot being a guaranteed job interview at the end of the DWP sanction stick.
Certainly, there will be well-intentioned floor staff willing to show you a trick or two over the next few days, but the overarching absurdity of the ‘skills for work week’ is that companies who are ‘opening their doors’ to teach you about “responsibilities and expectations in the workplace”, and give you the “chance to work” in their stores, would very much like to obtain your labour power, your ability to work, for as close to zero as they can get it. When it comes to the food-industry’s ‘responsibilities and expectations’ they can be reduced, as with any other industry, to the simple requirement to 'profit-from' —aided and abetted by the corridors of power that represent government.
Tesco, Asda, 2 Sisters Food Group and 100’s of other retailers have been snatching-up unpaid workers since the inception of the Condem Work Programme and its predecessor back-to-work-programme under the Labour government. Direct action against companies who use workfare has resulted in several withdrawing from the government schemes. We must keep up the pressure on the profiteers and providers who will treat us with a contempt in-built into their constitutions. Our material interests are in direct opposition to that of the companies who seek to exploit us, and it is within this struggle, against our exploitation, that we can begin to re-locate the notion of what work should be, and not some suffocating illusion imposed on us by the state & business.
Feeding Britain's Future runs from the 17th - 21st September. You can view their website at http://www.feedingbritainsfuture.com and their twitter is @fbf_uk