Friday, 30 November 2012

The Return of the Workhouse

Kingsway House, Salisbury

 (The picture above is Kingsway House in Salisbury. Once a former Workhouse, it is now owned by the Spectrum Signpost Housing Association who are a member of the Give Us A Chance consortium).

In an August article[i] on the looming introduction of the Bedroom Tax[ii], Inside Housing interviewed Tory ratbag and Chief Executive of Liverpool Mutual Homes (LMH) Steve Coffey on “innovative proposals to reduce the impact of benefit reform on its residents.”

The proposal offers tenants hit by the Bedroom Tax a deal to make up the shortfall in their rent by working for LMH doing odd jobs such as “litter picking” on LMH estates. Tenants would also be shunted into training (work) programmes with local charities to secure a roof over their heads.

Coffey coats the proposed workhouse scheme with a voluntary varnish, but how voluntary is voluntary when it is conditional? Well, it’s not voluntary, at all, when the threat of eviction forces tenants into the scheme.

Coffey has been in the news lately over false accusations made against staff to get them arrested.[iii] The 3 shop stewards —callously sacked along with 10 others in 2011[iv]— accused of assault by Coffey were finally acquitted in November, when the Judge threw out the case brought against them by Coffey & LMH. So, its no surprise the slimy shitbag would have no qualms transporting tenants back to the days of the workhouse, under the pretence of a “something for something” deal.

With 56% of people on the Work Programme in social housing[v], Housing Associations (HAs) have been sniffing ‘round the Government’s failing Work Programme since its introduction in 2011, trying to find a way to tap into the lucrative contracts the DWP has been throwing at its toff pals. Bromford Housing Group is one of the landlords who’ve secured contracts to swell the profits of Work Programme provider esg[vi]. Bromford Group even released a Work Programme guide for HAs that includes,

“…assisting and tracking customers who have found work. This can help them [prime contractors] claim significant sustainability payments. You already have an ‘on the sofa’ relationship with your customers. Many of which will be on the Work Programme whether you know about it or not.”


Another racket, the Give Us A Chance[vii] consortium, consisting of 23 members including LMH and Spectrum Signpost Housing Association, have been plotting with prime contractors to squeeze every last penny out of their unemployed tenants by cajoling them onto the Work Programme if they aren’t already on it.

Bastards times two.

When the Tories called for a return to Victorian values, they fucking meant it. Landlords, whether they’re branded social or not, putting tenants-to-work for rent taken away by attacks on welfare; or adding conditionality to tenancies based on attending training or work programmes mimics the workhouse ideology (sans conditions) of what were known as spikes.

Coffey & LMH’s “embryonic” plans could be (or already have been) picked up by landlords out to make an easy pound off the backs of the unemployed, as Landlords try to embed themselves in the Work Programme supply chain. Uptake by Housing Associations has been slow, but with the impending Bedroom Tax and cut in Council Tax support it could provide an opportunity for landlords to escalate the exploitation of their tenants.

Conversely, the introduction of the Bedroom Tax is an opportunity for us to fight and organise.

In Ireland, a grassroots community-led campaign against a €100 Household & Water Tax has met fierce resistance from working class people. The mass non-payment campaign has seen households working together & supporting each other when refusing to register or pay the tax. Statistics released by the No Household Tax Campaign show that 750,000 families (52%) have boycotted the tax.

We have until April 1st 2013 to organise against the Bedroom Tax, so we must act quickly, and in the process we can stop landlords’ exploitation of tenants.

For those of you who are unsure, this is class war!


On 12th January 2013 Liverpool Claimants Network is calling a mass meeting to organise resistance to the Bedroom Tax and Welfare cuts in general.

Defend Your Home Against the Bedroom Tax – Mass Meeting – Liverpool -12th January Facebook event:


Thursday, 29 November 2012

Week of Action Against Workfare

Lets drive some more nails into the Not-Working Programme coffin. Join Boycott Workfare from the 8th of December in naming & shaming workfare profiteers as part of a Week of Action Against Workfare. Actions have already been announced in Birmingham, Brighton, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool and London.

Workfare’s Christmas Bonus For The Bosses:

Superdrug Steals Christmas:

Name & Shame: The Dundee Workfare Providers Tour

Say No! To Unpaid Labour:

Anti-Workfare Picket Against Superdrug:

The Leeds Tour of Workfare:

Combat Workfare

North London Solidarity Federation
Combat Workfare National Day of Action

South London Solidarity Federation

Let Boycott Workfare know your plans for the Week of Action Against Workfare so we can send a resounding message to the architects & profiteers of forced unpaid labour:


Sunday, 18 November 2012

Defend Your Home Against the Bedroom Tax - Mass Meeting

Defend Your Home Against the Bedroom Tax

From the 1st of April tenants of housing associations & social landlords will be hit by a possible 25% cut in their housing benefit if they under-occupy their home.

This means:

1 spare room will see a 14% reduction in housing benefit
2 spare rooms will see a 25% reduction in housing benefit[i]

660,000 tenants & their families will be affected nationwide.[ii] 12,000 tenants in Liverpool[iii] and 3,000 tenants in Knowsley[iv] will be hit by the Bedroom Tax. Additionally, 44,700 working age people and their families will see a 17.5% cut in Council Tax Support.[v]

This callous attack on working class people, both in and out of work, will purge thousands of —many longstanding— tenants, 300,000 of which are parents[vi], from their homes and neighbourhoods into low-rent ghettos —and all for what? To save £500 million? To tackle the housing ‘crisis’? Bullshit!

According to the Empty Homes Agency, there are 725,000[vii] empty homes —owned by large corporations, banks, offshore companies, local authorities, other government departments, and not by private individuals[viii] — in England: enough for 1.8m people! Yet, nearly 700,000 tenants, 2/3rds of which are disabled[ix], will be thrown into crisis by government ideology and landlord indifference.

What can we do about it?

We can fight!

In Ireland, a grassroots community-led campaign against a 100 Household & Water Tax has met fierce resistance from working class people.[x] The mass non-payment campaign has seen households working together & supporting each other when refusing to register or pay the tax. Statistics released by the No Household Tax Campaign show that 750,000 families (52%) have boycotted the tax.[xi]

Leeds Defend Council Housing[xii] offer this advice:

"It is going to be very difficult for the Council or a Housing Association to evict tenants who fall into arrears as a result of housing benefit cuts. You are likely to be judged to be unintentionally homeless and the Council will then have to re-house you. It is much cheaper to keep you in your home. So don’t panic, don’t move, just keep paying what you can afford."

We Can Organise!
We have until April 1st 2013 to organise against the Bedroom Tax, so we must act quickly. On the 24th of November Bootle Against Welfare Reforms are holding a demonstration to raise awareness about the Bedroom Tax, Council Tax cut and Benefit Cap which will displace 1000’s of people from their homes.

You can sign up to the Facebook event here:

On 12 January 2013 Liverpool Claimants Network is calling a mass meeting to organise resistance to the Bedroom Tax, and Welfare Cuts in general.

Facebook event here:

Venue & Time to be confirmed.

By working together and supporting each other we can defeat the Bedroom Tax.

Invite your friends, family & community, and network it.

[vi] (p11)

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Universal Jobmatch Not Mandatory

IMPORTANT: If you are asked to sign up to Universal Jobmatch on Monday at your Jobcentre or Work Programme Provider, it is Voluntary.
“Jobcentre Plus customers (including potential jobseekers) will not be mandated to register and create a profile.”

You do not have to create a Universal Jobmatch Account nor do you have to sign any forms relating to Universal Jobmatch.

Universal Jobmatch is a new online job posting and matching service that has been created by for the Department for Work and Pensions. Universal Jobmatch (UJ) will allow monitoring of a claimant's Jobsearch activity, which could lead to sanctions. Also, UJ allows the sharing of your personal information with employers. have also been involved in several instances of personal information theft.

Whilst UJ is still voluntary —there may be plans to make it mandatory in the future—, you can opt out of the service and protect your data & privacy.

For more information on Universal Jobmatch visit:

UPDATE:  You could be given a Jobseeker’s Direction to register with UJ, even so you do not need to give permission (consent) for DWP to access your account.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Combat Workfare - 8th December

On the 8th December Boycott Workfare, UKUncut and North West Ant-Cuts groups begin direct action against tax dodgers and workfare profiteers.

Combat Workfare, who’ve picketed workfare providers, profiteers and ‘so-called’ charities throughout the year, have provided consistent resistance to workfare in Liverpool.

Workfare isn’t gaining support, yet it’s being forced through by an ideological attack that fits neatly into the ‘logic’ of austerity.

The government is bringing through more disciplinary measures to squeeze the last scraps of independence claimants have when searching for employment.

Welfare is being brought to its knees and people are dying.

Combat Workfare must meet the government’s attacks on the unemployed and employed on the 8th of December and make it a day of direct action.

Neither workfare nor the work programme is working!

Spread this call-out far and wide. Invite your friends list & network.

Meeting place & time + Banner making day will be announced in co-ordination with various actions in Liverpool.

Facebook page:

Friday, 9 November 2012

Week of Action Against Workfare Charities

From Boycott Workfare:

Take action 8th December onwards

A wave of pickets and direct actions against employers using the government’s exploiting workfare schemes has pressured many charities and companies to pull out of the schemes.

But charities like British Heart Foundation, Scope and Barnardos and many companies like Poundland, Argos and Superdrug continue to exploit unemployed people through the “work-for-your-dole” schemes. That’s why Boycott Workfare network are calling A Week of Action against Workfare, focusing especially on the charities involved. Action kicks off on Saturday 8th December.

We call on all unemployed people and claimants to stand up against this exploitation – we won’t work for nothing to profit the rich! We call on all workers in jobs to resist workfare – it attacks all workers’ wages and conditions. We call on all people who care about human rights and dignity to join us. We know our anti workfare actions are part of the global resistance to the austerity being imposed everywhere.

Why are we against workfare in Charities? We know first-hand what it really means.

A long-term volunteer at British Heart Foundation told us how he and many other veteran volunteers left in disgust as BHF charity shops were swamped with unwilling conscripts. Workfare totally contradicts the voluntary ethos charities are supposed to uphold.

A claimant told us how his benefits were threatened after he left a Work Programme placement at BHF – where he was treated appallingly – and declined a placement at Barnardos. Only the intervention of Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty prevented him being left penniless.

Many charities are losing skilled volunteers – as they are being forced to instead do meaningless workfare at companies and even other charities! The unemployed lose real skill-learning opportunities to be compelled to stack shelves.

Read our blog on what’s wrong with charity workfare for more and check back as the week approaches for leaflets, and online action to take as well!

Enough is enough! If you exploit us, we will shut you down!

Update: Due to pressure from Boycott Workfare campaigners, The British Heart Foundation have begun a withdrawal from workfare, saying:
"Currently, we are moving away from involvementin the mandatory work activity programme towards schemes whichprovide longer term voluntary placements."
This is a success for campaigners and shows that pickets and direct action is making a difference in the fight against workfare. The charity is still working in "partnership with Jobcentre Plus" and therefore pressure must be placed upon them to steer clear from current and future government workfare schemes.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

The Hypocrisy of the Living Wage

Wage of the Living Dead

Apart from local government, Living Wage will never entirely escape London. It is only London Authorities, top FTSE companies and their haute suppliers that can offer what is, no-doubt from their point of view, a trivial top-up to appease slight quivers of discontent in the Capital’s labour market.

It’s easy to incorporate Living Wage into your corporate chaff when you pay your workforce above median income from the outset; and equally peasy to make slight adjustments when the cleaners starting banging on the door demanding the new base wage you forgot to tell them about.

KPMG, the company who released recent statistics on the Living Wage —and have been done for fraud, and sued countless times—, look forward

“to the day when the Living Wage brand is as widely known as the Fairtrade brand - and just as widely respected.”[1]

Brand? That’s quite telling when one of the main Living Wage Foundation partners sees Living Wage as a brand.

What’s also quite telling is the Living Wage Foundation accrediting companies, such as Deloitte[2] (owners of workfare profiteers Ingeus), who actively implement the Work Programme, the sanction regime and Mandatory Work Activity (workfare). Oversight? Unlikely.

Apologies to the campaigners who, over a decade ago, dreamt up the idea in its present form; and solidarity with recent struggles to improve waged lots from not very much to not v. much. But, Living Wage, up-ended from its grassroots, is now top-down Establishment ideology entangled in the hierarchies of party-political contest and dead-end policy:

“Just before the General Election, Citizens UK came to see me with a cleaner from the Treasury who wasn’t being paid the living wage. I thought then that if our common life was to mean anything, it should mean that this hard-working woman, who cleaned the office of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, should be paid at least the living wage.”[3]

The humility of the Labour leader is bumbling. Surely, if “our common life was to mean anything” it would mean wage parity, not wage tokenism.

The extent to which this Establishment ideology becomes doubly, hypocritically apparent is in the lauding of the co-opted Living Wage campaign by parties who continue to implement and/or support workfare, and the recent “no training no pay”[4] scandal over apprenticeships. Where is the Living Wage for these sections of the market?

In this blog’s neck of the woods, Liverpool City Council recently established the Liverpool Fairness Commission, a warm and fuzzy jumble of words championing a Living Wage in a future time:

“…where pay differentials and rewards are proportionate and reasonable to reflect work and responsibility and where everyone can receive a Living Wage.”[5]

The best Liverpool could probably manage is the adoption of a Living Wage by the City Council and a handful of ‘trusted’ suppliers. But how do you justify this to a ‘citizenry’ facing deep cuts to vital services that will, by Mayor Anderson’s own admission[6], kill people?

At the very least, Living Wage is an experiment in productivity: how much can be squeezed out of these fleshy bipeds for a few more quid? At most, “it is the right thing to do in order to help lift the working poor of London out of poverty”.[7] In reality, it’s a carrot to stick the working class with the only thing they have to give away: their labour.

[1] (KPMG)
[5]  (Principle 7)
[7] (Trust for London)