Sunday, 7 November 2010

Workfare - nothing new

The news today is full of headlines like "Unemployed told: do four weeks of unpaid work or lose your benefits" from the Guardian. In several papers, of course, the epithet "work-shy" is used. And as always the media ignore the fact that this is not new. Under Flexible New Deal claimants are supposed to do a 4-week placement, and the requirement goes way back to old contracts. There are all sorts of problems; small employers don't want the hassle, and the voluntary sector has been stuffed with non-volunteers doing "placements". If anything is different this time, it's that they're talking specifically about "manual labour" and allowing it to be seen as punitive. I suspect that little will actually change. With so many public sector jobs being axed, the unions are not going to stand for street cleaners and the like being replaced by unpaid work gangs.


  1. 4 weeks working for nothing? what about the minimum wage? and dont say its training how is litter picking training? or digging a garden over? or stood behind a desk in charity shop? its WORK, and the person doing that work should be paid to do it, no arguments no ifs buts, they should be paid. if their not then its slavery and any charity, employer, "volunteery" organization, who take these people on and dont pay them then they are nothing more than slave masters.

  2. 3oo jobs have just gone to poland because its cheaper to get the product made there, the product twinings tea. this is not an isolated example, so ian duncan smith, how can people when work when jobs are going?

  3. Am I allowed to say here that it's just propaganda from the media to make the working general public think that all unemployed are either cheating or lazy so as to garner a more tolerant response from said public when they start trying it on?

    I do not think punctuation was expressly required for that question. Do you draw the line at the letters L, O and L being typed on your (very good!) blog?

    As you mention, this 4 week full time activity is already a going concern under FND.


  4. I knew we would get comments about unpaid work being slavery. I appreciate the distaste many people have for this, but slavery it is not, so no more comments to that effect, please. As someone else pointed out (please, please adopt user names!) this is not new, and may well be aimed at convincing the public that the government is clamping down.

  5. The sort of tasks IDS wants the unemployed to do are already being undertaken by criminals sentenced to Community Sevice. And so far, being unemployed is not a criminal offence.

    If this absurd idea ever sees the light of day I would advise anyone who might be a candidate for The Work Programme to seek legal advice as to whether it is in breach of their Human Rights. If you haven't committed a criminal offence then why should you be forced to do the same work as criminals?

  6. Quite Right, nothing new here. Most of the voluntary organisations I work with are sick of short term unpaid placements. Future Jobs Fund did enthuse the voluntary sector and as a result lots of interesting opportunities were created, it allowed the vol org train the person up in the first month and then get a repayment on that investment over the remaining five months. About 40% on the programme I run are now getting into jobs before the end of the six months precisely because FJF is not a work placement, it’s a job. Most people on month work placements are just parked by the vol orgs involved. On the new scheme who is going to pay for training, supervision protective clothes etc, if its anything like the laughable work clubs the V.O’s will have pay themselves.
    The press have been making a lot of litter picking today, however this is dangerous occupation training is needed in the handling and disposal of syringes. Needle stick injury can threaten hepatitis B or even HIV, but would that really bother IDS, Grayling and co?
    What I have found fascinating is how the Tory attack dogs in the press laid into the unemployed this morning, loafers, scroungers, work shy the usual rubbish. Then the ever useful dupe Danny Alexander is wheeled out to say this is really showing how the government really care. I thought Thatcher was bad, these people are beneath contempt.

  7. I'm on unpaid work placement at an A4e office.

    I agree with historian that unpaid work while on JSA is not "slavery", but I honestly can't find a better word to describe it. The key difference is that a true slave can't decide to leave slavery and be a free man; however there are people who attend A4e who would not have enough money to keep their homes or buy food if they refuse to do what is in the JSA contract. In this case, unpaid work. Is it still "slavery" if only 10% are "slaves" whose only hope of freedom is a job?

    While I can't comment on A4e as a whole, I certainly know that the trainers I know are very open about the fact that certain companies abused the free work in the past and now they're cracking down on it, if only to save themselves.

    On a somewhat unrelated note, one of the most memorable incidents while on reception duty was a phone call from the manager of a local charity shop asking me to inform the recruiters not to send a certain client to work in their shop as he was "completely useless and does nothing at all".

    The single letter username, updated from simply "Anonymous" is for obvious reasons.

  8. Professor Bob Holman, on tonight's Newsnight Scotland, suggested a much solution would be to pay charities to provide paid jobs for the unemployed.

    NB: Bob Holman was Professor of Social Policy at Bath University. He gave up his post to become a community worker in Easterhouse, Glasgow. He worked there for over 20 years!

  9. Being paid in emotional well-being, self-worth, helping the community etc. is all very well, but you trying spending it in the supermarket - it you haven't got the money you're not going to get the goods.

  10. Very good point Tolstoy. But think of the boost to that flagging self esteem! I jest!
    Charity work is of course a laudable thing, but not a fix all for the country.

    Meanwhile you are bludgeoned mentally by the providers who are actually meant to be motivating you to find work.
    Oh, the intimidating tactics, the tricky language, the contradictions and the patronising attitudes are exactly that? My mistake.

  11. As per usual, this does not seem like a well thought out policy. Sure, it sounds great to "get lazy bums and scroungers working for their JSA paid through my taxes". However, those who use such simplistic language have not thought about a couple of possible and probable issues.

    Firstly, this almost certainly will cost more than it will save. (Not that saving money is the real issue here, as this is ideological rhetoric). 'Trainees' on this program will presumably be equipped with the proper equipment, right? (Or should that be "yeah right!") So if we're talking about gardening and picking up litter, this will consist of gloves, safety goggles, fluorescent waterproofs, safety boots, hard hats, torches and so on? Will proper toilet facilities be provided for both male AND female trainees?

    Being told to 'do it behind a bush' will not be acceptable. And of course there are the transportation costs. Trainees will no doubt travel to a central pick up point. However, unless they're told to make their own way to a particular location (unlikely), vans and mini-busses will have to be hired at the taxpayers' expense.

    Secondly, there are numerous health and safety issues. Picking up litter, clearing rubbish and cleaning graffiti sounds simple enough. However, it involves picking up hazardous items such as used syringes discarded by habitual drug users and the use of chemical solvents to remove paint. One would guess that this requires proper training as well as the proper equipment.

    Anyone who has watched the BBC's Life a grime a few years ago and more recently, ITV's Grime Busters will have seen council workers using great care to pick up rubbish esp. used syringes. The user of said syringe could have been infected with all manner of infectious blood diseases including HIV!!! Getting scratched or pricked with a used syringe will lead to a trip to hospital and several days waiting for the test results. Who'll be liable then?

    Of course, there is more likelihood of someone simply cutting themselves with a piece of glass, or getting something in their eye. In a workplace, there will be insurance cover for such accidents. Although this work program is just 4 weeks long, accidents can and will happen. What if anything should go wrong? Who pays out? I'm sure we're all aware of the "had a trip or fall anywhere then call...." adverts on TV and radio.

    If I am painting a bleak picture, it's simply because I can see more problems than will be solved. The above issues and more will prove this work program idea to be an expensive folly, not only in its operation but also possible compensation claims. I for one would be surprised to see this program successfully rolled out nationally for the reasons I have outlined.

    I currently do voluntary work for an non-profit organisation here in Leeds. Volunteers, many of whom are out of work are just that. Volunteers. They volunteer their own time, effort and expertise doing a diverse range of activities such as general IT, graphic design, web design, arts and crafts, gardening and so on. Some of this is for charities and non-profit organisations. Some is for the local community.

    People not only do work for others, but can learn new skills and gain valuable work experience that is actually worth something. They take pride in their work because they want to do it and are not forced in any way to do anything they don't want to or feel they are incapable of doing. Sadly, this organisation has to fight hard for funding! What a real pity private companies will profit from yet another government mistake.

    I wish Iain Duncan Smith would head north to Leeds to see the great work we achieve here!

  12. What the tories are proposing is better than whats already in place, currently you are forced to work for private companies(lining their pockets in the process) 13 weeks on new deal...

    4 weeks tidying up the local community sounds much better to me!

    As for the unions, since when did they care about the working man?

  13. "...currently you are forced to work for private companies(lining their pockets in the process) 13 weeks on new deal".

    Not on FND. That sounds like the previous new deal. Which must still be running in some parts of the country if this is correct?

  14. I had my benefit stopped last week because I refused to work a 40 hour week for a private company for 13 weeks as part of a new deal scheme(FND or not)

    I would quite happily sweep the streets for a month instead of lining the pockets of a business with unpaid labour for 3 month...

    I now face 3 months of trying to make ends meet working illegally until I can sign back on without fear of new deal jumping straight on my back!

    Roll on the tories proposals!

  15. PS. The other benefit of the tories proposal is you'd be with other people in the same boat as yourself instead of just thrown in a workplace where other people are getting paid a proper wage!

    The inequality and stigma of that does your self-esteem no favours whatsoever!

  16. The work programme is about working for £1.50p per hour for 30 hours work, that is not working for jobseekers allowance, it is exploitation, no one should work for less than minimum wage that is the law, but the law contridicts itself here. someone justify working for £1.50p per hour for 30 hours a week when the law says a person should not work for less than minimum wage?


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