THE CON-DEM GOVERNMENT’S work experience scheme (commonly known as ‘workfare’) has attracted a lot of adverse publicity recently.
Those on the workfare scheme – mainly youngsters - have to put in a 30 hour week for six to eight weeks. They don’t receive any additional pay on top of their Job Seekers Allowance (JSA), which they are threatened with losing if they do not participate. Additionally, if a participant leaves their ‘job’ without "good reason" after the first week, they can lose two weeks' jobseeker's allowance.
Some of those attending the ‘Workfare scheme’ are promised a guaranteed job interview at the end of it. However, as we all know, getting a guaranteed job interview – as opposed to a guaranteed job – are two different things.
Workfare is, in effect, a modern system of slave labour.
It was to protest against this system that a small group of Right to Work activists ‘invaded’ and occupied the Tesco Express store at Portcullis House, Westminster.
Solidarity Trade Union recognises that the Right to Work group is a Socialist Party front organisation - and they are not the only Socialist Party front organisation (1). However, we have to agree with their view that:
“The Tory government is slashing jobs and then punishing the jobless. And to add insult to injury, they are forcing people to work for free to boost profits for big business.”
The media coverage of the Right to Work demonstration at Tesco’s led to the company backtracking. Their PR Department went into overdrive. According to The Guardian (2) they:
“will offer paid placements with a guarantee of a job to all those people it will be taking on for work experience through a government scheme, after claims that it was using benefit claimants as unpaid labour led to a consumer backlash and in-store protests.”
"Tesco said the 1,500 unemployed people on jobcentre work experience schemes referred to the company over the next six months would now be given a choice of staying on benefits and completing the placement unpaid, or accepting a four-week paid placement with a guaranteed offer of a job at the end if the trial goes well.”
However, the devil here is in the detail.
To date, Tesco’s haven’t clarified if their offer of four weeks paid experience is only for 18 – 24 year olds (who have volunteered to take part in the work experience scheme). If so, does this mean that anyone over 25 could be forced to take part in the Workfare scheme under its old ‘terms and conditions.’?
If this is the case, it means that Cameron and Clegg are still able to both manipulate the unemployment figures and make those in their mid-Twenties work for nothing. It seems that Maggie Thatcher’s views still hold sway over a significant section of the government!