12/02/2013 - Forced labour: Appeal Court ruling today

There is a big decision for the Court of Appeal this morning. It is expected at 10am.

They are to judge whether government employment schemes constitute forced labour and if tens of thousands of unemployed people will still be entitled to compensation after being wrongly sanctioned by the Department of Work and Pensions.

In a 50-page ruling last August judge Justice Foskett dismissed claims by two jobseekers that the government's back-to-work schemes amounted to "forced labour". Lawyers acting for the government and two unemployed complainants returned to the courts in December to appeal different aspects of the findings.

Cait Reilly, from Birmingham and Jamieson Wilson from Nottingham had both made claims that forcing them to work unpaid on workfare schemes had violated their rights under Article IV of the  European Convention on Human Rights which prohibits slavery and forced labour.
Reilly, a geology graduate from Birmingham University, was already carrying out voluntary work experience in a museum when she was sent on the Government’s work experience scheme to stack shelves and sweep floors for no pay at Poundland, a profitable company with a turnover of £500m.
Wilson had trained and worked as a mechanical engineer and a HGV driver before becoming unemployed in 2008. He refused to provide his labour for free for the government’s Community Action Programme (CAP) pilot and as a result was stripped of his benefits. Since then he has been relying on family and friends to survive.

Pat Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity, commented:

"The ruling back in August that forcing people to work is not forced labour is indeed a perverse judgement, Cait Reilly and Jamieson Wilson with the support of Public Interest Lawyers  have  served challenged the government’s flagship employment and helped highlight why so many people and organisations, including Solidarity, oppose their schemes. Let's hope that the Appeal wins favour."