The Tories’ “workfare” programme is in crisis. Activists have targeted Tesco, which had taken on workers using the unpaid labour schemes.
Protesters from the Right to Work campaign occupied a Tesco store opposite parliament last Saturday.
They forced the store to close for over an hour. Demonstrators chanted, “We won’t work if you won’t pay.”
Within hours, the supermarket chain was backtracking. It blamed the government for forcing benefit claimants to work unpaid or face losing their benefit.
By Tuesday it was promising to start paying people on the schemes and guaranteeing them permanent jobs.
Protests have forced Matalan, Sainsbury’s, Superdrug and Waterstones to back out of the workfare schemes.
The government claims the scheme is just about “work experience”. But those who have been forced onto it tell a different story.
James Rayburn spent seven weeks working unpaid for Tesco in Warfield, Berkshire. “I was basically doing what a normal member of staff does for Tesco,” he said. “I had te uniform.”
He was told his jobseekers’ allowance would be cut off if he didn’t do the unpaid work.
Right to Work and other campaigns were set to hold more protests this week.
Go to righttowork.org.uk for details of protests. The Right to Work campaign’s annual conference is on Sunday 11 March, 12 noon, London