Socialist Worker

Anger against workfare forces Tories to retreat

by Siân Ruddick
Issue No. 2293

Protesters temporarily occupied the Plaza shopping centre on London’s Oxford Street on Saturday (Pic: Smallman )

Protesters temporarily occupied the Plaza shopping centre on London’s Oxford Street on Saturday (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Anti-workfare campaigners forced the Tories into an embarrassing climbdown last week. The government was pushed into promising it would remove all mandatory aspects of its “workfare” scheme.

This came after Right to Work campaign protesters stormed shops such as Tesco and Holland & Barrett.

These shops were taking advantage of the government’s scheme to make people on Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) work without pay.

The shop occupations were just one part of a wider public backlash against workfare.

Tesco was forced to pull out from workfare—and then promised to create 20,000 new paid jobs.

The Tories made a feeble effort to present workfare as some sort of a voluntary “work experience” programme.

They claimed there were no mandatory clauses for people taking part in the project.

But a document published on the Department for Work and Pensions website proved that people under 24 on JSA were ordered onto work placement or threatened with losing their benefits.

The document has now been removed.

Chris Grayling, the minister in charge of the workfare scheme, held a summit with companies involved in a last ditch attempt to reassure them.

It didn’t work. Instead campaigners have gone on to target companies such as McDonald’s that are still involved in the scheme coercing the unemployed into working for free.

Compulsion and bullying are features found across the benefits system. Unemployed 18 to 24 year olds in Redditch were ordered to attend a “jobs fair” on Monday.

They found firms like Poundland and others involved in workfare waiting for them.

The army was also there. It is always keen to exploit unemployment to send young people to kill and die abroad.

Despite the constant propaganda smearing people on benefits as “scroungers”, millions across Britain oppose the workfare schemes.

The government is terrified of mounting resistance on another front as people unite against its Health Bill and workers prepare to strike on 28 March.

That is why government ministers—and even the prime minister—have tried to demonise Right to Work with lurid talk of “Trotskyites”.

In response John McDonnell MP has initiated a statement in support of Right to Work.

“Every success for our side can inspire others,” he said. “That is why Right to Work’s recent campaign over workfare is so important.

“Although there is much still to be campaigned over, Right to Work helped put the scandal of coerced and unpaid labour for young people on to the national agenda and has won some real victories.”

Right to Work austerity and resistance forum

Sunday 11 March, 12 noon to 5pm

Canterbury Halls, 12-26 Cartwright Gdns, London WC1H 9EF

Speakers include John McDonnell MP, Owen Jones (author of Chavs), Zita Holbourne (PCS executive and Barac) and others. Affiliates are encouraged to send up to three voting delegates. A steering committee will be elected on the day.

£5 waged, £2 unwaged

to register go to

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