Sainsbury's and Waterstones pull out of government forced labour scheme

11 February 2012

chain_gang1 No one seems to like the government much any more. Their own MPs are in-fighting about the NHS and now the shops are turning against them. It seems that Sainsbury’s and Waterstones have withdrawn from the government programme that forces the jobless to work for up to six months for nothing at the risk of losing their benefits. A classy concept if ever we heard one.

The ‘scheme’ has seen scores of jobless folk working for 30 hours a week for eight weeks without being paid for it. If they back out during the eight-week period, they run the risk of losing their benefits. Other schemes that have been brought in by the coalition government can see the unemployed working unpaid for as long as six months. Lovely stuff – we’re all in it together and all that.

Sainsbury’s and Waterstones may have decided that they want no part of it, but companies such as Boots, Tesco, Asda, Primark, Argos, TK Maxx, Poundland and the Arcadia group of stores, including Top Shop and Burton, are still involved in it.

Public Interest Lawyers in Birmingham are challenging the scheme and are arguing that it contravenes the forced labour provisions in the Human Rights Act. Their man Phil Shiner said: “Some major companies are now waking up and turning their backs on compulsory unpaid labour schemes. Whilst our legal actions are against the Department of Work and Pensions, these household brands bear their own moral and social responsibility to ensure that they have nothing to do with these exploitative and ill-judged programmes.”

Too right.

[Guardian]

TOPICS:   Government

45 comments

  • John
    Oh but they ARE being paid for the work... £70 per week JSA + £250 Housing Benefit per week + £25 Council Tax Benefit per week + Free Dental Treatment + Free Eye Treatment + Free Medicines + Free College Courses + Free Computers, etc, etc. And ALL Tax FREE. So the 30 hours per week work is being paid (by the rest of us) at about £12 per hour, which is £35,000 per year before tax. Sounds like a good job to me, what's the point in working for a living? Don't forget that most of the time they get all this money for doing nothing. They don't have the stress of working under psycho managers, instead they have all their free time to themselves.
  • GB
    Without pay? They do the work they get the benefits, they do nothing they get nothing... Sounds fair to me...
  • Wayne
    Agree with John & GB
  • Zleet
    1. Every benefit claimant is not getting £35,000 a year. 2. These forced labour workers wear the same uniforms and work the same regular shifts as those being paid so every one used is taking away a job from an employed person. You could end up with someone losing their job
  • Zleet
    ^^ Laptop cut me off mid sentence^^^ You could end up with someone losing their job and signing on only to get said same job back but being forced to work for much less money.
  • Rebecca
    When I was on benefits I was only entitled to £45/week. Most of those involved in this scheme are young people who would only get a similar amount, not having paid enough NI contributions and living at home (but also unable to move out, due to the council putting single young people without kids right at the bottom of the housing list) so unable to claim any of the cushy benefits. Working a full time job for £45/week, without my transport paid for, was a bit rubbish.
  • Alan
    It is not forced labour, if you don't want to do the work then don't. Of course, you will lose your benefits but so would I lose my pay if I decided I didn't want to work. Yet more nonsense claims against the Human Rights Act. It is supposed to stop Nazi forced labour camps happening again, not lazy work shy layabouts from working in Boots
  • Mark M.
    I do think that people should do some work in order to get their benefits; it is better for their CVs and gives them better chances of getting paid employment in the future. However, the current system does allow companies to exploit the system and take jobs away from "proper" employees. Why can't the unemployed do all of the "Big Society" stuff that Cameron wants instead?
  • long v.
    I take home £340 a week from the benefits I'm on. Everyday is a real struggle For me.........a real struggle to find another benefit to bleed dry that is. Muwhahahahahahaaaar.....see you later you wage slaves
  • haggis
    Before getting up in arms about how 'cushy' life on benefts is is contributors should consider 2 things. 1. As already pointed out by Zleet this scheme reduces the need for employment, at a time of mass employment. 2. This is a yet another transfer of wealth from the public to private sector, with taxpayers paying the wages of privately employed individuals. We (taxpayers) are all susbsidising private profit through this scheme. Profit that is hoarded offshore through complex tax avoidance schemes and shared by fewer and fewer people. Lets not turn all 'Daily Mail' on this one.
  • haggis
    @John Where on earth did you pluck £35000 a year from? A single person under 25 is entitled to £45 a week JSA and local housing allowance at a single room rate, which at its highest in the south east/London is around £75 a week. £125 x 52 = £6500/year. Add in £1000 for council tax benefit and you have £7500 a year. Additionally, most claimants of housing benefit are actually in employment, as are those who claim free/subsidised dental treatment, optician treatment and subsidised college courses. Making claims like yours only fuels the anti-benefits hysteria, and the erosion of our welfare state will only hurt those of us at the bottom, and our descendants.
  • james d.
    Remember that people had to volunteer for this scheme in the first place or at least "express an interest" it is not the lazy bums being caught in this scheme, it is the already downtrodden youth trapped in their parents homes now being forced to stack shelves for companies that already have the british economy in the palm of their hands. Who pays for it? We do, and the employees who already work there. How anyone can support this scheme baffles me. The only theoretical advantage could be that our shopping could get cheaper since shops have a lower overhead. But we all know thats not going to happen. We all lose here, except the shop getting the free labour.
  • GB
    But why expect to sit at home and do nothing in return for benefits? I'd happily work a 40 hour week for any benefits I received... Also the firms signing up must look to offer these people a job at the end of it? And it must take more to train them, give them uniforms just for a few weeks etc etc than take someone on minimum wage permanently? These schemes are not allowed to replace full time employment... I'd go out removing grafitti, litter picking or anything happily if I was going to expect to claim benefits...
  • I'm a.
    When I was working a minimum wage job as a teenager I didn't expect to actually have to work for £5 an hour. Why should people who sign on be expected to work?
  • Cookie
    Correct Zleet : thumbs up : These are replacing jobs for students, part time, women (with children; think hours they would like to work as they are full time carers for the wee ones rather than sexism) and the disabled trying to get back into the job market. But it all pays for the party donations by Ms Harrison (a.k.a. the Fairy Job Mother) so who am I to complain?
  • Person
    "Also the firms signing up must look to offer these people a job at the end of it? And it must take more to train them, give them uniforms just for a few weeks etc etc than take someone on minimum wage permanently? These schemes are not allowed to replace full time employment…" This is simply not true. Once the scheme ends, they might be pushed to give them an interview but have no obligation to offer them a job, and why would they when there's another 18 year old kid who'll work for them at the taxpayers expense just to get "8 weeks of shelf stacking" on their CV. Training costs? When i trained to work at Tesco when i was 17, it involved a health and safety video and some "team-building" nonsense for 2 days. I doubt these kids even get that, and it's probably subsidised by us even if they do. Minimum wage pays £220 a week, they make back what they lose on training in about a day, and you know they get the uniforms back right? This scheme is revolting. The government should be pushing this responsiblity down onto the companies as a cost of operating in this country, not forcing everyone else to pay their employees wages. If these companies don't like it they're welcome to forgo their billion pound turnovers and fuck off to bleed some other country dry.
  • jenni
    when i went to the job centre a few months back, a lady worker there was on the phone talking about how it all works and that a charity shop is what you could go into, its sad because i have seen disableld people been forced into work for no money at all, and the will say something dumb like "it gets them out of the house". not everyone gets all this money, they are forcing every one to do a course or get a job when quite frankly people are losing their jobs everyday and especially lately when all the shops seem to be closing down, why force disabled people into a job when they dont want to work (maybe some do) and people who want to work cant get a job. :-s
  • Capability B.
    OK, lets set a few things to rights here. 1) Benefits count as taxable income and are taxed at source. Before we get them, the Government take their cut first. So unemployed people are taxpayers too. We just don't get to see it on a wage slip before its taken away - its taken away before we get it. 2) To those people who say they would "do anything" if they were claiming benefits. That's simply not possible. When claiming benefits, you are not even permitted to to voluntary work for more than 30 minutes per day without the Benefits Agency's prior approval. I tried to volunteer to work in my local charity shop for a couple of days a week and was told by the Benefits Agency "that counts as if you were working for pay. If you can get a voluntary job in a charity shop you can get paid employment". 3) "Free computers"??? I think you will find that everyone gets free access to computers at your local library under the Public Network system, not just people claiming benefits. 4) As has been pointed out by others, this scheme merely takes jobs away from the market. The only people who win under this scheme are the shops that take the people on as they get free labour - no salary to pay, no national insurance, no employers liability insurance, no holiday pay, no statutory sick pay. 5) Stacking shelves for nothing - and under threat of losing your benefits if you refuse - is hardly likely to equip anyone with skills which will equip them to apply for a job when it does come up. Additionally, being forced to work alongside those earning a wage, with paid benefits such as paid sick leave and paid annual holiday, is only going to lead to a culture of resentment between the two sets of people. 6) I've no idea what the first poster is talking about when he says "Free College Course". Never heard of such a scheme. I WAS sent on a two day "training course" run by a private company with a government contract for about £15million a year to do so. Their "training course" involved being told by their "experts" that one of the best ways to find a job was to sit down with a copy of the Yellow Pages, telephone companies and ask them if they had any vacancies. This might have been effective in the 1950s but its hardly jobseeking for the 21st century. Another one of their "experts" said that, if you went for an interview, you should refuse to shake hands with the interviewer because "this puts you in a subservient position". Contrary to what some people seem to be thinking, life on the dole isnt a bed of roses. Staff at the Benefits Agency treat you like imbeciles. People who are fortunate enough to have a job think we are skivers. At this time of year, staying at home all day every day is expensive because you have to have the heating on. Your social life becomes a thing of the past. And then you are forced to go out and stack shelves in Poundland for nothing because otherwise your already meagre benefits are at risk.
  • Capability B.
    Oh, and before I forget: We havent been on the dole for our entire lives, you know. I've was in work for over 20 years, paying tax and national insurance, before I was made redundant. I've paid my dues. I'm entitled to get something back from the government because I've certainly paid into the pot. And this goes for a lot of other people too. We've paid, just as much and for just as long as you have.
  • callum
    1. No they aren't... That sounds ridiculous to me but even if true, they are paying the tax using tax payers money... 2. Utter, utter rubbish. The ONLY restriction on voluntary work while on JSA is that you have to be available for an interview with 48hrs notice. You can volunteer full time if you want to, and you don't need to get their "permission" for anything. You're even allowed to go on holiday - why on earth would they allow that but prohibit volunteering? 3. Yes you are correct about the computers. 4. I agree to a certain extent, but I've personally worked alongside people doing "work experience" in my supermarket and they've never been rota'd on in place of actual employees - they just help. 5. Actually, it does. I remember back in school being told about how shelf-stacking etc. looks great on your university application and scoffing just like you did. What I've since come to realise however is it shows you have good time management skills, are responsible, can work individually and in a team etc. Granted it may not bestow many skills on the person - but it demonstrates them to future employers. I have a friend who was stuck on benefits for 18 months after school without success, they did "forced slave labour" and a few months later they received a job (and a slew of interview offers whereas they got virtually none before). 6. Various schemes give JSA claimants free training. Many Open university courses are also completely subsidised (and supplemented with grants). Yes, life on benefits is nowhere near as rosy as people like to make out. It is, however, far better than many people claim it is. And at the end of the day, I personally don't think it's unreasonable to expect people to work for their benefits (where practical - and on a fair basis) - just like everyone else has to for their wages. It is vital those benefits are maintained, but in a financial climate like this, you can't expect it for absolutely nothing in return.
  • Capability B.
    You speak from experience, I suppose? Then let me reassure you that every word I wrote is true. I'm sure that shelf stacking would look great on my cv - alongside the first class honours degree and 20 years in work. It may look great on the cv of someone straight out of school though. As to your "scheme giving JSA claimants free training" - as soon as you accept said training, you are deemed to not be available for work and your benefits are stopped. You then have to reapply for a different set of benefits which take account of your status on "job related training". Of course, this training is generally unpaid. You dont have to be "available for interview within 48 hours". You have to be avaialble for WORK on the next working day. If you do work of any kind - paid or unpaid - while claiming benefits, you have to have cleared this with the Benefits Agency in advance. And you certainly cannot take on volunteer work for more than a minimum of hours per day. You can be summoned to the Benefits Agency at any time and with less than 4 hours notice. If you happen to be unavailable for interrogation - and it really is interrogation - then you are deemed to be in breach of your "contract" with the BA. You have to be available at any time to answer their summons. And if you are working all day in a charity shop, that means you are "unavailable to accept paid employment". Benefits are taxed. Fact. The government awards you a certain amount of money, but gives you it net of tax. OK, its not at the same rate as if you were working, but its still tax. As and when you sign off, the Inland Revenue count the gross sum of benefits paid as your taxable income for that tax year.
  • Capability B.
    And the OU is "Free"? I think not From the OU website: "OU has set a new fee level for new students in England starting after 1 September 2012. The new fee is £5,000 for a full-time year". There is, as far as I can see from the website, no reduced fee option for those on benefits, other than that those claiming benefits can apply for a "scholarship". A loan, in other words. And if you wish to study with the OU for more than 30 hours a week, you are considered to be in full time education and therefore not eligible for JSA or a range of other benefits.
  • capability b.
    I stand corrected - I just checked further the OU. the maximum grant available from the OU towards studies is £820 plus £265 for "study expenses". Which doesn't make a great deal of a hole in five grand if you are on benefits.
  • capability b.
    And while I think about it: If you have a mortgage, housing benefit only covers the interest payments on your mortgage, not the capital. If, like me, you are nearing the end of your mortgage payments, the interest payments are paltry compared to the remainder of the capital sum. In my case, the sum total of my "housing benefit" covers about 5% of my expected monthly mortgage payments, leaving me to find the rest out of my benefits. If I were offered a job tomorrow in McDonalds, despite the fact that it pays minimum wage, I have a degree and 20 years of work experience, I would have to take it. If I refused it, on any grounds, that would be sufficient cause for the BA to halt my benefits completely. And the worst part of being unemployed is being treated like scum by people who are lucky enough to have a job. Like you. Who think that life on the dole is money for nothing and that we should all go out and stack shelves for 30 hours a week in order to receive it. This scheme is slave labour and nothing else.
  • Simon M.
    Towards the end of 2007 I was forced into one of these schemes by the government. I was not given any choice about the matter and was on the minimum amount of benefits given to a young a person. So, I was expected to work full-time hours for less than minimum wage. Luckily, one day after starting I had an interview for a job and was offered it then and there. To say I was relieved would be an understatement. To those who seem to think the unemployed have a cushy life, they don't. You're given a pitifully amount to live on and are looked down on and made to feel like scum by some of the kind of people that have replied to this. The government offer little of no help to actually find employment. I wasn't offered any kind of course to help me get a job until after being out of work for over 18 months. The utter ignorance shown here is mind boggling. All some people do it use the unemployed as an easy target. Good for you. Attacking those in a worse situation then yourself. You're a bunch of idiots.
  • Richard
    Is this the same Capability Bowes that writes a theatre review blog that shows he has been to the theatre at least 4 times this year? Times must be tough. Listen to people like Simon peeps, not CB.
  • Ivor W.
    Lol @ Capability Bowes! Are you a split personality sufferer or what? From your first post on you've made no sense! Your outrage at "free computers" is hilarious!
  • Pitney B.
    I like franking letters.
  • Incapability B.
    You've done so well at getting posts removed. The site owners must think you're really important.
  • klingelton
    Well that made my monday morning at work more barable!
  • Barry G.
    Oh no, bannings from the fine website that is bw? Whatever next! #googles IP proxy#
  • Martin C.
    #applies IP proxy# Seriously tho, where's the hate for those of us who at least try to make this site entertaining with our childish gags?
  • Dick B.
    Shut up mum and don't talk to my friends like that. And at least put your knickers on while your are making my dinner. I want sausages not fish fingers. And everyone knows you are capable. I hardly got a wink of sleep last night. Please put a pillow behind your headboard.
  • Dick B.
    You definitely spent more than 30 minutes at it last night, so did you get prior approval from the Benefits Agency?
  • A w.
    You gwownups are not bweeing nwice. I will spit my dummy out of my pwam if you don't stop mwocking Capability.
  • Gabriella
    The Work Programme is unfair. Why should someone work for free Many people want to work and cannot get jobs as there are none there. You should not have to work for benefits if you have paid in to the NI system and sorry those of you who say that are wrong. I won't do it and the Work Programme is crap there are no jobs out there
  • Dick
    I think there should be a cap on how long you can take benefits, based on how long you have paid in. If you have paid in for one year only, you should not get to spend the rest of your life on benefits saying you have paid in so you deserve it. Pay in one year, get 18 months worth of benefits if you become unemployed.
  • ~
    All I ever hear is "theres no jobs out there". That is complete bull shit. There are but you just have to be motivated and potentially willing to take whatever you can. That is all.
  • Adey
    "working for 30 hours a week for eight weeks without being paid for it" - and benefits is chocolate buttons? Can't see a problem with people who have been out of work for over 3 or 6 months getting some work experience while they claim. when I was dole scum I willingly did free work for friends just to keep my brain going and help my self-confidence when I went to interviews. I always declared it and guess what... I got a job.
  • Mr D.
    It's not like posting anything intellegent achieves anything either. It's 'Bitter' for a reason. Have you tried lovelypurse.com?
  • Mr D.
    Ah, Mr Wickhan. It's not like posting anything intellegent achieves anything either. It's 'Bitter' for a reason. Have you tried lovelypurse.com?
  • Mr D.
    Ah, Mr Wickhuu. It snot like posing any thing intelligible anchovies aero plane ether. It's 'butter' for a raisin, have you tree hunglikeahorse.com?
  • Alan
    Why is it wonderful a business that makes millions can get an employee that costs nothing? They often do menial tasks that require minimal support such as stacking shelves, yet cost the tax payer benefits - all while helping the business net millions in profits. This scheme does not create jobs or help people out of unemployment. It merely replaces employees who would otherwise be waged, keeping them on benefits. If businesses want people to work for them, they should be paying for what they get out of it.
  • sydney r.
    I am really impressed along with your writing skills and also with the layout for your weblog. Is this a paid theme or did you modify it your self? Either way stay up the nice high quality writing, it's rare to see a great blog like this one these days..
  • simon l.
    you get jsa to facilitate in the finding of a job. They're not being paid to sit around doing nothing as the tories have you believe. so no they are not being "paid" at all to be recruited into this tax payer funded slave labour agency for the benefit of private companies. If we're going to have these benefits we shouldn't attack the people who are using them as the scum self serving millionaire tory politicians do.

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