‘It’s exploitation and it’s repellent’: Retailers, councils and charities blatantly exploiting people on ‘workfare’

September 26, 2011

TK Maxx, Wilkinsons, Savers and Matalan have been named as major retailers where unemployed people are being sent to work without pay by Jobcentres and employment provider companies.

Since our article last month exposing Tesco, Primark and other multinationals taking unpaid work placements, various people have contacted Corporate Watch describing their own experiences of being sent to major retailers, as well as councils and charities, to do similar work to that of salaried staff while receiving only £67.50 a week in Jobseekers’ Allowance.

Asked by Corporate Watch how it benefited from these placements, a spokesperson from Matalan said: “we obviously get people who want to work and we are always grateful of the extra help, especially during busy times.” The discount retailer added the placements gave participants a chance to “try the job out to see if it’s the right career for them,” and that they gain “a wealth of valuable experience and get a chance to engage with their community.”

The company promised to get back to us with examples of people who had moved from the placements to paid work but, at the time of publication, had not done so. TK Maxx declined to comment, while Savers and Wilkinsons did not reply to repeated requests for comment.

Matalan, which posted profits of £73 million in February this year, said it did not know how many people have participated in its placements across the country as these are managed on a store-by-store basis. However, in a further sign that the number of placements will significantly increase under the coalition’s welfare reforms, the company added it was “hoping to have a national provider such as Retail Works [Seetec] or Job Centre Plus on board by early next year.”

Corporate Watch was also contacted by people with experience of placements in small businesses, charities and councils. One claimant described how two unemployed tradespeople were sent on a placement and “instructed to build a new building”. They estimated the actual labour cost to be around £3000, yet “they were being told do it for the same rate as their benefits, with the threat of them stopping if they refused. Such blatant disregard for the worth of work is rife within the system.”

A former staff member at Newham Council, who wishes to remain anonymous, described the reaction of staff when they found out that one of their colleagues was only receiving benefits for her work:

“I went to [her] leaving do … We were all so sorry to see her go. She was an older lady and was one of the most hard-working and genuinely helpful admin staff we’d ever had. Worked her hours plus more and nothing was ever too much trouble for her. We honestly didn’t know why she was leaving after only six months. She’d worked a minimum of 37 hours per week (often more) and been the backbone of service delivery. The basic starting wage for that level is around £17,000 but for the work she was doing I would have expected her to be started at a few thousand more. Yet all she was getting was JSA and the fares for her lengthy bus journeys, while people doing identical work were getting a salary, paid leave and pension contributions. We were horrified.

Wrongly, we assumed this woman would be hired back as proper staff within days. The role was needed, she’d proven herself to be a fantastic worker, was well regarded and knew the systems. But no, the post was suddenly deemed no longer required and this lady never came back to us. She did exactly the same job as paid staff, yet didn’t get the same salary. This is illegal if the reason is age or race, but perfectly acceptable if someone has claimed a state benefit. It’s exploitation and it’s repellent.”

Newham Council has not responded to repeated enquiries from Corporate Watch about its use of placements.

A former claimant who was sent to a work placement in a charity under the previous Labour government’s welfare programmes,* described how, after he had started using a wheelchair, he was referred to a training course with a charity he was told could lead to a job in broadcast media:

“On my first day with the charity, I was told that I would have to wait because the course I was promised a place on was full. Instead, did I know how to use a computer? I confirmed that I did and was put to work creating digital versions of all of the charity’s presentational materials. It was impossible to do this work in the charity’s office, however, because their computer was ancient and unable to run modern Microsoft programs. So, I offered to do the work at home on my own computer and print the presentation materials out on my own colour printer (the charity did not have a working colour printer either). It took me several weeks to complete this work and cost me a lot more than £10 per week to print everything out.

Once I had finished this job, I asked about the media course. I was told that there was still no place available and they had no more work for me to do. I began to realise that there was no media course and that I had been exploited. Also, I had only received one payment of £10 from DWP, not £10 every week [as originally promised]! So, I had done several hundred pounds worth of work for the princely sum of £10. I was not reimbursed for any of my home working costs, nor for any of the paper and acetates I bought to print the new presentation materials on … The gallling thing about it was that the charity I was working for was one that claimed to support independent living for disabled people.”

A spokesperson for the Boycott Workfare campaign, which is encouraging workplaces to pledge not to take people on unpaid work placements organised by Jobcentres or subcontracted provider companies, said:

“Huge companies making billions are profiting from people being made to work without pay while in fear of losing everything. These companies can afford to hire and pay staff yet perversely they are increasingly reliant on a workforce subsidised by taxpayers. Councils are replacing paid positions with workfare and charities are replacing paid and voluntary vacancies with unpaid mandatory workers. Workfare as a policy doesn’t make sense in this economic climate. We want to see a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.”

Have you been sent on an unpaid work placement or do you know anyone who has? Contact Corporate Watch on 02074260005 or contact[at]corporatewatch.org

References

* Former Labour ministers remain enthusiastic supporters of workfare, as David Blunkett (who is himself blind) now an employee of A4E, one of the companies subcontracted by the government to send people to placements, showed this month.

http://www.corporatewatch.org/?lid=4080

David Blunkett – Raking it in as Adviser on business development to poverty pimps A4e Ltd on ‘global public service reform’.

And that’s not all – it is quite frankly obscene that this man should have anything at all to say to either the disabled people of the UK living under the jackboot of this ConDem régime, or the suffering unemployed and young who are the victims of this crisis that was caused by his masters – the fat cat bankers and greedy speculators, under his watch !

We are not your slaves!

It is clear from a quick look at the register where his priorities lie: In self-aggrandizement and enrichment. This greed is an utter disgrace and shames us all!

Read and consider:

Register of Members’ Interests

1. Remunerated directorships
HADAW Productions and Investments Ltd; publishing, broadcast and print media; advisory services for overseas trade, and cyber and internet security advice; to which is payable income from:
Adviser on business development to A4e Ltd; global public service reform. (£25,001–£30,000 per financial year) This involves some travel.
Secure Trading Inc. (US), 108 West 13th Street, Wilmington, Delaware 19801, USA. This involves some travel.
Advisory post for corporate social responsibility (volunteering and education) for News International, 1 Virginia Street, London E98 1HR. (6-month contract, £25,000)
£3,000 received in May 2011 for Sky IQ Advisory Seminar. Address of payer: Michael Wood Consultancy, 38 Taunton Avenue, London SW20 0BH. Hours worked: 5 hrs.(Registered 9 June 2011)
£1,500 received on 4 July 2011 from RLF Partnership (51 Causton St, London SW1P 4AT) for a seminar on UK and International Relations. Hours worked: 4 hrs(Registered 12 July 2011)
London School of Business and Finance visiting lecturer. Up to 12 months, £20,000. (Registered 5 September 2011)
I have not yet drawn down any income from the above directorship.
UC Group Ltd, Sundridge Park Manor, Willoughby Lane, Bromley, Kent BR1 3FZ (non-executive) This involves some travel.
Payment of £5,000 received on 7 May 2010. Hours: 0. (Registered 6 September 2010)
Payment of £5,000 received on 6 August 2010. Hours: 8 hours. (Registered 6 September 2010)
Payment of £10,000 received on 4 October 2010. Hours: 3 days. (Registered 20 October 2010)
Payment of £5,000 received on 4 November 2010. Hours: 10 hrs. (Registered 12 November 2010)
Payment of £5,000 received on 4 December 2010. Hours: 7.5 hrs. (Registered 23 December 2010)
Payment of £5,000 received on 31 December 2010. Hours: 7.5 hrs. (Registered 18 January 2011)
Payment of £5,000 received on 2 February 2011. Hours; 8 hrs. (Registered 18 February 2011)
Payment of £5,000 received on 28 February 2011. Hours: 9 hrs. (Registered 15 March 2011)
Payment of £5,000 received on 31 March 2011. Hours: 8 hrs. (Registered 8 April 2011)
Payment of £5,000 received on 1 May 2011. Hours: 6 hrs. (Registered 18 May 2011)
Payment of £5,000 received on 10 June 2011. Hours: 5 hrs. (Registered 29 June 2011)
Payment of £5,000 received on 30 June 2011. Hours: 4 hrs. (Registered 28 July 2011)
Payment of £5,000 received on 27 July 2011. Hours: 11 hrs. (Registered 5 September 2011)
2. Remunerated employment, office, profession etc
Occasional advice column for Times Newspaper, 1 Virginia Street, London E98 1XY. (Up to £5,000 per financial year)
Payments for articles published by The Yorkshire Post, Wellington Street, Leeds LS1 1RF:
27 September 2010, I received a payment of £150. Hours: 1.5 hrs. (Registered 12 October 2010)
9 November 2010, I received a payment of £150. Hours: 45 mins. (Registered 12 November 2010)
24 January 2011, I received a payment of £150. Hours: 1.5 hrs. (Registered 25 January 2011)
4 February 2011, I received a payment of £150. Hours: 2 hrs. (Registered 7 March 2011)
26 April 2011, I received a payment of £150. Hours: 1.5 hrs. (Registered 28 April 2011)
23 May 2011, I received a payment of £150. Hours: 1.5 hrs. (Registered 1 June 2011)
13 June 2011, I received a payment of £150. Hours: 1.5 hrs. (Registered 29 June 2011)
8 August 2011, I received a payment of £150. Hours: 2 hrs. (Registered 22 August 2011)
13 September 2011, I received a payment of £150. Hours: 1.5 hrs. (Registered 14 September 2011)
10 August 2010, I received £9,000 for articles written for Associated Newspapers Ltd, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT. Hours: 15 hrs. (Registered 10 September 2010)
27 August 2010, I received £3,000 for giving a seminar for Yell Group plc, Queens Walk, Reading RG1 7PT. Hours: 6 hrs. (Registered 10 September 2010)
6 October 2010, I received £300 for appearances on the BBC, Television Centre, Wood Lane, London W12 7RJ. Hours: 4 hrs. (Registered 12 October 2010)
7 October 2010, I gave two speeches for Cunard, Carnival House, 100 Harbour Parade, Southampton, Hampshire SO15 1ST, for which I received benefits in kind to the approximate value of £7,000. Hours. 5 hrs. (Registered 12 October 2010)
7 October 2010, I received £3,000 for speaking for the M4 Business Network, Lanyon House, Mission Court, Newport. Hours: 6 hrs, including travel. (Registered 20 October 2010)
1 November 2010, I received a payment of £600 for an article written for the TimesNewspaper, 1 Virginia Street, London E98 1XY. Hours: 6 hrs. (Registered 12 November 2010)
Payments for articles written for Associated Newspapers Ltd, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT:
9 November 2010, I received £6,000 for articles. Hours: 9 hrs. (Registered 16 November 2010)
8 December 2010, I received £3,000 for articles. Hours: 11 hrs. (Registered 23 December 2010)
11 January 2011, I received £3,000 for articles. Hours: 7 hrs. (Registered 18 January 2011)
8 February 2011, I received £3,000 for articles. Hours: 7 hrs. (Registered 18 February 2011)
23 February 2011, I received £3,000 for articles. Hours: 9 hrs. (Registered 7 March 2011)
21 March 2011, I received £3,000 for articles. Hours: 11 hrs. (Registered 22 March 2011)
26 April 2011, I received £3,000 for articles. Hours: 7 hrs. (Registered 28 April 2011)
1 May 2011, I received £3,000 for articles. Hours: 9 hrs. (Registered 18 May 2011)
23 May 2011, I received £3,000 for articles. Hours: 11 hrs. (Registered 1 June 2011)
27 June 2011, I received £3,000 for articles. Hours: 11 hrs. (Registered 29 June 2011)
25 July 2011, I received £3,000 for articles. Hours: 3 hrs. (Registered 28 July 2011)
22 August 2011, I received £3,000 for articles. Hours: 6 hrs. (Registered 24 August 2011)
29 November 2010, a donation of £100 was made to charity for a speech made at anA-Level student conference for A-Level Masterclasses, Unit 9, The Trade Base, Catfield, Norfolk NR29 5AA. Hours: 2 hrs. (Registered 23 December 2010) H
3 December 2010, a donation of £180 was made to charity for a speech made at an A-Level student conference for Sovereign Education, Suite 99 Glenfield Park, Philips road, Blackburn BB1 5PF. Hours; 2.5 hrs. (Registered 23 December 2010)
27 January 2011, I received a bottle of wine and De Montfort University mug for addressing De Montfort Politics Society (the Gateway, Leicester LE1 9BH). Estimated value: £15 Hours: 1.5 hrs. (Registered 28 January 2011)
16 February 2011, I received £150 for appearances on the BBC, Television Centre, Wood Lane, London W12 7RJ. Hours: 4 hrs. (Registered 7 March 2011)
21 February 2011, I received £3,400 from the Chartered Institute of Housing, Octavia House, Westwood Way, Coventry CV4 8JP, for speaking at their conference. Hours: 7 hrs. (Registered 7 March 2011)
15 March 2011, I received a fee of £400 from Masami Umekawa, Professor of Political Science at Aichi-Gakuin University, Japan, for taking part in a research project. Hours: 1 hr. The payment was donated to charity. (Registered 18 March 2011)
14 April 2011, I received £1,700 from the British Occupational Hygiene Society, 5/6 Melbourne business Court, Millennium Way, Pride Park, Derby DE24 8LZ, for speaking at their conference. Hours: 4 hrs. (Registered 28 April 2011)
14 April 2011, I received £3,400 from Global Business Events Ltd, Richmond House, 468 Chepstow Road, Newport, NP19 8JF, for speaking at their conference. Hours: 10 hrs. (Registered 28 April 2011)
3 June 2011, I received £1,000 from CIR Magazine, Perspective Publishing, Sixth Floor, 3 London Wall Buildings, London EC2M 5PD, for speaking at a seminar. Hours: 4 hrs. Payment donated to charity. (Registered 10 June 2011)
8 July 2011, I received £2,550 from Magdalen College School, Oxford (Cowley Place, Oxford OX4 1DZ) for a speech I gave. Hours: 5 hrs. (Registered 12 July 2011)
8. Land and Property
House in London, from which rental income is received.
9. Registrable shareholdings
(a) HADAW Productions and Investments Ltd.

Register last updated: 28 Sep 2011. More about the Register

View the history of this MP’s entries in the Register

Expenses

Figures in brackets are ranks.Data from parliament.uk (source). Read 2004/05 – 2008/09 and 1st quarter 2009/10 receipts.

Type 2008/09(ranking out of 647) 2007/08(ranking out of 645) 2006/07(ranking out of 645) 2005/06 2004/05(ranking out of 659) 2003/04(ranking out of 658) 2002/03(ranking out of 657) 2001/02(ranking out of 657)
Staying away from main home £21,363(236th) £23,083(joint 1st with 142 others) £22,110(joint 1st with 183 others) £21,634 £20,608(268th) £20,333(joint 3rd with 149 others) £19,722(joint 1st with 230 others) £14,700(386th)
London costs £0 £0 £0 £0 £0 £0 £0 £0
Office running costs £25,215(53rd) £17,624(363rd) £18,864(437th) £20,013 £14,325(514th) £18,799(joint 13th with 178 others) £10,355(619th) £6,627(600th)
Staffing costs £95,661(316th) £87,928(318th) £88,851(95th) £84,056 £71,458(274th) £63,565(530th) £43,091(642nd) £36,314(579th)
Communications Allowance £10,470(158th) £10,319(104th) N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Members’ Travel £3,642(517th)1 £3,055(550th)2 £4,218(506th)3 £5,203 £3,952(572nd) £2,224(609th) £3,842(567th) £1,905(597th)
Members’ Staff Travel £212(joint 274th with 1 other) £0 £61(405th) £668 £960(joint 191st with 3 others) £366(303rd) £479(263rd) £0
Members’ Spouse Travel £0 £0 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Members’ Family Travel £186(57th) £0 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Centrally Purchased Stationery £6,549(82nd) £1,071(joint 200th with 1 other) £828(352nd) £910 £1,003(286th) £1,111(joint 220th with 1 other) £1,225(241st) £939(joint 359th with 1 other)
Stationery: Associated Postage Costs £3,183(212th) £2,852(301st) £3,064 £3,424(joint 224th with 1 other) £3,191(241st) N/A N/A
Centrally Provided Computer Equipment   £1,309(joint 170th with 1 other) £5,327(1st) £1,014 £1,769(joint 480th with 1 other) £1,769(joint 471st with 1 other) £0 £0
Other Costs £0 £0 £0 £0 £0 £0 £0 £0
Total £163,298(155th) £147,572(311th) £143,111(210th) £136,562 £117,499(454th) £111,358(495th) £78,714(647th) £60,485(641st)

1 Regular journeys between home/constituency/Westminster: Mileage £1,073 (482nd). Rail £2,569 (309th).

2 Regular journeys between home/constituency/Westminster: Mileage £1,098 (511th). Rail £1,808 (365th). Other: Rail £149 (100th).

3 3rd party £987 (13th). Rail £3,231 (252nd).

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