Struggles, Trade Unions, Workers

Workfare: work for free?

The scheme aims to get the unemployed back into work, but it has been criticised by many organisations that show how unpaid work is only benefitting the companies who exploit it.  Events taking a stand against Workfare are being planned across the UK.


Work for a business without getting paid: just one of the measures put forward by David Cameron, imported from the US, to get people back to work in times of crisis.

The American system is known as Workfare: a system which forces the long term unemployed (26 weeks without work) to work under the premise that they will gain knowledge and experience during a six week placement.

The idea is that after this period, people will be better placed to re-enter the workforce, or will be taken on by the same companies that have benefitted from their unpaid labour.

The worker is not paid anything, but is obligated to work in order not to lose their benefits.  The program has been heavily criticised by several organisations in the UK who call Cameron’s policies “savage”.

Furthermore, the Workfare system is rejected because of claims that many businesses are benefitting from free labour, and the desired results (a job at the end of the scheme for the unemployed person) are not materialising.  In fact, the scheme has resulted in a job for only 50% of cases.

A multitude of groups have sprung up on social networks, seeking the support of society at large to reject this type of policy.

Companies such as McDonalds, Asda and Superdrug amongst others, have come under fire for ceasing to recruit new staff; and instead substitute paid work with unpaid ‘work experience’.

As a result, in the last year, demonstrations, boycotts and pickets at the doors of such companies have taken a stand against such unfair practises.

Syndicates such as Solidarity Federation – IWA-AIT, are also trying to raise awareness amongst the general public to show the dark side of the work scheme.

The initiative ‘Join Boycott Workfare’ is planning a series of protests from the 18th to the 24th March across the UK to show their rejection of Workfare.

They aim to get as many participants as possible to join together and take a stand against Workfare.

For more information go to:

(Translated by Claudia Rennie)

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