Opinion: Work-fare or work fair? Why I shan’t be shopping at Tesco

It seems that Tesco finally bowed to public pressure and is no longer expecting the jobless to line-up and provide them with four weeks of unpaid labour. Whilst I was pleased to read this, it was too little, too late for me. Do Tesco expect us to be pleased that they’re finally offering to pay people in return for their hard work?

This has taught us an awful lot about Tesco’s ethical beliefs. The company was happy to accept unpaid labour before the public knew about it, but as soon as they started receiving negative press coverage, they brought the scheme to a hasty close. Surely if they can afford to pay workers now, then they could’ve afforded to pay them before this hit the media?

I equally horrified when Chris Grayling claimed that Tesco were offering a “public service.”  Would it still be a public service if I advertised for a person to spend 4 weeks cleaning my house and emptying the cat’s litter tray?  They’d be gaining cleaning experience!  Additionally, I wonder if Tesco offered placements in their accounts department, HR department, management, or any of those other areas that are notoriously difficult to gain work in. Or was it just the shop-floor?

The idea that people need to carry out unpaid work experience in order to be qualified to stack shelves at the local supermarket is ridiculous. A four week unpaid internship in order to be considered for a job that probably doesn’t pay much over minimum wage is just wrong. How long do you have to work for free if you aspire to amounts such as £7 or £8 an hour?  It’s crazy.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with working in a shop. I spent a couple of happy years working for Woolworths in order to pay my way through University. It’s just the notion that Tesco think that we are stupid enough to believe that they are offering people valuable experience in return for their hard work.

Surely if it was all about gaining experience in stacking shelves or interacting with customers, then the job-centre could send those seeking work along to the local charity shop or social enterprise?  People can stack shelves there. Probably use the till, design window displays and gain an insight into how a small business is run too. The unpaid worker is also far more likely to be of value to the struggling small business.

I lost my job a few years ago and had the misfortune of having to attend the local job-centre. Despite numerous applications I seemed unable to get a job within a good hour’s drive of the rural village in which I lived.  I felt miserable and it had a terrible impact upon my self-confidence, and I’m sure that others in my position felt exactly the same.

The thought of being told that I ‘had’ to complete a mandatory work placement in retail, a sector within which I had no long-term aspirations, would have been a major kick in the teeth. The government shouldn’t kick people when they are down; they should help them back up, and I can’t think that forcing someone to work a night-shift, for a mere £50 a week, will do that.

Anyway, I was fortunate enough to find a part-time job that would fund a few relevant unpaid internships of my own choice, rather than the job-centre’s, and eventually saved enough to move to a city that I can get work. Since then, I’ve found a semi-decent job and decided that I’m not going to shop at Tesco, as they are the very people that were happy to exploit people like me when we were feeling down. I hope that you’ll consider doing the same.

* The author is known to the Liberal Democrat Voice team and worked as an activist and organiser for the Liberal Democrats.

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  • Sid Cumberland 22nd Feb '12 - 7:11pm

    I dislike a lot of things about Tesco (and I like a few). But I don’t think this caricature stands up. ‘A mandatory work placement …’ – mandatory? Are you sure about that? I thought people could opt for this sort of thing if they wanted. And calling it ‘unpaid work’ rather than ‘work experience’ just shifts the focus from the experience to the payment of benefits. There are things to be learnt from getting up every day, getting to work on time, being able to cooperate with other workers and so on. Why not focus on the experience rather than the lack of pay?

  • Richard Dean 22nd Feb '12 - 7:24pm

    This seems a little unrealisatic, basically prejudice against Tesco and not rational argument, What would the reaction have been if Tesco had refused to take people on this scheme to start with? … “Bad Tesco, not giving people a chance, won’t shop there”? And Tesco’s sensitivity to public opinion is one of its good points, not a bad one. I can well imagine how much extra critisism there would have been if they’d not changed. Given that even an unskilled job does need some training, the exercise quite possibly cost Tesco at least as much as Tesco gained from the wok done, and possibly cost more. Let’s try to solve the unemployment problem, not waste time on self-congratulatory prejudices. Apologies if you feel offended.

  • I agree with the author and the comment from Iain Coleman

    I do not agree with singling out tesco’s on this matter, as I think all the major companies that have signed up to this are exploiting young people.

    The government should be investing in scheme’s that give young people actual skills. Work experience is valuable, However, this should also be incorporated with actual training and qualifications that the person can take away with them to assist in the job market. This could include things like, “Food Hygiene” certificates, Health & Safety, COSH, Emergency Aider, CLAIT
    Skills and qualifications that will help with future job prospects.
    Getting a young unemployed persons to work in these stores for 4 weeks shelf filling is of no value to the Unemployed, Society or future jobs growth, Indeed it would have the complete opposite effect.

  • It sounds pretty hypocritical that you talk of how no company should expect people to work for free to gain experience but you wanted unpaid internships.

    It also seems a bit ridiculous that you criticise the job centre for not finding you a job that’s close to you when you say you live in the middle of nowhere.

  • Brook Ferraday 22nd Feb '12 - 8:38pm

    I am profoundly disturbed by the comments made regarding this blog. I have been a lifelong supporter of first the Liberals and then Liberal Democrats and am deeply saddened that the LIbDems cannot see that this workfare scheme is exploitative. If you want evidence of the mandatory nature of this scheme I suggest you have at look at the various FB pages campaigning against this and read the national press. It may not be the Government that is enforcing the mandatory nature of this, but there is no doubt that the providers are.
    From a purely selfish point of view why should I contribute to the operating costs, and therefore the profits of these large companies who sign up for this scheme. I pay towards their costs and contribute to their profits at the check out and then am being forced to pay again through taxation. They are paid – not directly by the Govt. but by taxation money which has been paid to the providers. In a plagiarism of Martin Neimuller’s words
    “First they came for the young
    I did nothing as I am not young
    Then they came for the unemployed
    and I did nothing because I am employed
    Next they came for the disabled
    I did nothing as I am not disabled.
    Next they came for the NHS
    are we all to weak to say anything?

  • Brook Ferraday 22nd Feb '12 - 8:42pm

    I suggest you read this article – a response to Graylings obfuscation and IDS views.


  • David M Gibson 22nd Feb '12 - 8:59pm

    Guardian-reader excitability at bashing Tescos and the Coalition at the same time, Rebecca’s article is based on her fundamental ignorance of the work experience scheme she is bemoaning. She calls it ‘mandatory’ when, Tesco’s and the DWP have taking pains to point out, it was entirely voluntary. If Rebecca was correct, I would entirely agree, but she isn’t and this article contributes nothing but further hysteria to a news story with no basis.

    Just because reactionary left-wingers are getting excited about it, doesn’t mean it’s true. Both Rebecca and the LDV team should have checked their facts before publishing this article. Labour and the Tories are the reactionary parties; liberals are supposed to be higher-minded. We’re lucky Tesco doesn’t sue the party for publishing this defamation.

  • There are plenty of good reasons not to shop at Tesco’s; this isn’t one of them.

  • Leslie K. Clark 22nd Feb '12 - 9:25pm

    Since Sainsbury’s, Waterstones, ASDA, HMV, Boots, WH Smith, Topshop et al were also part of the Workfare programme, I take it you shan’t be shopping there either? Or does that not fit in with the easy-clap diatribe against Tesco?

    “Surely if it was all about gaining experience in stacking shelves or interacting with customers, then the job-centre could send those seeking work along to the local charity shop or social enterprise? ”

    Well, they could have. Shelter, Marie Curie, Mind, Oxfam and Scope were all participating in the workfare program until the militant left started kicking up a fuss.

  • Richard Hill 22nd Feb '12 - 9:37pm

    It just seems like more ” group think” to me, everybody have a go at Tescos. I don’t see any real diffrence anywhere else except maybe better spin.

    I think it is partly the problem with minumum wage, they just don’t want to pay young starters in the work force that amount. So what has happened, they have found a way of paying kids nothing at all. It’s become either that or no job.

    To just blame Tescos seems a bit unfair. Look at the number of interns used in politics, including our own party.

  • Thanks Peter Chivall for an objective description of reality in place of so much blind prejudice from the “liberals” posting above.

    Pinches self. People are regularly allowed to come on Question Time and pluck our heartstrings with tales of poor little old ladies under threat from the mansion tax because all they own in this world is a £2M house. Meanwhile, Rebecca is not pleased to be expected to work for nothing, and our “liberals” pillory her with “caricature”, “ridiculous”, “hypocritical”, “group think”, and worst of all “Guardian reader”. To call the scheme mandatory is “fundamental ignorance”, because it ignores Rebecca’s fundamental Liberal freedom to starve to death instead.

    What have the “Liberal Democrats” come to? Why on earth have I wasted 30 years of my life delivering Focus leaflets and trying to build up our strength in my local area?

  • Tony Greaves 22nd Feb '12 - 11:00pm

    Apart from the obvious evils of this scheme to make people work for nothing –

    (1) surely stacking shelves has to be done but only has to be done once (they don’t continually unstack and do again). So for every person that Tesco and other such firms have got to do it for nothing, another person is denied a paid job,

    (2) getting labour for free is a subsidy to Tesco (etc) from the state. Why are other firms (eg small bakers, butchers, candlestickmakers) not complaining at this subsidy to their main competitors – and how does it tally with the Mary Portas stuff about supporting high streets?

    Tony Greaves

  • Richard Dean 22nd Feb '12 - 11:06pm

    What an interesting discussion! Libdems doing what they do best? – moaning, looking inwards, fighting themselves, badmouthing everyone! Polcies …errrr … whaaaa?

    How about some suggestions for practical solutions? Something that recognizes the many imperfections of reality, and gets round some of the inevitable traps? Something a little more realistic than not shopping at Tesco?

  • Tony Greaves – you haven’t spotted the difference between what is necessary and what is desirable.

    1) it is only necessary to restack a shelf with a particular product line when all the items have been sold
    2) it is desirable to keep the shelf constantly replenished to maintain an attractive display of goods

    2) is much more labour-intensive than 1), so the supermarket management will have sufficient resource to find the optimal balance of shelf-refilling that balances the needs of turnover vs cost – ie profitability

    Additional staff would enable more frequent shelf replenishment; no one would be “denied a job” as you put it.

  • Richard Dean – to paraphrase eric Blair, “all Liberal Democrats moan, but some Liberal Democrats moan more than others” (no names, no pack drill 😉 )

  • Daniel Henry 22nd Feb '12 - 11:33pm

    I think it’s unfair to blame Tesco on this. The blame lies squarely on the shoulders of the DWP (both in this administration and the previous) on making such a shockingly bad program.

    To answer some of the defenses of the scheme:
    1) Although some of the placements are technically voluntary, and that the “volunteer” has a week to opt out before locked in with the threat of losing benefits, many report being misled into the scheme and not being informed of their right to opt out until it’s too late to do so.

    2) There are mandatory programs too that basically force people to work for less than minimum wage. If we’re going to force people to work then we should at least abide by min wage rules by either limiting their hours or topping up their unemployment benefits.

    3) The worst thing about this scheme is how at a time when there’s an average of 20 Jobseekers for each job advertised that the Jobseekers themselves are being blamed for being unable to find work.

  • Neil Bradbury 23rd Feb '12 - 12:47am

    Agree that Tesco don’t come out of this brilliantly. But many people are using this example to condemn all of the work experience programmes for the unemployed, such as the governments Work Programme. When I advertised an admin job, I got over 200 applicants. In many areas, long term unemployed people do not stand a chance unless they can be given work experience and essentially given a trial run. I worry that peoples irrational objection to all ideas that people are much more employable when they get this experience is blinding them to the idea that some of these schemes will work and help people.

  • I have a better idea. Let’s boycott solicitors because they don’t pay their articled clerks much.

  • @Tommy Thank you for taking the time to comment. However, I would like to point out that I did not criticise the job centre for not finding me a job near my home anywhere in this article. I just commented that I had the “Misfortune of attending the local job centre.” I was out of work and had to attend the job centre – hence, the misfortune. Secondly, I don’t feel that people should have to work for free to essentially gain, what is a minimum wage job that requires minimal skills and hence, minimal training. I do feel, however, that a short period of work experience or voluntary in general is a positive thing; particularly if entering an area where a high level of skill and qualification is required – just not a full working week for 8 weeks and in receipt of no substantial pay.

    @Oranjepan I do agree with you. I think asking those seeking work to gain some confidence and skills by volunteering with a charity or social-enterprise on a very limited, part-time basis would benefit the job-seeker, the organisation, and society as a whole; rather than the shareholders of Tesco and other large organisations.

    @Brook Ferraday and @Tris EXACTLY how I feel 🙂 I think that a lot of people condoning this scheme, do so because they think that it could never happen to them. Regardless of whether it could, I feel we should ask ourselves how we would feel if we were in that situation, and I know that it wouldn’t feel good!

  • Dear all,
    Thank you for taking the time to read this article and comment on it. It has given me much food for thought.

    @Sid There is an optional placement and a non-optional one for those that have been on benefits for a specified period of time. Do you not feel that if a person has been on benefits for a reasonably long period of time then perhaps they should have a more carrot, than stick approach to move into employment? One that builds up their confidence so they feel safe and secure in the workplace and more likely to stay there long-term? Being out of work longterm has an awful affect on one’s confidence. I know that I was nervous going back to work after just 2 months on the job hunt, so how must the long-term unemployed feel? Imagine if you or your children were in this situation; how would you feel?

    @RichardDean Thank you for commenting – of course I don’t feel offended! A diversity of opinion helps us to gain a fuller understanding of our environment 🙂 Do you really think that this will solve the unemployment problem? If people are working on an unpaid basis, then there will be a lesser demand for paid labour. Why buy the cow when you can have the milk for free? Of course, an ‘unskilled’ job needs training, but 8 weeks of full-time training on an unpaid basis, without a guaranteed job at the end of the process is rather excessive… I can’t think that this will encourage these, potentially marginalised, groups back into the workplace and give them faith that the government wants to help them.

    @IainColeman We’re on the same wavelength on this one! Exactly!

    @Matt You raise an interesting point and you are right. Tesco is one of many.

  • jenny barnes 23rd Feb '12 - 9:32am

    It’s that epidemic of fecklessness again. Strange how it always gets virulent in a depression, when there are no jobs to be had. For those that think this scheme is a good idea – is it still a good idea for graduates who can’t find jobs? or just for people who haven’t done very well in education? Job snobs ? It would be good for IDS & Grayling to spend a couple of months living on JSA and stacking shelves at Tesco., as a learning experience.

  • @jenny barnes

    “It would be good for IDS & Grayling to spend a couple of months living on JSA and stacking shelves at Tesco., as a learning experience.”

    I agree, in fact before the general election, Ian Duncan Smith was “supposed” to take part in the documentary program “Tower Block of Commons” Where MP’s had to swap their lives for living in a council flat on welfare for just one week.

    However, Mr Ian Duncan Smith had to pull out of the program as his wife had allegedly taken Ill,

    Naddine Dorris took his place, and was caught “cheating” yet again, as she had stuffed an extra £50.00 inside her Bra. She also took off on a number of occasions to attend a gym, something most people on welfare would not be able to afford. Typical Conservative unable to live in the “real world”

    Now Ian Duncan’s Smiths wife is well, one would hope so anyway, I feel he should fulfill his “former” pledge and take part in the challenge, Chris Grayling would do well to participate also along with Grant Shapps, Just for good measure, Nick Clegg & Danny Alexander should be thrown in with the bunch as well as they both seem to have lost touch with the real world also and been contaminated by these foul Tory Guffs

  • It’s not just this scheme which undervalues those seeking work. I recently employed two young people to work as office juniors. As we had previously we encouraged them to enrol on some vocational NVQ’s (either Business Administration of Customer Service). We were contacted to ask whether we would consider making the role an apprentice role and would receive support from the Government for doing so.

    I gave up the conversation after a few minutes. We would be expected to pay the apprentices a pittance and this was sold as a benefit (I may have misunderstood but it seemed less than the minimum wage), and they would end up with the same NVQ’s.

    One of the people left after deciding that an administration role was not for them, they worked hard and we will support them with references but it didn’t suit. The other is thriving and earning a reasonable salary for their grade and experience. If you want dedicated staff who will help the company as a whole progress they need to be given a wage commensurate to their worth and experience. Their perception of how you value them is not entirely wage driven, but it is an important aspect.

    If a business model is correct any work required will be costed in at a suitable rate. If the government want to aid employment try to help with the costs of advertising and selection. I think I could employee an extra 10% if I could cut agency and advertising fees. Being based in the same struggling city as Rebecca this would be welcome indeed….

  • @David M Gibson There is a mandatory placement scheme for those that have been out of work for a certain period of time. However, I question the entire concept of engaging in work-experience in order to be experienced enough to restock shelves.
    @Leslie K Clark They took part, albeit it to a lesser extent, but as I don’t shop at those stores I shall not have to change my course of behavior ☺ I do feel that people should consider withdrawing their custom from stores that do not take their ethical obligations to society very seriously…. Marie Curie et al still have the potential to benefit from free labour, albeit from people that want to be there; those that have decided to volunteer out of their own free-will.
    @Richard Hill I agree; to blame only Tesco is unfair. Additionally, I do hope that political parties will consider paying their interns, even a minimal sum. The work experience may be invaluable but is only available to those that can afford it… Another contentious issue brewing there I feel! Your minimum wage suggestion is interesting, but a controversial one I feel ☺
    @Peter Chivall Thanks for responding with such a detailed comment! It’s really given me some food for thought, even though it scares me that this happens! I hope that, as Liberals, we can continue to be the change we want to see in the world!
    @Gareth Epps This comment made me smile!

  • @David Allen I do agree – great post from Peter Chivall!
    @Tony Greaves Understand completely – it sounds almost like a subsidy from the state to me too.
    @Richard Dean If you re-read the article then you will see that I have offered some potential solutions. Furthermore one of the benefits of capitalism relates to supply and demand. If consumers don’t like what an organization offers to its stakeholders across society, and refuse to give them money, then often they will have to change the product or service that they are offering to society.
    @Tabman In a recession, businesses are more likely to seek to minimize cots by having just enough workers to carry out the basic tasks, rather than enough to carry out desired or additional tasks.
    @Daniel Henry I do agree – Tesco aren’t the only people to blame. I probably should have acknowledged that in the article ☺ Thanks for your responses to some of the defenses to this scheme. You’ve explained them really well; especially the way in which those seeking employment seem to be ‘blamed’ for not always being able to find it!

  • If they are doing a job, they should at least be paid minimum wage, how long does it take to learn the intricacies of stacking shelves? Just because they are unemployed, it doesn’t make them sub-human creatures who are not entitled to minimum wage and the rights other employees share. Unpaid work alongside paid workers builds up resentment, not motivation.

  • @Stephen W The companies taking part in it are as much to blame as those that designed the scheme. They have the option of not being involved.
    I have to be honest; I really don’t think that it is fair to take into account the benefits that were paid in the months prior to the work experience. Perhaps if they had not received these benefits then they would have lost their home, couldn’t have paid for food, or heating, and, so on. As Liberals, surely it is our duty to engender freedom, equality and fairness by providing people with the opportunity to succeed, and this means at the very least, the opportunity not to starve or be homeless?
    Furthermore, you make it sound as though those seeking employment have never paid any form of tax. They’ve been taxed numerous times on what they earnt, what they spent, and goodness knows what else, they’ve effectively contributed to the jobseekers allowance that they are now receiving in their hour of need. To expect them to, once more, work full-time in order to receive this tiny amount, is very unfair. It’s hardly surprising that some of these people often feel marginalized and struggle to remain in long-term work. I’m surprised there aren’t more people that feel disengaged with society after being treated this way!
    @Neil Bradbury Fair point, I do agree. That was why I did some unpaid internships once I had saved enough money to be able to do so. I assume that many of the applicants for your admin job had completed a course at a local college, chosen to do some work experience in an area that they desired or similar. I don’t think that all work-experience schemes are bad; they can be really great. I simply feel that it is better to use a carrot than a stick to encourage people into work.
    @Jenny Barnes 100% agree
    @Matt ☺
    @Steve Way Thank you for taking the time to comment – it provided a useful example. One that I hope people can relate to!

  • @Bernard Very much agree with you there!

  • Why can’t they learn get to work on time, follow H&S regulations, etc whilst getting paid, like people normally do. Receiving benefits is not getting paid to carry out unpaid work, there are conditions that must be met for receiving benefits and if they are not met, the benefit is stopped. Working in a supermarket is usually a first job for young people and they gain these basic skills whilst receiving a wage, or are we in a new era now where both the young and old must take 8 weeks of unpaid shelf stacking to get an interview. The vast majority aren’t even given an interview after 8 weeks, let alone hired.

  • Simon McGrath
    The problem is that if you supply companies with free labour then securing an entry level job becomes an even more difficult task for the unemployed The reason why Tesco became the focus of anger is because it appeared that they were exploiting the situation and using a pool of more or less coerced free labour rather than offering proper jobs to people. I’m not against work experience schemes but if they are not carefully controlled they distort the labour market and create more unemployment than they solve.

  • Sid Cumberland 23rd Feb '12 - 7:15pm

    ‘The problem is that if you supply companies with free labour’ – we’re talking about four weeks, don’t forget.

    ‘whilst getting paid, like people normally do’ – teenagers getting adult wages is a comparatively new phenomenon … no doubt it promotes equality – but it also demotes experience.

    I was in Sainsbury’s tonight, paying more than usual attention to the staff … shelf-stacking is actually a lot more complicated than many people here think.

  • Welfare Scrounger 23rd Feb '12 - 8:20pm

    Stephen, the way you are talking makes you sound clueless.

    Mandatory Work Activity (MWA) is a four week unpaid work experience that can be repeated over and over, it is not limited to a few weeks.

    The government flagship Work Programme can force a client into working unpaid for an unlimited amount of time to keep their benefits.

    Currently the government are trialling Community Action Programme, a scheme where the unemployed are forced to work unpaid for 6 months to keep their benefits, this can also be repeated over and over.

    If any of these schemes are refused by the unemployed, they face a 3 month benefit sanction, a second refusal leads to a 6 month benefit sanction, a third refusal to work unpaid leads to a 3 year benefit sanction.

  • @Stephen W

    I am afraid you and people like yourself are just plain wrong and either actually have no idea what is going on in the real world, or you are choosing to ignore it for some bizarre reason.

    This is exactly forced Labour and it is completely wrong and immoral.

    But this Government and the DWP are not satisfied with just exploiting the unemployed, they are now setting their sights on the sick and disabled also for “mandatory” work placements for those assessed on ESA and placed into the WRAG group.

    This Government has lost all moral fiber and anyone supporting these measures should be ashamed.

    Our country goes around the world and sticks it snout into so many other countries business, banging on about equality, human rights e.t.c. e.t.c, making ourselves out to be holier than thou and look at what we are doing on our own door step to our own society and those most vulnerable. It is rank hypocrisy and it stinks.

    These “work fare” programs and the “private” companies that are contracted out to manage them are full of corruption, case in point the Back-to-work’ tsar Emma Harrison who has had to step down from government because of her company A4e and the latest “investigations” of which there has been many already.

    The only people profiting from these “work fare” programs are.

    1) private providers who have been contracted out to get these people into placements.
    2) The major companies who are willing to exploit this program for free labour
    3) The Tory party campaign funds which I am sure receive very large donations from those above profiteering.

    When is the Liberal democrat party going to wake up and see what you are doing?
    You are all in self destruct mode and destroying your party.
    Not only are you assisting the Tories to push through these foul draconian right wing policies that nobody voted for, you are pleasing their party funders who are benefiting from these policies who in return make even more donations to the Tories balance sheets which will more than likely be used to campaign “vigorously” against you in Tory/Lib dem marginals and annihilate you at the next general election.

    Like I said, your, your own worse enemy and in self destruct mode, which would be fine if you were not putting thousands of innocent and vulnerable people at risk who will suffer most from all this

  • Matt – 11 million people voted Conservative at the last election; I’m not sure that counts as nobody.

  • @ Tabman

    ok granted but there where almost 19 million who did not vote Tory and certainly never would have supported these foul and immoral policies being shoved down the countries neck, And I dare say that a majority of those 7 Million who voted Liberal Democrat also did not think for one second that their vote would allow and support this kind of thing to happen.

  • Matt – I don’t think you understand coalitions.

  • Richard Dean 23rd Feb '12 - 10:39pm

    When I lost a job a while ago, I would have loved to have been able to do something for the JSA. We’re talking misery here, not party politics. JSA knocks the self-esteem a lot, and some people donlt like receiveing it even tough they;ve paid taxes and it’s their right. Stacking shelves would have been great – something useful, not too hard to learn, gets me up in the morning and out of the house, lets me observe how a supermarket works, makes me feel I’m not totally unwanted, better than scanning the jobcentre ads and finding you’re not qualified for any of them, or they’re too far away. I had none of that, plumbed the depths, then got lucky. Not so easy to get lucky now though.

  • Oh I understand coalitions perfectly well, I know the coalition would not be able to push these through without the support of the Liberal Democrats.

    Sure, we all know about give and take, and picking your arguments.

    But we are talking about people’s lives here, there are no more important government policies than Welfare, NHS both of which are a lifeline for the poorest, sickest and most vulnerable people in society.

    These reforms which a majority of the people do not want and did not vote for must be dropped.

    If these Bills get through Parliament, through Liberal Democrats support, The Tories will reap the rewards with their increased sponsorship and donations s to the party, It matters not if the policies succeed or not, The Tories are not interested in the NHS, they never have been and they never will be.
    You really think this health and social care bill that will allow Doctors to now treat “private” patients up to 50% using NHS facilities is going to be good for the NHS and waiting lists, will it heck, Surgeons will be more interested in performing their highly paid private cosmetic work before bothering with the poor NHS patient. But Cameron and the Tories are not going to give a hoot as most of their funding comes from the pharmaceutical companies and the private health care providers who have been paying big $$$$$ lobbying for these bills.
    And when the poor NHS patients start suffering, it is the Liberal Democrats that will get hit hardest with the backlash and will suffer the consequences of the betrayal, Not the Tories.

    And the same with the DWP and these “Private Contractors” being paid obscene amounts of money into these workfare programs to get the young unemployed back to work.

    Do you not recall Cameron’s meeting at number 10 with the likes of Tesco, Topshop, BHS e.t.c.e.t.c when they pleaded for red tape to be cut with employing new staff, cut workers rights and we will commit to hiring so many hundreds of thousands of workers between us. Ha! what a bloody joke, The Government is in the process of removing employees rights and protections and what do these companies do who promised to take on all this new labour force? they take on “Unpaid” work experience placements. which is of no use to our jobs market whatsoever.

    now you tell me who is peeing up whose leg

    And whom is going to suffer the most from it all.

    I doubt very much there are many donors filling the Liberal Democrats Coffers to fight a good General Election, But the Tories sure as hell are.

  • “Working unpaid to receive their benefits” or “working for their benefits (while learning some very basic but fundamental workplace skills) ”

    I’m still shopping at Tesco.

  • I’m probably in a minority here, but I see no problem with anyone being asked to carry out “work” in order to receive benefits. This country is in a dire mess and needs to dig itself out, we cannot continue to pay people to do nothing …. I know that some people are unemployed through no fault of their own and are making every effort to obtain jobs, but in the meantime surely they can be asked to carry work in order to receive their benefits. There are also those people who have been unemployed for a vast amount of time and have no desire to work at all – my view on this is that they should have their benefits cut to the bare minimum – drastic and severe, maybe, but I am sick and tired of working extremely hard for my low salary whilst others moan and whinge about their benefits – some of these people are on more money by doing nothing than I am working ….. things have to change …….

  • David

    Feel free to, whilst those who only receive JSA will be forced to work for £2 an hour, and current staff have their hours reduced to be replaced by unpaid workers.

  • Well said, Nik.

  • Richard Dean
    I did some shelf stacking at the Co-op on Saturday mornings for a few bob in my youth.
    How about setting up some idustrial co-operatives? The expertise of the middle aged
    who have been made redundant could be used and skills passed on to the young.
    There are a great many products that could be made.

  • Martin Rowson on welfare schemes and A4e  cartoon.

    Work experience for young people aged 16-24 has taken a kicking,the mandatory element and sanctions of this programme is in tatters firms like Tesco are distancing themselves from it.

    I ask readers and commenters not forget disabled people 25-64 placed on The Work Programme especially the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) work-related activity group (Wrag)

    Disabled face unlimited unpaid work or cuts/sanctions in benefit.

    Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is a benefit for people who have a limited capability for work because of a health condition or disability.


    The latest figures reveal there are just over 300,000 claimants in the Wrag group  a number which is expected to rise as coalition reforms continue  and 8,440 of them have already incurred sanctions in the period from September 2010 to August 2011 for offences such as missing interview with advisers without good cause .

    1St Sanction 3 months.
    2nd Sanction 6 months.
    3rd Sanction 3 years.


    Contrast this to people on (Jsa) job seekers allowance.

    There is an eight-week limit on non-disabled job seekers taking part in the governments work experience programme, and a six-month limit on unpaid work for a new pilot called the community action programme.

  • Agree with you 100%.

    But hold on,isn’t your party in power right now? How can Liberal Democrats support workfare? Was it in the Coalition agreement? Shouldn’t LibDems be kicking up a holy stink about this with the parliamentary party? Why does Nick Clegg appear to be supporting it?

  • Chris White 5th Mar '12 - 7:41am

    I have been following this thread with interest since it was first published. Just to put my reply in context. I have been promoting public action against ‘workfare’ programmes including boycotting of stores (not just tesco, the media latched onto the tesco angle, because it has 30% of the UK market and other issues around tesco policy unrelated to workfare). I have also written to politicians, charities and contractors regarding workfare.

    Secondly, workfare is a term applied to 4 existing programmes and one programme to be introduced next year. All are part of a sytem that clearly in legistlation and guidance involve mandatory elements, with the possibility of sanctions. This could make participants vulnerable to coercive pressure by payment by result providers. They payment by results approach could also make such schemes vulnerable to false reporting. This has been highlighted in previous international research and there are now solid examples of this happening in the UK. The government has rolled out a costly national programme where even the SSAC and others have said their is little or no evidence of its benefits.

    Third and finally I am not a member of the ‘left’, I would describe myself as more or less liberal, if on the ‘left’ side of that position. What I have seen is an age old problem which I feel is an attempt to halt debate of calling this a ‘right’ v ‘left’ debate. At the same time their has been little comment on the issues by Liberals, it seems they are happy for this to be a ‘left’ v ‘right’ fight but do not put forward a third way. Scarily this is a tactic that I feel has done the party no favours in the past and is likely to damage the party again in the future. I have real fears that at the next election we will have an emerging two party state. Well done Rebecca for coming out with a view and a stand point.

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