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A major victory has been scored against WorkFare- the Tory's flagship forced labour programme. Ian Duncan Smith's pet project – to bring the logic of the Victorian workhouse to 21st century Britain (main difference: this time it’s work but no house) has been hated and feared by benefits claimants ever since it slid out whole from the Tory policy sphincter. A spectacularly harsh programme, not even terminal illness is considered a barrier from involuntary, unpaid work at such esteemed establishments as Poundland, Superdrug and Sainsburys – terminal cancer patients with more than 6 months to live could be expected to spend their remaining months, not with family and loved ones, but instead stacking shelves or flipping burgers.
People with jobs have almost as much to fear from the scheme as those out of work. Unions and many economists see the scheme is a way of replacing waged labour with unwaged, a plan to push wages further down as part of the "race to the bottom."
The campaign against Workfare spread like wildfire on Twitter and Facebook, demos have been held around the UK outside (and inside) participating companies, and a case had been brought against it on the grounds that Workfare was against international covenants and human rights legislation on forced labour.
And then, starting about two weeks ago, cracks started appearing in Workfare. First charities (including Scope, Marie Curie and Shelter) pulled out and condemned the scheme. After the high street charities pulled out, high street retailers started to get cold feet. Sainsburys tried to quietly extricate themselves from the scheme, Tescos, Superdrug and eventually even Poundland pulled out, leaving the Tories red faced and desperate for somebody to blame. Chris Grayling, minister for (un)employment even went as far as to accuse the SWP of hacking his emails. As the Trots sensibly pointed out- there was no need to hack his emails to know his intentions, they weren’t exactly a secret in the first place. The Latent Existence blog has a video of Chris Grayling's performance on Channel 4 – arguing that black is white and mandatory is voluntary.
The campaign was so successful because no high street chain could be seen to be associated with a forced labour programme so easily comparable to serfdom and slavery. Once upon a time they might have been able to rely on a tame press and TV to hide extent of nationwide anger against the WorkFare, but, in the age of social media, information (and misinformation) flow unchecked and uncensored. The big brands knew that even if they like the idea of cheap labour, they could not withstand a lively grassroots boycott campaign that painted them as modern day slaveowners.
The Tories are livid. That makes everyone else happy. Killing Workfare didn't rely on the commons or the lords, and so grassroots, popular opposition proved itself (once again) to be the best, if not the only, means to check a government out of control. Now that Workfare is wounded, we need cut off its head and burn its body to make sure that it doesn't rise zombie-like from the grave.
The long term Tory plan is to undo the old post-war welfare state. There is no real opposition from within the political parties, so if we want to defend those few basic rights that our parents and grandparents won that haven't already been lost to the LibConLab experiment we’re being subjected to we need to get angry and take the fight to the enemy. Boycott Workfare have planned for this Saturday (3rd) up and down the UK. See their site for details and join in the fight for the right not to work.
Schnews gets the real dirt on the refuse situation as Brighton's Cityclean workers take to the streets once again, despite pressure from the Council.
Thatcher-haters party into the night.
In solidarity with 235 Sussex University workers whose jobs are threatened with privatisation, protesters from around the country converge on Sussex University's campus (alread site of an ongoing occupation), invade management HQ and make a bonfire out of corporate files.
Paralympic sponsors Atos hit by protests for their persecution of disabled and vulnerable benefit claimants...
Who'd have thought? Homophobia in the Hydrant bar, formerly the site of many a SchNEWS gig
Indigenous communities in Peru face violent repression for protests against oil and mine devastation.
Traffic was brought to a standstill for over two hours outside the Houses of Parliament by disability rights protesters last Wednesday
Spanish miners riot and roadblock against government cuts