May Day For Workfare Exploiters
May Day in Edinburgh saw anti workfare demonstrators touring companies and charities using unpaid forced labour. Starting with an excursion into the giant Homebase at St Leonards the protestors from Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty went on to visit no fewer than 7 exploiting employers.
At Homebase demonstrators roamed the store putting up stickers – THIS
EMPLOYER USES FORCED UNPAID LABOUR. Special leaflets were given to
customers and workers detailing the large-scale use of workfare at the
Haringey Homebase where 21 workfare conscripts are working for nothing.
The Homebase manager invited us into her office to discuss the issue. She
claimed that the stores in Edinburgh did not use workfare but one of the
several workers we talked to, informed us that they did on occasion have
unemployed people working there, sent by “agencies”, probably providers
like A4e. We eventually moved on with the manager promising to convey our
concerns to head office.
Over a period of nearly three hours we picketed, stickered and leafleted
Greggs, British Heart Foundation, Barnardos, Poundland, Tescos and Argos.
We had phoned British Heart Foundation HQ management earlier in the week
and so were well aware that they were unrepentantly continuing their
involvement in the Work Programme, falsely claiming that they were doing
so without using compulsory forced labour.
At Greggs a sympathetic worker claimed that Greggs in Scotland were strongly unionised and also had a
different management structure to England, she said she had never heard of
workfare being used in Greggs north of the border and would not work for a
company which use d workfare.
Hundreds of leaflets were distributed, meeting a generally good response,
with at least one passer-by joining the rolling picket, boosting numbers
to around fifteen, a fair turn-out for an activity just advertised through
ECAP’s solidarity network. All in all a good way to keep up the pressure
on workfare exploiters in between the Britain-wide days of action, and a
good way to celebrate May Day.