The opposition of nearly 350 charities to the government’s new ‘workfare’ programme has ‘holed the scheme below the waterline’, Unite, the country’s largest union, said today (Thursday 5 June).
Unite has welcomed the news that 345 voluntary sector organisations, including household names such as Shelter, Crisis, Scope and Oxfam, have pledged not to take part in the Community Work Placements (CWP) programme. The indications are that the flagship scheme of work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith has been delayed yet again. This week was meant to be the deadline for organisations to start the new mandatory CWPs which require that jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) claimants do six months work placement – or risk losing their benefits.
Unite, which has 60,000 members in the voluntary sector, has branded the scheme as “nothing more than forced unpaid labour.” Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “The mounting opposition from the not for profit sector has holed one of Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship projects below the waterline. More waves of opposition will sink this scheme once-and-for all. “This obscene programme is nothing more than forced unpaid labour.“Unite welcomes the fact that so many charities have given this scheme the thumbs down as they can see that it is grossly unfair and a perversion of the true ethos of volunteering. “Questions have to be asked about the government’s slavish reliance on the controversial private sector contractors, such as G4S, to implement the CWP programme.It was G4S and its security shambles that was the only blot on the London Olympics two years ago. We are against this scheme wherever Duncan Smith wants to impose it – in the private sector, local government and in the voluntary sector.It is outrageous that ministers are trying to stigmatise job seekers by making them work for nothing, otherwise they will have their benefits clawed back.What the long queues of the unemployed need are proper jobs with decent pay and a strong structure of apprenticeships for young people to give them a sustainable employment future.”
Unite is opposing workfare in local government and will be raising it as an industrial issue with local authorities which do not sign the pledge. So far, 13 local councils have signed up not to implement any workfare programmes – and more are actively considering doing so. With so many council cuts, Unite is determined that workfare placements are not used to replace paid jobs. Unite’s growing community section will be on hand to support unemployed people forced onto workfare schemes.