Cait Reilly win is good, but ending workfare for keeps needs more

Cait Reilly win is good, but ending workfare for keeps needs more

Today's ruling that every part of workfare other than the Mandatory Work Activity scheme breaks the law has given campaigners against workfare a huge boost - we were right all along. But the DWP have already said they will be doing a simple rephrase of the regulations and trying again and we need to make sure that doesn't happen by piling on the pressure now.

For people already on workfare, or who have been sanctioned because of it, this is fantastic stuff. It means people have the ability to literally just walk out of the unskilled jobs they were doing for no money and to potentially claim back much-needed money from the government.

That definite plus will make it easy to just sit back and bask about this setback for workfare. I'm still buzzing even as I write this, it's a slap in the face of the government from an unlikely source and it'll have them chasing their tails over the next few days. But in practical terms, this is not a total win. Even now they're trying to redraft something that'll wheedle around the technical language of the judges' ruling.

We can't let that happen.

As noted in Johnny Void's excellent blog workfare hasn't just stumbled today, it's been on the ropes for a while due to a campaign of direct action from groups such as SolFed, Boycott Workfare, AF, Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty, Haringey Solidarity Group and many others which have pushed dozens of companies and charities away from using the scheme.

So we know that direct action can get the goods, and today has given us the advantage of momentum and an unassailable moral high ground.

Now is the time for us to ramp up mass direct action and bury this sucker. While they redraft their document we need to get into places and tell participants about their right to leave, bombard management and the public with the reality exposed by the case that this is bonded labour, and go after participants in the MWA until no firm in their right wants to touch that poisonous PR nightmare with a bargepole.

Comments

Jim Clarke
Feb 12 2013 12:24

The ruling said the schemes were unlawful on a technicality and that if they'd been informed properly and agreed to the scheme it wouldn't be slavery. That angle seems to have been created by people who didn't read the judgement.

Full ruling here: http://www.judiciary.gov.uk/Resources/JCO/Documents/Judgments/reilly-wilson-v-secretary-state.pdf

Rob Ray
Feb 12 2013 12:29

Ta for that, I was working mainly off the Public Interest Lawyers take on it (they were the ones handling the case):

"Over the past two years the Government has unlawfully required tens of thousands of unemployed people to work without pay and unlawfully stripped thousands more of their subsistence benefits."

So it might be a technicality, but they seem to reckon that failure means it amounts to slavery in law as well as form.

Jim Clarke
Feb 12 2013 12:33

No worries! smile

The judgement specifically dealt with the claim it was slavery/forced labour and rejected it (paragraphs 65 &66), the lawyers are being a bit disingenuous if they're suggesting that was the case.

Rob Ray
Feb 12 2013 12:46

Could be wrong, but I think that's saying the Act itself doesn't breach Article 4 of the ECHR, as long as people are properly informed:

Quote:
Given arrangements properly made under the Act, article 4 would not be engaged

But the applicants weren't, as covered in an earlier part of the hearing. The ruling notes:

Quote:
I do not consider that ground 4 adds anything independently of grounds 2 and 3 in this case.

Which I'd interpret as saying "well we've already covered that the paperwork was a bit shit so we don't need to repeat ourselves on the article 4 thing."

So yeah I guess PIL would be overstating there, but not technically wrong, as such.

crwydryny
Feb 12 2013 14:23

unfortunatly in my experience workfare staff have a nasty habit of selecting their words when it comes to things like this. back in october I recieved an email from my workfare advisor telling me he had found a job for me and to go down to the office. as I already do voluntery work they know I'm exempt from mandetory work placements so when I get there and have a chat with the guy about the "job" alarm bells quickly started ringing when he began using phrases such as "a few weeks of work experience with the chance of a job at the end of it"
almost straight away I was "hang on this isn't a job it's a placement" but he was insistant that they had jobs comming up as several of the workers were due to leave due to sickness. i ended up agreeing to it on the grounds that I get to take my volunteer days off for the work I'm curently doing. my first day at the placement I asked all the workers there individually about the "upcomming jobs" and they all said the same thing that there were no jobs as far as they were aware, even the manager said it was very unlikly.
another guy I know got placed on a simalar placement with the same promise of a job at the end of it (despite me warning him) not only did he get stuck on it for 6 weeks he was then given the option for an extra 6 weeks which he refused. they then told him that he has to do the extra 6 weeks.

crwydryny
Feb 12 2013 14:30
Rob Ray wrote:
Could be wrong, but I think that's saying the Act itself doesn't breach Article 4 of the ECHR, as long as people are properly informed:
Quote:
Given arrangements properly made under the Act, article 4 would not be engaged

But the applicants weren't, as covered in an earlier part of the hearing. The ruling notes:

Quote:
I do not consider that ground 4 adds anything independently of grounds 2 and 3 in this case.

Which I'd interpret as saying "well we've already covered that the paperwork was a bit shit so we don't need to repeat ourselves on the article 4 thing."

So yeah I guess PIL would be overstating there, but not technically wrong, as such.

problem is if someone is aware of their rights then it can be argued that they are properly informed and have conciously agreed to partake in the scheme even if they wern't actually informed before hand.
we all know that slavery is against the law but how many people would actually realise that doing unpaid work that is termed "work experience" or "training" is in effect slavery

the button
Feb 13 2013 10:04

Here's the text of an email I just received from Poundland:

Quote:
Further to your email below, please be assured we take all matters very
seriously and would welcome you to contact our HR Director to discuss this
further. Please contact myself on 0121 526 8343 and I will be able to
arrange this for you.

FYI please see below Poundland statement released yesterday.

Tuesday 12 February

Statement following Cait Reilly court appeal

Jim McCarthy, CEO at Poundland comments:

“Poundland recognises the importance of offering work experience to people
looking to get back into work.

“We have been working in partnership with the Job Centre Plus over the last
few months to launch our own work experience programme for those
considering a career in retail. Our work experience programme is completely
voluntary – no one has their benefits taken away from them at any point
during the process. This programme replaces any involvement with the
Department of Work and Pensions prime providers and their work experience
schemes.

“We currently have people taking part in work experience placements across
71 of our stores, and since launching the scheme, 20% have been offered a
job with us”.

Rob Ray
Feb 13 2013 10:07
Quote:
we take all matters very seriously

Jim Clarke
Feb 13 2013 10:17
Rob Ray wrote:
So yeah I guess PIL would be overstating there, but not technically wrong, as such.

They might not be technically wrong but "every part of workfare other than the Mandatory Work Activity scheme breaks slavery laws" is completely wrong and misleading. I really think you should edit that as this is otherwise a really good blog! smile

the button
Feb 13 2013 10:21

Have emailed them back to confirm whether the participants in their own scheme are waged or still on benefits. I suspect we know the answer to that one....

Rob Ray
Feb 13 2013 10:33

Okay I've changed it to "the law." Happy?

the button
Feb 13 2013 10:56
Quote:
I can advise, we work solely with the Job Centre Plus to facilitate a voluntary Work
Experience Programme for those considering a career opportunity in retail.
As this is purely a voluntary programme supported by Job Centre Plus we do
not pay a wage but at the same time no individual has their benefits taken
away from them when attending the placements at Poundland.

Yeah, how about losing their benefits when *not* attending the placements, i.e. if they drop out? wall

Jim Clarke
Feb 13 2013 11:37
Rob Ray wrote:
Okay I've changed it to "the law." Happy?

Well I think you could still be a clearer but it's your blog (if this was a news article I'd have just edited it yesterday). It's been really interesting to see how the reporting of the verdict has developed. It seemed to come out on twitter almost instantly, was then picked up by some major media outlets who tried to get stories up quickly (at the cost of accuracy) and the 'slavery' link seems to have been added then because it was one of the initial claims. This led to a wide number of people celebrating that workfare was dead (with the exception of MWA). Only when people actually started to read the judgement and the DWP issued an announcement did it become clear that the schemes were found unlawful on a minor technicality. This is what the DWP said:

Quote:
"The court has backed our right to require people to take part in programmes which will help get them into work. It’s ridiculous to say this is forced labour. This ruling ensures we can continue with these important schemes.

"We are however disappointed and surprised at the court's decision on our regulations. There needed to be flexibility so we could give people the right support to meet their needs and get them into a job. We do not agree with the court's judgment and are seeking permission to appeal, but new regulations will be tabled to avoid any uncertainty.

"Ultimately the judgment confirms that it is right that we expect people to take getting into work seriously if they want to claim benefits."

Which basically means workfare continues exactly as before but with the regulations underpinning it changing a bit and claimants being given a bit more information. There's a good article in the New Statesman summing up the legal situation. Anyway, the legal route to killing workfare appears to be closing and as you say above only direct action will be able to finish the schemes off.

Does anybody know where the new regulations are online? I've had a look and can't find them.

Fall Back
Feb 13 2013 12:49

Apparently they'll be available tomorrow at 2.30 on legislation.gov.uk