Government work placement schemes little more than slave labour

Job ad: permanent unpaid night shift at Tesco
Job ad: permanent unpaid night shift at Tesco
Job ad: permanent unpaid night shift at Tesco

The above image shows a job advertised by Job Centre Plus. (Website link) It involves unspecified night shift work (probably shelf stacking) and the wage is Job Seeker’s Allowance plus expenses. Tesco will pay no wage for this work. It also says that the job is permanent but I think this must be a mistake.

The job appears to be part of Sector-Based Work Academies. (SBWA) The employer guide to the scheme [PDF] says

“The length of a work experience placement is determined at the initial discussion between you and Jobcentre Plus”

SBWA is supposed to guarantee a job interview at the end of the unpaid placement, but so far only about a fifth of people taking part in these schemes have been given a permanent job at the end of it.

The Conservatives are very proud of their efforts to get people back into work, especially their Work Programme. Most of their efforts seem focussed on getting job seekers into unpaid work placements in shops and supermarkets and there are multiple schemes to this end. Many of these people are given no choice in the matter; placements are often chosen for them, and they can lose Job Seeker’s Allowance for 13 weeks to 6 months if they will not go. Some of these placements can last as long as six months. No wages are involved – Job Seeker’s Allowance is paid, and sometimes bus fares.

Unpaid placements are not only bad for the unfortunate people who are forced to do them but they also deprive people of proper paid work. Tesco has been one of the largest users of work placement schemes taking on several thousand unpaid workers over the last year. The work that they do is the same as the paid staff.  Now Tesco are taking unpaid workers for the night shift too, which is a new development. These people are not only working for no pay apart from minimal benefits, now they are being put through the ordeal of working nights without compensation.

It was bad enough that the Job Centre were telling people to do unpaid work placements, it is much worse that placements are being advertised alongside real jobs. The government use the number of jobs advertised by the job centre to gauge the number of jobs available altogether. Do they exclude these unpaid placements from their statistics?

Government statistics have revealed that in all, 24,010 people have been forced to take part in “Mandatory Work Activity” – four weeks at 30 hours per week – between May and November 2011. This whole thing is the modern-day equivalent of indebted servitude. Peonage.

BBC Newsnight covered this story.

Please sign the petition to abolish work for benefit schemes.

I have written more about work programmes in a previous blog post.

Author: Latentexistence

The world is broken and I can't fix it because I am broken. I can, however, rant about it all and this is where I do that when I can get my thoughts together. Most of the time you'll find my words on Twitter rather than here though. I sometimes write for Where's The Benefit too.

18 thoughts on “Government work placement schemes little more than slave labour”

  1. It’s quite normal these days for jobs not to advertise what they pay. The adverts on will say “meets nmw”, elsewhere there’ll be no mention. They know they’ll get plenty of applicants anyway. And unsociable hours don’t ever seem to be worthy of a premium any more. I just applied for an Asda job. it told me that all “colleagues” are expected to be available for weekend shifts, and if I’m not then my application won’t be considered.

    I’ve been applying for jobs for 4 years. When I started I was hopeful of £20k+ roles. Now I get turned down for £100pw apprenticeships and it’s all just bleak and crap.

  2. I agree this is appalling abuse of the work placement scheme however it might surprise you that this was iinitiated by former govt under ‘new deal’ and ‘flexible new deal’ programs. Jcp need to wake and stop sponsoring this crap as a target hitting exercise. IMO you are only employed if you get paid and jsa does not constitute that

  3. Setting aside thoughts of morality, dignity or compassion (like a Tory), it strikes me that the ‘taxpayer’ (a semi-mythical beast usually never found in corporate boardrooms) is receiving no return on their money, here. All the return goes to Tesco shareholders. Is The Taxpayer’s Alliance* aware of this scandalous situation?

    *Sorry to mention them. Off now to wash my mouth out with soap.

  4. I do hope this publicity about this issue that is appearing across mainstream media will end up in something being changed. It will be fairtrade fortnight, soon. A time when a focus is paid to those who often are forgotten about at the beginning of the supply chain in developing countries, working in poor exploitative conditions just to supply the west’s unsustainable needs. I buy fairtrade food and drink because I care about the supply chain of the food I buy – from seed to plate. That supply chain includes this side of the world, too. So I will continue to buy fairtrade bananas, but I will never be buying them from Asda or Tesco, because my expectation of fair pay and fair working conditions includes this country, too. 

  5. Tesco are advertising at Job Centres offering full time night shifts at the rate of …… JSA plus expenses for getting there !!!!
    go on …. you know you wanna slag em off and show em up .i keep on posting on there page and having my comments removed!

  6. Have been in contact with USDAW a weak union to do something about this, all consumers can do is to show Tesco we are not Happy by blockading there stores as they are the Pirha’s of the UK Retail Business.

  7. I have this illness were my hands are very slippery and everything I touch I break. Sometimes I talk back to the cans. And if I have sit at the till, I put the shopping straight in the customer’s bag – present from Tesco’s! Go on, clean up your nostril with your finger. Just be inventive, have fun. Nobody knows you there and probably they’ll never want to see you again. NEEEEEEXT !..

  8. Latentexistence, If one able bodied person is not
    forced out to work, another has to work extra hours to pay taxes to support the
    former in idleness. Who is the slave?

    And whence the assumption that the programme “deprives
    people of proper paid work”? It is widely recognised by labour market
    economists that all employment subsidies have this effect TO SOME EXTENT. As
    long as the latter phenomenon is within acceptable limits, then that is not an
    argument against the work program.

  9. It’s about time something was done to get some of these lazy, workshy people back into work. Dubbing it ‘slave labour’ is total nonsense and something drummed up by people who are looking for an excuse to evade having to get a job and having to stop sponging off everyone else. I think it’s a good scheme, some young people can’t find any work by want to work, so this scheme at least gives them the opportunity to do so if they choose to. Yes they should remove their benefits if they screw it up, living in a country with a welfare system is a privilege and shouldn’t be taken for granted. Some families have lived for generations without work and that is totally wrong! Some think that they are entitled to benefits just because that’s the way the system has always worked and never intend to earn their money. Time for change is here.

    1. I’m going to assume that most people that want to work wish to do so primarily to earn money. And not to work for free for, in the case of Tesco, a company with already questionable ethics.

      Not to mention the fact that current employees’ hours are dropping as a result of these schemes.

  10. I think you should be able to choose whether you work or not. Why should you have to work when you enjoy spending your days at home or doing thigs you enjoy. I also think that people who choose this lifestyle choice should be paid more money so they can enjoy a better standard of living. They should tax at 40% everyone who earns mor than 20k

  11. Work 48+ hours a week. Extra flexibility expected. Penalized when you get so fatigued that you fall sick. Get paid reasonably but due to the amount of work you have to do you commit the cardinal sin of going into the 40% tax bracket. So now you don’t see your family most of the week and with NI you get only 50% of what you have toiled for. People on this scheme get work experience and they get to feel good that they are justifying the otherwise free money they are being handed. Yes I expect job seekers getting any sort of handout however minuscule to work for it because people like me fund their continued existence with the taxpaying slavery we find ourselves in.

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