Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Lewisham Workfare Protest

Earlier this month (3rd March 2012) there was a national day of action against 'workfare' - the various schemes whereby unemployed people are compelled to work without pay or lose their benefits. Up to 50 people took part in a mobile protest in Lewisham town centre targeting shops involved in the government's programme including Primark, Boots, Greggs, BHS and McDonalds, chanting slogans such as "No wages: Outrageous!"

The call-out for the Lewisham action stated: 'The government and some in the media present it as a way of encouraging people back into work by gaining experience. This ignores two things – first, there are not enough jobs available for those who want them; and second, workfare placements themselves are taking jobs away from paid workers. We have no problem with people learning while working – this used to be called apprenticeships. But workfare tells the unemployed that they will lose their benefit if they do not work for their it. In every other context the minimum wage applies, so why not here?'.

Nick Turner, Branch Secretary GMB Goldsmith’s student workers branch said; 'The government work programme forces mandatory work onto job seekers with multi-billion pound profit making companies who can otherwise more than afford to pay their staff. The government have denied that benefit claimants are forced into their work but it has become clear that those refusing to work for free are being told their benefits will be stopped if they do not take part.This is not only completely unfair on the individual but also depresses the job market - why would a company employ a paid member of staff if they can get them from the dole for free and without a fuss? We are calling on Goldsmiths students and Lewisham residents to fight for the revolutionary concept that if when you work, you should get paid for it. As the old slogan has it “a fair days work deserves a fair day's pay"'.

Another day of action is planned for Lewisham Town Centre on the afternoon of 31 March (exactly 22 years since the London poll tax riot, but can't guarantee it will be quite that big or exciting).  In the lead up to it South London Solidarity Federation have called a 'Public meeting in a public space to discuss the growing direct action campaign against workfare' on Saturday 17th March at 2 pm - venue and possible action to be confirmed, but facebook event details here.

See also: report of recent Lewisham protest at East London Lines; report of a Socilalist Party protest outside Lewisham McDonalds on 25 February; report of Right to Work campaign picket outside Tesco Express on Lewisham Way, 22 February.

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