The Court of Appeal has ruled that the British Government was wrong to force those without jobs to work for nothing in order to continue receiving unemployment benefit. The ruling arose after two students, Cait Reilly and Jamie Wilson, who had been made to work in this way, challenged the legality of the schemes. The Solidarity Federation , the anarcho-syndicalist union, had been at the forefront of the nationwide campaign, involving picketing of businesses, against these workfare schemes. Other organisations, specifically Boycott Workfare , have also played a prominent role in the campaign. All in all, the ruling equates to a major victory for the unemployed and a kick in the teeth for the Tory Government. Moreover, legal experts believe every single person who was discriminated against in this way – we are talking hundreds of thousands – is entitled to financial compensation.
Sol Fed spent 18 months picketing companies – mainly retail chains and charities – who have been exploiting the unemployed by paying them little or nothing. It was a solid campaign encompassing the entire country, requiring dedication and hard work. In the end, all that hard work paid off and those involved are to be congratulated.
According to the group, Public Interest Lawyers, which represented Reilly and Wilson…”The effect of the judgment is that all those people who have been sanctioned by having their jobseeker’s allowance withdrawn for non-compliance with the Back to Work Schemes will be entitled to reclaim their benefits. And until new regulations are enacted with proper Parliamentary approval nobody can be compelled to participate on the schemes.”
Cait Reilly was made to stack shelves in Poundland for two weeks, and Jamie Wilson was stripped of his Jobseeker’s allowance for 6 months after refusing to participate in a scheme which required him to work 30 hours a week for six months for free.
Click here to see more commentary from the lawyers group,
To see the entire ruling, click here .
Government fights back
But it hasn’t taken long for the humiliated government to get forced unpaid work back on the road again, promising a “short sharp shock”. The Government is currently rushing through regulations which mean that these schemes may become mandatory. Meanwhile, since the ruling the Work Programme, Work Experience, Sector Based Work Academies, Community Action Programme and Trailblazer schemes are all now illegal. However, it is assumed the companies and charities involved in the workfare schemes will continue with them until instructed not to, and for this reason picketing continues. Source: Boycott Workfare & Solidarity Federation.
Firms pulling out of the schemes
The Children’s Society announced this week they would no longer take part in the Mandatory Work Activity scheme. This follows the decision of SENSE to pull out, whilst the YMCA are believed to be considering their position. They join Scope, British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Shelter, Oxfam, Age UK and Marie Curie, who have all made announcement rejecting forced unpaid work. Sadly some charities are not so ethical. Whilst Marie Curie were one of the first charities to abandon workfare, the similar charity, Sue Ryder are unrepentant. This is despite the announcement that sick and disabled claimants can now be sent on workfare. The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) have amended their statement to claim they will not force people on sickness or disability benefits to work unpaid. However the shocking truth is that many sick and disabled claimants are now on mainstream unemployment benefits due to the ruthless re-assessments. With no health checks or medical advice prior to starting workfare, it will possibly take a tragedy before TCV wake up to what they are involved in. Other charities still using workfare include The Salvation Army, despite a string of misleading and contradictory statements intended to hide their use of forced work. The RSPCA, who are opposed to animals being forced to work in the Circus, have no such scruples when it comes to human beings and also happily take unpaid staff on workfare schemes. Source: Johnny Void .
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