Ultimate workfare flaw revealed - man does old job unpaid

Tue, 04/11/2014 - 13:13 -- nick

Those who have been writing on the government's love of forced labour have raised many objections to it, both moral and practical.

It takes away personal choice for unemployed people, it amounts to slavery, it denies them enough time to look for work, it is too often used as an apparent punishment.

All perfectly valid reasons to oppose it, and all demonstrative of the coalition's bottomless well of contempt for the workless.

Our main concern though has always been the question of whether it stands any real chance of improving employment prospects, and a new story shows it simply doesn't.

John McArthur, a Scottish jobseeker with a background in electronics work, lost his minimum wage job at Motherwell-based recycling company LAMH in 2011.

He had struggled to find work recently, despite applying for 50 jobs every week, so his jobcentre decided he needed a dose of forced workfare through the community work placement (CWP) programme.

So where did they send him?

Straight back to LAMH for six months to do exactly the same job he had been laid off from, but this time for no pay.

There is more to this story too.

LAMH has only 39 employees but, according to The Guardian, 16 of them - a full 41% of the total and a greater proportion of non-managers - are free workers placed through CWP.

This is the strongest evidence yet that workfare doesn't work even in the most basic terms.

DWP's only real responsibility to unemployed people is to give them enough money to live on while they are out of work, and help them find a job.

It fails hugely on the first count - its sanctions targets remove the lowest benefits in western Europe from too many, benefits which have been capped and cut multiple times - and on the second, with many now calling for jobcentres to be abolished because of their terrible record in employment support.

It now appears to have moved beyond even this damage to its clients' prospects.

If it can provide nearly half of a single company's employees for free - which means paid for by taxpayers who subsidise the firm's expenses - and place someone who used to be paid to do a job in exactly the same job without pay, the case for displacement is indisputable.

Displacement means that the CWP, and other programmes like it, fills vacancies with unpaid people and takes paid jobs out of the economy, to the cost of everyone.

After all, why would a company pay for an employee if it can get one for free?

Unsurprisingly, the government would rather conduct this dirty business in secret, and it is currently fighting the information commissioner on whether it should reveal where it has sent free labour.

It claims this is because it doesn't want those who provide the placements to be targeted by protestors, but imagine how awkward it would be if it was found that those receiving this state subsidy were also Tory party donors.

A senior civil servant, giving evidence to the information commissioner, claimed that companies could not use unpaid staff to replace paid staff.

The case of John McArthur and LAMH shows this statement to be the nonsense it is.