Most regular readers of the Hoof probably think that the slave trade was abolished in 1833 when it became unprofitable for our corporate handlers. Why bother trudging all the way to Africa? It was far cheaper using the new urban poor; Especially, if you built slums right next door for them to live in or even better a slum town next to your factory where you can control EVERY aspect of their lives.
The debt crisis of 1719 saw the government of the time sell The South Sea Company half of the public debt for exclusive trading rights to the rich West Indies and for the profitable African slave trade. Not much seems to have changed government thinking since then, only the price and the management buzz words. The debt crisis of 2008 has seen them reintroduce the slave trade. HUZZAH! Although, it’s now called WORKFARE and is probably talked about as, “a dynamic public private partnership to synergise the reemployment of our indissoluble disengaged workforce”.
Benefactors from the slave trad…sorry, WONKFORCE really are in a win, win situation with unemployment so high they will have lots of slav…sorry, sorry WORKFARCE personnel to call on, ensuring that they keep unemployment high by not creating any jobs thus ensuring that they will have plenty of sla…again, sorry…WORKFART personnel ready to help out and engage in a meaningful way with their community once more.
“Who are the new slave masters?” I hear you ask. The new slave masters (Under the ever watchful eye of Iain Duncan Smith, the Secretary of State for Slavery, Community Destruction and Welfare Removal) are Jobcentres and private employment provider companies such as Serco and G4S who have placed over 20,000 people into the WORKFARE system since May 2011. The private employment provider companies such as Serco and G4S receive payment for each person they get back into WORKFARE so there is clearly a big incentive for them to get as much people through the WORKFARE system as possible.
So, vast corporations, not content with having lots of slaves in sweaty tax free work-zones around the world are getting in on the game back in the UK. TK Maxx, Wilkinson’s, Tesco, Primark, Matalan and many, many other major retailers are using unemployed people who are sent to work for them without pay, holidays, and pensions and with very little chance of permanent employment at the end of the scheme. City councils and hospitals always keen to follow the corporate model have also been getting involved. There can be no doubt about it slavery is a very good way to cut costs and maximise profits for shareholders.
The Private concerns – Holland & Barrett who have cut down on overtime for staff because workfare can fill the gaps - Tesco – HMV – one manager described their workfare worker as “our free person” – Catherine C Baxendale Tesco director is a private donator to the conservative party – Matalan – “we are always grateful of the extra help, especially during busy times” – - Bookers Wholesale – Sainsbury’s – Argos – Maplin – TK Maxx – Primark – Boots – McDonald’s – Burger King – Arcadia group of clothes stores owned Sir Philip Green, Government advisor and tax avoider - Superdrug.
The Charitees – Age Concern – Barnados – British Heart Foundation – Cancer Research – Capability Scotland – Gorgie City Farm – Marie Curie -PDSA -Saffron Acres Project – Salvation Army – Shelter
The Public concerns – The Royal Mail – Newham Council – Whittington Hospital – porters and receptionists - Haringey Council – Who have decimated their parks staff and intend to “bridge the gap” with Community Payback and workfare placements - Finsbury Park Business Forum – Wardens are deployed around stations in North London. In 2010, 800 paid station staff were made redundant across the Underground.
Whips in the Mind.
A spokesperson from Matalan said: “We obviously get people who want to work and we are always grateful of the extra help, especially during busy times.” The discount retailer added the placements gave participants a chance to “Try the job out to see if it’s the right career for them,” and that they gain “a wealth of valuable experience and get a chance to engage with their community. The best bit about it all of course is that we don’t need whips anymore, which might tire our arms out. We simply report them to a Jobcentre Plus for not working hard enough and they will remove all their benefits which will probably make them and their families destitute”
Matalan, which posted profits of £73 million in February 2011, said it did not know how many people have participated in its placements across the country as these are managed on a store-by-store, ship-by-ship basis but they were very much looking forward to the 500, 000 public sector employees about to become unemployed.
Other shocking examples of exploitation in the modern slave trade include two tradespersons tasked to build a new house which would have cost around £3000 for their labour. They received £67.50 per week each for the work, with the threat of having their benefits stopped if they chose not to do the work. So if you take an average 37 hour week you can work out the approximate hourly rate of £1.80!
When we called the Office of Slavery, Community Destruction and Welfare Removal at Westminster to challenge the legality of working below the minimum wage a senior Civil Servant told us “£1.80 and hour is probably far too much for the working class to earn, they will only go and spend their money on gin and dog fighting and other common pastimes. Anyway, they can always get their kids out working. Chimneys will always need sweeping.”
A former staff member at Newham Council, who wishes to remain anonymous, described the reaction of staff when they found out that one of their colleagues was only receiving benefits for her work:
“I went to [her] leaving do … We were all so sorry to see her go. She was an older lady and was one of the most hard-working and genuinely helpful admin staff we’d ever had. Worked her hours plus more and nothing was ever too much trouble for her. We honestly didn’t know why she was leaving after only six months. She’d worked a minimum of 37 hours per week (often more) and been the backbone of service delivery. The basic starting wage for that level is around £17,000 but for the work she was doing I would have expected her to be started at a few thousand more.
Yet all she was getting was JSA and the fares for her lengthy bus journeys, while people doing identical work were getting a salary, paid leave and pension contributions.
We were horrified.
Wrongly, we assumed this woman would be hired back as proper staff within days. The role was needed; she’d proven herself to be a fantastic worker, was well regarded and knew the systems. But no, the post was suddenly deemed no longer required and this lady never came back to us. She did exactly the same job as paid staff, yet didn’t get the same salary. This is illegal if the reason is age or race, but perfectly acceptable if someone has claimed a state benefit. It’s exploitation and it’s repellent.”
Newham Council has not responded to our repeated enquiries from the Dirty Hoof about its use of slaves but we were told that when the councillors return from their fact finding mission to Africa they would promptly ignore our request.
Our thanks, love, solidarity and apologies go to corporate Watch & Boycott Workfare for the background, links, information and interviews.
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