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End unpaid work!

Workfare means unemployed people being forced to do unpaid work for their benefits. Workfare is a state subsidy to private businesses, providing free labour and undercutting the minimum wage. We say end unpaid work. Use the tabs for more background information, or see below for the latest.

What is workfare?

Unemployed people being forced to work for free for up to 6 months with no guarantee of a job afterwards, many of them for major high street companies.

Does workfare help the unemployed?

The government’s own research found that in countries that introduced workfare it could actually lower a jobseeker’s chances of finding a job. Where previously these roles would have been filled by paid staff, employers get to take advantage of a growing pool of jobseekers they won’t have to pay.

What if I have a job already?

Workfare means employers can lay-off their staff and replace them with people they don’t have to pay. The point of workfare is to drive down wages and working conditions, undermining even the minimum wage which many struggle to survive on.

The bottom line

Workfare isn’t about saving money – in fact these schemes are hugely expensive to the government. Workfare is a massive subsidy to private companies: providing them with free labour at public expense. The government has long been subsidising companies that pay low wages by topping-up poverty pay with benefits and tax credits. The state and businesses are colluding to undermine all our conditions. Workfare means less pay for us and more profits for them.

For more information see the logic of workfare.



Latest Updates

Newcastle SolFed in anti workfare demo, target Marks and Spencers

Newcastle SolFed were out again today highlighting the use of unpaid labout under the Governments controversial Workfare Scheme. High street chain Marks and Spencers was again targetted by Newcastle SolFed members and as ever there was a positive response from the public.

Anti-workfare picket of Lewisham Marks & Spencer Saturday 7th December

South London Solfed has called an anti-workfare picket of Lewisham Marks & Spencer in solidarity with Boycott Workfare's week of action this Saturday, 7th December at 1pm.

M&S's use of workfare made news in June when they announced 1400 new 'work experience' placements for young unemployed people would be made available. These positions are unpaid. Indeed, M&S have set a benchmark of 2% of their workforce to be unpaid. More info via Boycott Workfare here.

SolFed supports Boycott Workfare's Noise Demo

On 2nd December, those driving forced labour for unemployed people on the government's workfare schemes are getting together for their annual conference at Senate House, Malet Street, London.

Photo From The Anti-Workfare Walk Of Shame Monday May 6th

The British Heart Foundation Uses Forced Unpaid Labour. 

We also picketed Poundland, Dorothy Perkins, Burtons, Top Man/Top Shop and Debenhams.  If previous holidays are anything to go by Workfare companies will have had people in working for nothing on Workfare rather than pay their regular staff holiday pay for the Bank holiday.

More photos on our Facebook page:


May Day Poundland picket in Manchester

A picket of Poundland was organised in Manchester on May Day to coincide with the IWA days of action against Austerity, Exploitation and Oppression. Poundland  is making use of the government's Workfare programme that forces the unemployed to work for nothing. The picket was organised by Manchester Solfed and was supported by members of Manchester AF. The picket took place at the Poundland shop in the Arndale Shopping centre and we were soon approached by security staff who demanded we stop our protest on the grounds that it was taking place on private property.

Workfare Picket in Hull - 6th of April.

Hull SolFed recently held a picket against the Workfare scheme outside of the new Poundland store, in the centre of town. Four SolFed members were joined by three members of the local unemployed peoples group in distributing leaflets and asking shoppers not to use Poundland. The picket managed to both turn customers away and engaged a lot of sympathetic passersby in conversation about the workfare scheme. The stores managers were unpleased with the picket, asking Humberside police to move us a small distance away from the doors (Approx 6 inches, in fact!). One member decided to respond with loud slogans, causing more interest than before.

I was going to buy something - but fuck it!

The continuing struggle against workfare was taken, by Bristol Anarchist Federation, to the door of shameless exploiters at Homebase. Bristol Solidarity Federation responded to the request for support and turned up to spread the clear message - "Workfare is Slavery"

Report from a day of protest against Benefit Reform and Workfare in Tottenham

In the morning some of us went to the 1000 Mothers March against the benefit Changes in Tottenham with Haringey Solidarity Group. There was good turn out of 5-600 and a lively local march made its way from Tottenham green up the high street.                                                                                        We peeled off and headed down to Turnpike Lane to picket Poundland along with members of Solent Solfed, (who'd come down for the party later that evening) from 1pm onwards.

Workfare picket hits a nerve in Haringey

North London SolFed and Haringey Solidarity Group picketed Homes for Haringey on Wednesday 10th April. It was our second picket there over the use of workfare by the council housing provider and a charity Groundwork. After sacking one third of their gardening staff two years ago, they are now forcing benefit claimants to do the work for no pay.

East and West London Unite to Attack Workfare

Despite the freezing temperatures and snow showers on Saturday 23rd March, members of Feminist Fightback, North London Solfed, Boycott Workfare and other local groups, residents and anti-workfare protesters picketed Argos in Leytonstone and Poundland in Wembley.

In Leytonstone, for a large demonstration the reception from the public was generally very positive, with residents driving past slowing down and opening windows asking for leaflets. Plenty of people stopped to chat despite the cold.

Haringey Council and Groundwork picketed over Workfare

Yesterday North London Solidarity Federation picketed the Homes For Haringey offices in Wood Green and the depot for Groundwork, in Tottenham, who are employed by the Council to provide gardening and improvement services on estates in the area. The demonstration was against Groundwork's use of workfare; unemployed people are forced by Jobcentres to do the work. They are not being paid for it and they can't refuse or they would lose their benefits for two months.

Portsmouth Poundland picket 2nd March 2013

Solent Solfed & CNT-AIT Caen


On the 2nd of March, Solent SolFed with comrades from Bristol and Brighton locals along with CNT-AIT Caen, Forest of Dean Anarchists, Wessex Solidarity and others, picketed Poundland in Portsmouth as part of our rolling campaign against the mendacious workfare provider (they keep staying they’ve pulled out). This particular shop had two employees working for JSA however.

"The Secretary of State may select a claimant for participation in a scheme"

The title of this post is the sole criterion set down in the new workfare regulations regarding whom and under what conditions a person might be required to undertake one of the Government’s forced labour schemes (with the exception of MWA).

Workfare: what's your experience?

Are you unemployed and placed on one of the DWP’s Workfare schemes? Contact us.

The court recently judged the DWP regulations surrounding the workfare programme as unlawful. Claimants on any of the other schemes can now withdraw without threat of sanction and existing sanctions must be brought to an end. Unless the DWP wins the right of appeal, all those who have been sanctioned will be entitled to repayment of lost benefit and all referrals will have been unlawful.

Poundland: still using workfare

Despite being the focus of the court judgement of 12 February which ruled workfare regulations unlawful, Poundland continue to use unpaid labour. In a statement after the judgement, Poundland boss Jim McCarthy said

“Poundland recognises the importance of offering work experience to people looking to get back into work.


contact info

You can get in touch via solfed[AT]solfed.org.uk, which will put you in touch with your nearest SF Local or relevant SF collective.

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Solidarity Federation