May 26 saw the National “How Do We Break Workfare” conference in Brighton organised by Brighton Benefits Campaign, with attendees from groups across the country. The one day conference saw a variety of discussions and workshops on the various work for your benefits schemes about the UK (for more on the various schemes see our factsheets), with subjects including direct action against workfare, the political context of workfare and fighting workfare in trade unions. Solfed had strongly supported the conference, seeing it as an important step in our current campaign against workfare.
At the conclusion, a number of important decisions were made, including the launch of a national network against workfare (see- Boycott Workfare), a national week of action against workfare and a call for a national boycott of Holland and Barrett, following on from Solidarity Federation’s campaign against the company.
We see these as important steps in building a nationwide working class movement against workfare, and found much agreement to our firm belief that workfare needs to be fought on a class basis, as an attack against all workers, rather than being seen as a moralistic, charity based issue affecting only claimants. At the workshop on the political context of workfare – run by Brighton SF – there was general consensus with our presentation. We argued that the introduction of workfare in the UK was part of a government led attempt to realign the labour market, to further promote the UK as a place with a “flexible” low-wage workforce, and to try and prevent the creation of a long term layer of “work refusers” as a result of the current mass unemployment.
The day served to give us renewed hope in the ongoing campaign, but has also reaffirmed our belief that if we are to defeat workfare, we need to grow the current political campaigns and passive opposition to workfare schemes into a genuine class movement against it.