This week – from Saturday 7th to Saturday 14th July – sees a UK-wide week of action against workfare, called by Boycott Workfare following the national How Do We Break Workfare conference in Brighton. Before the week had even started, Holland and Barrett – a major client which had committed to taking on 1,000 workfare placements – pulled out of the scheme entirely, though not without issuing a statement accusing protestors of posing a threat to their staff and customers:
The retailer said that during protests over the year, staff had faced abusive telephone calls, assault, human barricades preventing them entering and leaving, and damage to its stock.
The company said it was not aware that police had charged activists in connection with the allegations but added: “We take our responsibilities as a retailer and employer very seriously, and any possible compromise to the safety of our staff and customers from opponents of our work experience scheme is treated with great importance.”
This decision puts Holland and Barrett in the company of Sainsburys, Waterstones, TK Maxx and a host of other high street chains and charities who have announced their withdrawal from the scheme.
In York, protestors from York Welfare Campaign took part in a picket of Greggs the Baker, while protests are planned elsewhere for later in the week. Meanwhile, government figures announced on Monday showed that less than 25% of claimants were no longer on benefits after 36 weeks on the programme – a figure which does not even indicate the number who found work, only those who stopped claiming. Meanwhile, a host of new companies have been publicly identified as participating in the system, including banks, hotels, food outlets, hospitals, charities and more.
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