Unite condemns government's rushed attempt to shor...

Unite condemns government's rushed attempt to shore up discredited workfare

18 March 2013

Unite, Britain’s biggest union, has today (Monday 18 March) denounced government attempts to rush through legislation designed to shore up its discredited workfare programme.

A court last month declared that jobseekers Cait Reilly and Jamieson Wilson had been unlawfully made to work unpaid for organisations including Poundland because the Department of Work and Pensions had not given jobseekers enough legal information about what they were being made to do.

The programme has also been attacked for not creating new work but instead displacing existing workers by getting the young unemployed to do the work for free.

The court ruling paved the way for jobseekers, who have been sanctioned for not working unpaid, to claim compensation.

However, Iain Duncan Smith, the secretary of state for work and pensions, is to rush emergency legislation aimed at undermining the court’s judgement through parliament in a bid to shore up the failing workfare programme, which was recently attacked by the public accounts committee for falling woefully short of its own targets for returning people to fully paid employment.

Unite, which also represents unemployed people, is also calling for MPs to strongly oppose the bill and to stand up for the rights of jobseekers – and put the focus where it ought to be, on creating genuine jobs.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “This is a cynical, move by the Tory-led government to avoid giving rightful compensation to jobseekers who have fallen foul of the incompetence of the Department of Work and Pensions. When will they learn that rushed law is bad law?

“The courts have told Iain Duncan Smith that his approach is unlawful. And the public accounts committee has decried the woeful success rate of his schemes. Given this, the government ought to be going back to the drawing board, not trying to hoodwink MPs by rushing through a patch up.

“Workfare programmes are exploitative, cruel and a total waste of the talents of our young people. Studies from the US and guidance given to the UK government showed that these schemes have no record in finding people paid employment.

“Workfare is nothing more than forced labour scheme for big business. It should be opposed at every turn. That is the only way to put pressure upon the government creating real jobs to help give one million young unemployed people a real future.”


For further information please the Unite Press Office on 020 3371 2065.

Notes to editors: 

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with 1.5 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.