Define Slavery

So, the Government’s Back-To-Work programme is just as non-controversial as many of it’s other hare-brained ideas.

Cait Reilly took the UK Government to Court and argued that having to stack shelves in Poundland or lose £52 Jobseeker’s Allowance breached her Human Rights.  The Appeal Court  backed key parts of the geology graduate’s claim and quashed the regulations that underpin the Government’s back-to-work schemes. Ms Reilly complained she was subjected to ‘forced labour’ which breached her Human Rights after being told she risked losing her Jobseeker’s Allowance if she refused to work for nothing at the discount store.

I don’t approve of people playing the system and claiming Benefits just because they’d rather not work, but there are many, many people out there who did not ask to be unemployed, many of them are unemployed as a direct result of the ConDem Coalition’s policies.  They have their household bills to pay, were presumably quite happy in their jobs and suddenly found themselves unemployed as they were made redundant or their employer’s business collapsed spectacularly around their ears.  Why should these people work for nothing?  At the risk of upsetting a few I would go so far as to say they are proud people.  I know many people who are proud of their jobs, proud of their employers and too bloody proud to claim benefits which they later become entitled to.
And then we have that nice Mr Iain Duncan-Smith, millionaire no doubt, likely to ever sign on?  Don’t think so.
He has the grand title of Work and Pensions Secretary.  He is quoted as saying
“Let me be very clear — our back to work schemes are successful and are not slave labour.Nobody works for free on these placements because the Government continues to pay their benefits. So nobody is working for nothing, are they?……………..People who are fit to work should no longer expect to receive benefits if they do not do everything they can to get a job……………To compare work experience to “slave labour” is hugely insulting to people living in oppression around the world and sneers at hard-working taxpayers who pay for benefits.”

In this instance the “employer” was Poundland.  It appears to me that they weren’t paying Ms Reilly a single penny.  So was Ms Reilly working for nothing?  In my opinion (by no means qualified in employment law) YES.  Were Poundland required to pay HM Government anything for Ms Reilly’s services?  Not that I know of.  Were Poundland benefitting from Free Labour?  Again, in my opinion, the answer is YES.

I want to make it clear that I am in no way crtiticising Poundland in this sorry tale.  As far as I am concerned they have become innocently embroiled in a political hot potato.

The DWP have said that up to 150,000 people had had their benefits stopped for failing to take part in schemes.

Iain Duncan Smith called the ruling ‘utter madness’ and said he had ‘no intention’ of paying compensation to any claimant who declined to join a scheme and had their benefits docked as a result.

The Oxford Dictionary defines Slavery thus;

  • a condition of having to work very hard without proper remuneration or appreciation:

It defines Slave as;

  • a person who works very hard without proper remuneration or appreciation:
  • a person who is excessively dependent upon or controlled by something

Finally it defines Slave Labour as;

  • labour which is coerced and inadequately rewarded

The Government define their Back to Work Programme as this;

Work experience scheme – For 16 to 24-year-olds. Scheme offers a work experience placement with a business for two to eight weeks. Job seekers volunteer for the course but they must continue to look for permanent jobs. These placements can become apprenticeships and lead to potential employment later.

Sector based work academy places – Open to people of all ages. They are voluntary to join and can last for six weeks, including training and then four weeks’ work experience, tailored to local job vacancies. They end in a guaranteed job interview. Jobseekers can still claim benefits but once they get a place attendance becomes mandatory and face losing benefits if they don’t attend.

Mandatory work activity – Placements are usually for people who have been unemployed for more than 13 weeks.  Each placement can last up to four weeks. People can still receive benefits but can face losing them for 13 weeks if they fail to attend.

Work programme – is open to anyone and is the backbone of the government’s back-to-work policy.  If you are 18-24, nine months after you start to claim jobless benefits you are required to attend the Work Programme. If you are above 25 years old, 12 months after you start to claim jobseekers’ allowance you are required to attend. It is delivered by companies and charities appointed as service providers by the DWP.

Post work programme – expected to start this year, it will be for those who have been through the Work Programme and have still not found a job. Participants will be expected to accept ongoing case management or a community action placement – a mandatory six-month work experience placement tailored to your local communities needs. Anyone who fails to attend without a good reason faces losing their benefits.

(The Highlighting is mine)

So there we have it, slavery or not slavery?  You decide.

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