Slave Labour

You may recall hearing of Cait Reilly, an unemployed recent graduate who worked stacking shelves in Poundland, and subsequently is challenging the policy of Mandatory Work  Activity in the High Court. This predictably caused a furore of scorn in the popular press, the Daily Mail version is here.

The original concept of MWA seemed to be quite sound, in exchanged for Jobseeker’s Allowance which seems to be the PC term for unemployment benefit, the young jobless would toddle off to work for a short period to gain “fundamental work disciplines, as well as being of benefit to local communities”.

This sounds all fine and dandy to me, but when it was originally introduced it specifically did not include working in the private sector, as far as I can understand.

The action that Cait Reilly is taking in court has highlighted a rather disturbing aspect of all this, namely a rather insidious form of slave labour for companies which include Tesco, Poundland, Boots and other high street names.

So, it would seem that this scheme has been extended to make it mandatory for the lucky chosen few to work for these companies for up to six months, which costs the company nothing, but the jobseeker is being funded by the taxpayer!

I really can see why Tesco would think this would be rather a good plan, but if they need additional staff, why can’t they just employ them and pay them? They really do not have any incentive whatsoever to actually employ anyone if they have a huge pool of unpaid labour at their disposal.

11 thoughts on “Slave Labour”

  1. Hello Ara: Living in “the land of the free and the home of the brave” I know of this HooHa only through the various bits of reporting. Overblown, would be my first reaction, but I tend to look at these things from the viewpoint of the employer which I was up until about the sixth year of this century. Poking around in the various links I see the MWA, clearly an ill conceived plan from the gitgo, what potential employer would be willing to give any job applicant credit for an OBLIGATORY work period? Not me for one.

    The SBWA by contrast, under which this Tesco job was initiated seems a bit more sensible, Voluntary? Yes, so it says right on the website and I quote:
    (Taking part in sector-based work academies is entirely voluntary, but once you accept a place you must complete the process. Your benefits may be affected if you do not complete the process. Taking part in sector-based work academies can last up to six weeks).

    So clearly not a permanent job either despite the ad. (and one might ask, why advertise the position if one can be compelled to take it?) and equally not slavery.

    My thoughts on the whole implementation of an indefinite period of “Job Seekers Allowance”, (just how wrong is it possible to be with a label) and its administration in the land of my birth I will keep for a post of my own.

  2. Hello LW, I must admit that “overblown” was my response to the article. It is an ill-conceived plan. Frankly, it has some merit in theory, as I said, but why should a taxpayer support Tesco or any other large profit making company?

    Probably isn’t slavery but pretty close, in my opinion. Did you read about the penalties for refusing these “placements”? The six weeks has somehow morphed into six months, and frankly it is a ridiculous. Actually, the whole concept of Tesco advertising on the site strikes me as a bit sinister.

    I suppose I would be more in favour of the project if it stuck to its original premise, but I cannot see how this benefits the economy at all. It seems to be a cynical exercise in fudging the figures.

    Look forward to your post. 🙂

  3. Tesco says that there was a misprint by the Job Centre.(Not by Tesco). Presumably it was meant to state ‘temporary’, rather than ‘permanent.’ My only complaint with the scheme, not with this particular case, is that it is voluntary. Every Job Seeker must be made to work at least 50% of the time that they are on Job Seeker’s Allowance. The government can sort it out with the employer who benefits from this sort of thing. Do not forget that Tesco and companies like them does pay huge amounts of tax, and in any event, everybody in Britain is a consumer and what is good for the retailers is good for the consumers. Prices down, profits up which means more tax paid and bigger dividends = bigger pension benefits.

  4. We do something very similar here well, not me, but our large corporations.

    Last weekend I was chatting to a young lady in my local coffee shop and when asked she explained that she was working for one of our banks on ‘work experience.’

    Similarly I have a pal working for a national clothing retailer who is shadowed everywhere by a ‘work experience candidate.’

    The difference perhaps is that as we have nothing like the benefit structure that you have, the various companys pay them, I have no idea how much but I assume round about the minimum wage. I have absolutely no doubt that the companys get a tax relief / incentive / benefit from the arrangement, so in the end these ‘work experience candidates’ are funded by the taxpayer.

    I don’t have a problem with that.

  5. Yup this is just plain wrong.

    The companies who are ’employing’ these people will not be creating jobs because the work is being done by these JSA people.

    However giving them menial tasks in the public sector is defo the right thing to do, charity work is another option. Soup kitchens, litter picking, graffiti cleaning, canal clearing. The posibilities are endless. It wouldn’t be ‘slave labour’, just ‘labour’. Of course the bleeding hearts and wishy washies will carry on grumbling that they should be getting their handouts for nothing but screw ’em.

    Private companies should be expected to hire the staff the need via legitimate employment. Getting people into jobs and off the dole will be very tricky if there are no jobs because there is a bottomless pit of dole wallers to do the work.

  6. Thanks, Sipu, Soutie and Furry.

    Sipu, I take your point, but I would still prefer that if Tesco needs more staff, temporary or permanent they should employ them in the normal way, and at least that would ensure that the unemployment benefit would cease while they were in employment. This scheme seems to have caused quite a backlash for the companies involved, and Sainsbury and Waterstone’s have already pulled out, and more will probably follow.


    I’m all for work experience for youngsters, we have, or used to have a similar scheme here. My daughter worked for two weeks with a veterinary practice, after which she decided it wasn’t really the career for her. I think this scheme is a little different.


    Yes, absolutely agree, they should be working for the public sector not private companies, although these days it could be a little tricky, most local authorities simply pay private contractors to collect rubbish, maintain parks and such like.

  7. Picking up LITTER!!!!
    The bloody country is awash with it EVERYWHERE!
    Sod Tescos, trust the yids to get something free.

    Utterly disgusting.

  8. Picking up litter would certainly be a useful thing to do. I agree, it is pretty disgusting here and I rather agree about the Tesco and their free labour.

Add your Comment

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s