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Posted on 29 February 2012 at 16:36 GMT

Protesting against the government's slave labour workfare scheme outside McDonald's, Leeds, Feb 2012, photo Iain Dalton

Protesting against the government's slave labour workfare scheme outside McDonald's, Leeds, Feb 2012, photo I. Dalton   (Click to enlarge)

McWorkfare - "Let's campaign until it's stopped completely"

Demanding decent jobs in Sheffield

On Monday 27th February, 35 protesters gathered outside McDonald's in Sheffield city centre to voice their disgust at the Con-Dems' forced labour schemes.

Currently, people claiming jobseekers allowance (JSA) stand to have their benefits taken away if they refuse to take part in mandatory work schemes, some up to 35 hours per week.

This is equivalent to being paid as little as 1.78 per hour and is the result of a cosy business relationship between the government and many of the UK's largest corporations.

Socialist Students and Youth Fight for Jobs have been spearheading the campaign against workfare in Sheffield, working closely with other groups.

However, whilst the campaign of workfare protests is having clear successes, forcing the withdrawal of companies such as Burger King, TKMaxx and Poundland, public consciousness is lagging behind - many members of the public we spoke to in handing out leaflets were unaware that the scheme was mandatory, that jobseekers could lose their JSA if they refuse to take part.

The concerted media campaign to dub workfare as 'work experience' and to vilify opponents of the scheme as a "handful of communists" (George Eustace MP, BBC interview 25/2/2012) must be combated by our campaigns - by handing out factsheets to members of the public, by one-to-one discussion, and by approaching staff within workfare employers, through unions if possible.

We should demand that youth are not left on the scrapheap, that decent jobs with decent pay are provided to all and that education and apprenticeships are made available to all young people and the unemployed. We refuse to be a lost generation!

Chaz Lockett, secretary, Socialist Students Society, University of Sheffield

Successful protest in Leeds

Protesting against workfare in Wakefield, February 2012, photo Iain Dalton

Protesting against workfare in Wakefield, February 2012, photo Iain Dalton   (Click to enlarge)

In Leeds on Monday 27th February Youth Fight for Jobs (YFJ) protested outside a branch of McDonald's against the government's workfare scheme.

We may have been small, but what we lacked in numbers we made up for in determination. Over the course of the hour we were there we handed out at least a hundred flyers and had discussions with members of the public.

The overwhelming majority supported our campaign, however it seems that the government's attempt to convince the public that this mandatory scheme is in any way voluntary seems to be winning a small percentage of people over.

Even the staff seemed curious, as one member of their crew, having finished his shift, came out to discuss our campaign with us.

Once we had explained why we were there he agreed that the workfare scheme needs to be scrapped. He then walked back inside, presumably to talk to his colleagues about it.

After all, this disgusting scheme to rob us of our future in order to boost the profits of the corporations involved, not only threatens the unemployed with mandated work paid at a pitiful 1.78 per hour by the government rather than the employer, but also threatens those currently employed with losing their jobs as companies seek to use workfare slave labour to boost their profit margins.

In all, we had a successful protest which raised a lot of awareness of the workfare scheme. However, if we are to be completely successful and convince those companies that haven't already backed out of it, of its toxicity, we need to keep the pressure on.

We need to continue protesting and we need to ensure that we spread the word as far and wide as possible in order to combat the misinformation the public is being exposed to by certain branches of the media.

Rhiannon Wright, Leeds Youth Fight for Jobs

Spiderman backs protest in Birmingham

Protests against the government's slave labour Work Programme have spread across the country in recent days.

Birmingham saw three protests on Saturday 25th March, including a Socialist Party / Youth Fight for Jobs protest outside Tesco in Yardley.

The store management would have been glad to see the back of us, and security were keeping a watchful eye, but the protest was well supported by Tesco customers, especially by unemployed workers exploited by workfare and by their friends and families. Even superheroes were behind us - at a campaign stall beforehand a man in a Spiderman costume stopped to sign our petition!

The support for this and other demonstrations discredits the government's desperate attempts to isolate protesters as 'a few Trots'.

The scheme is in crisis because the government and big business have been caught out using unemployed workers as slave labour and working class people have rallied against this exploitation.

The Work Programme is on the verge of collapse. Let's campaign until it's scrapped completely and replaced by real jobs, not slave labour!

Birmingham Socialist Party

Management try to move protesters in Wakefield

Youth Fight for Jobs & Education organised a protest in Wakefield on 27th February against the government's controversial workfare schemes, outside one of the companies yet to pull out, McDonald's.

A small band of us met just outside the city centre store at noon and quickly had a table set up, with Youth Fight for Jobs and Socialist Party petitions, flyers and posters.

Two of us began handing flyers out and engaging the public outside the entranceway. The store's management was soon quick to make an appearance, insisting that we take our action across the street.

But causing no obstruction to customers entering the store, we persisted. After an hour we must have got through over a hundred leaflets with ease, the majority of which ended up in the heads of the customers heading inwards for lunch.

The majority of people seemed curious, happy to accept a leaflet and began skimming through it as soon as you had handed it to them, eager to find out what all the fuss is about.

Others remained long enough to sign a petition either at the door or the table stand and conversed on the issue with us. It was a very successful day.

Erika Sykes, Wakefield Youth Fight for Jobs and Socialist Party

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