Workfare, Tesco and Hysteria
We should be boycotting Tesco, apparently. Not because their stores are cold, sterile shit holes full of employees who seem to be pushing for the accolade of the worst possible customer service ever. Not because they are surprisingly expensive given their rhetoric about cheap prices. No, we should boycott them for taking part in a government scheme:
Tesco has come under increasing pressure from customers to stop participating in government unemployment schemes which allow the company to take on jobseekers to stack and clean shelves for up to eight weeks without paying them.So what's the problem here? Must be the fact that the scheme is for eight weeks, whereas this job was is permanent. Which leads us to this acknowledgement from Tesco:
After a link to a job centre advert was posted on Twitter on Wednesday evening, appearing to show that the supermarket giant was hiring for a permanent role as a night shift worker paying only jobseeker's allowance, customers began bombarding the supermarket chain with complaints on Twitter and on the company's Facebook site and threatening to withdraw their custom.
Tesco said an IT error was behind the posting.Fine, so that's sorted then. We can all move on, right? Wrong. The problem, it seems, is the programme itself:
The campaign group Boycott Workfare has said it is organising a protest for 3 March to target firms involved in what it has described as modern-day slave labour.Oh, here we go. First of all, if you have a problem with Workfare, then the single best thing to do would be to try to get the government to change that programme rather than attacking those companies who take part in a scheme that is, well, perfectly legal. This is the whole tax avoidance thing all over again. Want companies to stop avoiding tax? Get HMRC to be less shit at what they do rather than attempting to attack those companies whose behaviour is perfectly legal.
The second point is that those who do oppose workfare should calm the fuck down when it comes to their hyperbole. Slavery involves being owned entirely by another human being and being paid nothing for what you do. So this workfare programmae is not slavery. These people are being paid to do what they do - they are being paid the JSA to do work for those companies involved in workfare. Sure, the rate might not be particularly good. In fact, it is actually pretty piss poor, since a back of the envelope calculation reveals that the rate paid is less that £2 an hour. Furthermore, these people have a choice - they can either do the work (which, from my understanding of a scheme whose terms seem to vary depending on which article I read, they have to have shown some sort of an interest in) or lose their JSA. Sure, the choice might not be particularly edifying, but it remains a choice. Slaves are not paid; slaves have no choice whatsoever. To call this arrangement slavery is pretty ignorant; in fact, it borders on the offensive.
Behind all this lurks, I suspect, a certain level of snobbery about the jobs that tend to be offered as part of workfare. A lot of people don't want to work in retail. And I can understand why - the work is often tedious, pointless and a lot less inspiring that most people's dream job. But not everyone can work in their dream job. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the vast majority of people don't work in their dream job. They compromise. And a lot of people start from the bottom and work their way up. This is not an inspiring message, I know. But it is a realistic one. Particularly given the current economic circumstances and the fact that the government can no longer afford to keep so many people on long-term benefits.
But I digress. By all means boycott Tesco, and by all means oppose workfare (or whatever it's called). But for God's sake please try to be reaslitic and not hysterical as you do so.