SUWN activists noised up Dundee City Centre in today’s Mayday march, and Tony gave an impassioned call at the rally for folk to come and support next Saturday’s SUWN/Dundee Trades Council protest at The Range. He told the assembled trade unionists that since our Easter Monday protest against The Range’s use of forced unpaid labour, we had been contacted by numerous Range workers and ex-workers who describe working conditions that we had thought were left behind in the nineteenth century – including nine back to back twelve hour shifts, and sexual favours given in the hope of paid employment. NEXT SATURDAY’S DEMO – AGAINST WORKFARE SLAVERY AND WORKER EXPLOITATION – IS AT 1PM OUTSIDE THE RANGE IN LOCHEE. See youse there!
We were also pleased to note that Eric Cramb, opening the rally, repeated to wide applause the Fairness Commission recommendation to make Dundee a No Workfare City. We want to see this put into effective action and soon. You can show your support by signing and sharing our petition: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/make-dundee-a-no-workfare-city
The pictures show our stall in Dundee yesterday – carefully positioned opposite Debra who are a persistent workfare exploiter. (Thanks to Jonathan for the foties.) Despite the bitter spring weather we got out hundreds of leaflets (16-04-24 end forced labour – range demo) informing people about this government-sponsored slavery and about our next protest outside The Range – which we will be holding jointly with Dundee Trades Council on 7th May at 1pm.
Since our first protest outside The Range on Easter Monday we have been inundated with accounts of appalling treatment of both paid employees and workfare labour. These sound as though they had come from a Victorian jute mill rather than a modern store – including weeks of back to back 12 hour shifts and allegations of sexual impropriety. This behaviour can’t go unchallenged.
The leaflet asks people to:
- Let people know what is happening
- Tell us if you know of places exploiting people through workfare so we can publicise this
- Make a complaint in writing or in person to the manager of exploiting businesses or organisations
- Boycott exploiting businesses and organisations until they withdraw from the scheme
- Ask anyone you know who has been sent on these schemes to contact us so we can help them
- Join our protests against slave labour schemes – including our demo outside The Range on 7 May
- Sign our petition
We have launched a petition calling on Dundee City Council to make Dundee a No-Workfare City. This is an idea that received unanimous support from the Dundee Fairness Commission, and we are calling for it to be translated into action.
The petition reads:
We believe that a fair day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay, and no-one should be forced to work for benefits. We call on Dundee City Council to do all in their power, without delay, to MAKE DUNDEE A NO WORKFARE CITY.
We call on the City Council to agree that it will not itself be party to any workfare schemes and that it will make non-participation a condition for any organisation in receipt of council funding.
We also call on the Council to give official backing to a well-publicised campaign to give formal recognition to all businesses and organisations who agree not to participate in these schemes
Please sign and share with Dundee friends.
On Wednesday, the Dundee Courier published a desperate plea for volunteers from Mid-Lin Day Care Centre, which provides activities for vulnerable elderly people, including those with dementia. The article admitted that the centre is almost entirely run by volunteers. What it omitted to mention is that many of these ‘volunteers’ are actually unemployed folk, conscripted under various workfare schemes. Some are forced to work there for no pay for six months – 2 ½ times the length of the maximum community service punishment. If they refuse they can face thirteen weeks with no benefits.
Some old people can be quite uninhibited in letting off their frustrations and making personal comments; for the ‘volunteers’, being sworn at and receiving criticism is part of the ‘job’. And some of the centre’s users are incontinent, so ‘volunteers’ have to clear up the occasional accident. ‘Volunteers’ also take people to the toilet. And despite the intimacy of such tasks, we have been informed that the centre has told people not to worry about the lack of PVG disclosures. In the Courier article the centre manager describes volunteering as ‘great work experience’, but people we have spoken to complain that nothing was offered by way of training. They were even expected to pay for the lunch that ‘volunteers’ had helped prepare.
We know that Mid-Lin provides a vital service for its users, but at what cost – beyond the £18 a day charge? Their website states that they aim to promote ‘dignity’ and ‘choice’ for their users, but what about the unemployed who have no choice but to suffer the indignity of working for nothing. This is the reality of Cameron’s Big Society: a shoestring community service that only survives through a combination of charity and gross exploitation.
We have written three times to Mid-Lin asking them to reconsider their use of forced labour. They have not dignified us with an answer; but we can assure them that so long as they continue with this exploitation we will take every opportunity to let people know what is really going on behind that fence.