UPDATE: Homebase are feeling the heat, time to turn it up! Bristol Demo This saturday ( Facebook / Indymedia ) Bath on Sunday ( Facebook / Indymedia) and two demos called in London. More in the works… In the mean time keep up the pressure online!
Yesterday, sources including Tom Pride’s blog, revealed that Homebase had been recruiting unpaid workers via a ‘work experience program’. Even worse they were actually boasting about getting extra hours of work by exploiting job seekers and reducing their ‘payroll costs’. A poster was spotted in a management office asking ‘would 750 hours with no payroll costs benefit your store?‘. Few companies are this brutally honest about their motivations!
Our first response was to ‘politely contact’ homebase online, and we were far from the only ones. Angry comments on twitter & facebook were popping up faster than they could delete them. They managed to remove ours, only for a many of our facebook friends to repost it. All these responses seemed to worry the management at Homebase and they quickly put out a couple of rushed statements including:
‘[..] The company has not signed up to the workfare programme, but, on occasions, works with local organisations to help unemployed people into the workplace. A number of unemployed people have recently joined our Haringey store through JobCentre Plus in a short, voluntary programme, to gain work experience. They are entirely under no obligation to participate, nor will non participation affect any benefits. Colleagues at this store also have not been impacted by this programme in any reduction of hours.’ and ‘Some of our best colleagues have joined us having previously been unemployed […]‘
Even on a first read through these statements seem to be full of double speak and blatant lies. They start by saying they haven’t signed up to workfare but then describe a workfare scheme they have evidently signed up to! They move on to say it is voluntary even though it has been repeatedly revealed that the job centre forces people onto so-called ‘voluntary’ schemes, by threatening them with sanctions, telling them the only alternative is an even worse mandatory scheme, illegally giving inaccurate information and not explaining to them their right to refuse.
Next they say that the workfare scheme has not impacted staff or reduced over time hours, boycott workfare quickly exposed this as an outright lie with a staff member reporting massive reductions in overtime. They also revealed that Homebase isn’t offering any of their unpaid workers jobs, hardly surprising given the fact that only 4% of people on the work program end up with steady job. As for their claim that some people who got a job with them were unemployed before hand? Well surely this is true anywhere, its quite common to be unemployed before you get a job!
We’re calling on individuals and groups around the country to join us in taking action against Homebase. (facebook event)
Bristol AFed, SolFed and friends at one of our previous anti-workfare demonstrations
We propose that people keep up the contact and criticism via their twitter, facebook, you tube, customer email, media enquiries email, post box, and telephone. Then, if Homebase has not 100% officially backed out of all methods of exploiting unpaid workers at the expense of their paid staff, we call on people to hold protests at their local homebase store a week from now, on Saturday the 13th and Sunday the 14th of APRIL. If there isn’t a Homebase close by, why not hold a protest at an Argos instead, seeing as it also uses workfare in the same way and is owned by the same parent company!
If you are thinking of joining in with the national days of action against Homebase, we highly recommend you speak to the staff working in the shop before hand. If you work their yourself, or know someone that does, this is ideal. Even if you don’t it is worth going down before your protest and politely talking to staff in a relaxed way. Make it clear that your protest is not aimed at them, but at the management and owners of homebase. Explain how if this isn’t stopped it could negatively affect their jobs. Encourage them to get together and talk to other members of staff at Homebase, and consider joining a workplace group or union to fight to protect and improve their pay and conditions (we would recommend the IWW or Solidarity Federation, but the choice will depend on the local situation).
We will be calling for a picket and protest at our local Homebase, in the mean time we have set up a Facebook Event to help people network, share ideas, and advertise their local events. We also suggest using the Boycott Workfare and UK Uncut websites to help network with other people in your area.
Calling a protest doesn’t have to take a lot of time, print off some leaflets (feel free to copy anything from our last workfare leaflet – we will post links to other leaflets produced (send ‘em to us!) so people can copy them if they don’t feel like writing their own), make some placards and banners, text call and speak to your mates, then publicise the event online or on any community notice boards etc.
Additionally, this is the demand we’ve made of Homebase, what would be enough for you to call off your action may vary:
Release a binding statement that clearly states 1) you will never participate in any workfare schemes nationally or locally*1 2) Homebase will stop all current involvement with all schemes (including the ‘work experience program’) that equate to people working for you for no money*2 3) you apologise for the callous nature of the poster that was up in a management office (a picture of which is bellow) and will investigate the manager(s) responsible 4) You compensate anyone who has been on such a scheme with you, and if a paid position is available offer them a job should they decide they want one. Due to the circumstances of the job offer it should be completely acceptable for someone to refuse, homebase should work with the job centre to ensure this in itself does not lead to sanctions. This absolutely must not impact on hours, overtime or pay for current staff members.
*1with the definition of workfare being any scheme where unemployed people work for you without pay, including (but not limited to) so-called ‘work experience’ schemes operated by the job centre and private companies.
*2 Homebase will also ensure that no one suffers any sanctions due to the scheme ending, something they should actively pursue and check up on with the relevent job centres.