By Richard Donnelly.
Unemployed people, students and low paid workers took to the streets of Kingston last night to protest against the workfare scheme, which forces unemployed workers to work for their benefits. The action was called by Right to Work, and was joined by members of the Kingston Anti-Cuts Group.
About thirty activists met at Kingston train station to target shops that use unpaid labour. They went on to occupy Tesco, MacDonalds, Boots, TopShop and Primark in central Kingston. Disabled and unemployed people made speeches denouncing workfare as slave labour, and slamming the Welfare Reform Bill, which will force disabled and terminally ill people off Disability Living Allowance and into low-paid work or workfare programmes.
The protestors were applauded by people on their way home from work, and were warmly welcomed by on looking pensioners and workers, who were given leaflets about the workfare scheme. Schoolkids and other passing young people joined the protest, chanting “the Tories stole our EMA, but we won’t work for JSA.”
Campaigners are angry that the schemes mean that retail chains don’t have to pay people to work for them and that young people are being forced to do 40 hour weeks in low-skilled jobs for only £53 a week. The workfare scheme is an attack on the unemployed and on trade union organisation.
The government claims that the scheme helps unemployed people back into work, but actually it just decreases the amount of paid jobs available. It undermines the confidence of retail workers to fight for better pay and conditions, because unemployed people can be forced to work the same jobs for 30% of the minimum wage.
Right to work have called a new protest against firms that use unpaid labour, and will be back on the streets at 1pm, Saturday 3rd March. Meet at the top of Kingston High Street, at the junction with Eden Street, outside Starbucks.
Workfare, no way!
Make the greedy bosses pay!