Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

The headline in the Guardian yesterday:

Jobcentre was set targets for benefit sanctions

• Inquiry launched after league tables revealed
• Leak shows pressure on staff to refer claimants

And, today, it seems that charities are playing right into that.  Charities, which exist to help the worst off have a better life.  Charities, where many of us shop and turn to for help, are the same ones that are now profiting – hugely – from the misfortune of the very people they are supposed to help.  Time to get something done.

Let’s start with the good news – the action people like yourself have taken in the last month has brought about positive change.  We mentioned Superdrug yesterday, but there are also six charities that have pulled out.  These are:

  • Sense
  • PDSA
  • Capability Scotland
  • Sue Ryder
  • The Red Cross
  • The Children’s Society

Don’t forget to tell them you appreciate the wonderful example they are setting.  According to Boycott Workfare:

This means the workfare schemes which rely on charity placements are on the rocks! Already before the latest withdrawals, the government complained: “The high profile withdrawal of placements from a number of larger charities meant a sharp reduction in placements.”

Today, we are targeting the charities that are still putting profit before people.  They are:

Lastly, there is Salvation Army.  They are doing all they can to keep this quiet.  I contacted them via Facebook ages ago, and it took them all of 2 minutes to remove my comment and block me from their page.  They have done this to numerous people now and have also started to flood their page with images, so that the comments of other people quickly disappear down the list.  Keep it up though!

Once again, here is a template you can use, although you’re welcome to come up with something yourself.

I object to your involvement in mandatory unpaid labour (Workfare) schemes. I believe that the exploitation of unpaid labour is morally wrong and urge you to reconsider your involvement with these DWP Workfare placements.

I would like to follow suit with other charities and make a public statement (press release) explicitly stating that you are no longer involved in any of the various unpaid labour or “work-for-your-benefits” schemes administered by the DWP or by private sector interests working on their behalf.

I would appreciate it if the issues I have raised were dealt with by someone in authority. I shall look forward to hearing your response to these concerns.

Yours
Jolande
[Your Name]

Success people! Superdrug have pulled out of the Workfare scheme.  Take the time to thank them for this, positive reinforcement is as important as protest actions.  This way, they stay on the side of the regular people, who need all the help they can get.

However, Superdrug may have set a fantastic example, there are still plenty who have not done the same.  There are still quite a lot of companies who do want to use the scheme and today, we are focusing on the following:

  • Debenhams
  • Poundland
  • Asda
  • Argos
  • Tesco

Click on the links below to take you straight to their Facebook page, where you can copy and paste the following letter, or write your own.  Try as much as you can not to use swearwords or get angry.  This is about making a stand, not raising hell.  By the way, there are a number of organisations, including the Salvation Army, who are purposely removing any Facebook mention of the Workfare Scheme.  So much so, in fact, that if you do complain through those means, they will block you from commenting on their page.  Censorship is rife people!  Let me know if you find yourself blocked from any of the pages, more ammunition to go against these companies.

Here’s the letter:

Dear [Use full name if apparent]

I am a longstanding customer of [Name of retail outlet] but I have decided to boycott your company because I object to your involvement in mandatory unpaid labour (Workfare) schemes. I believe that the exploitation of unpaid labour is morally wrong and urge you to reconsider your involvement with these DWP Workfare placements.

I believe that as a responsible employer, your company has an obligation to meet the statutory Minimum Wage for all of your employees. I shall continue my boycott until I am provided with satisfactory evidence that your company is no longer involved in these mandatory work schemes and agrees to the principle that all employees deserve to earn at least the UK National Minimum Wage. I also believe that it is actually in your own interests that these unpaid labour schemes are abandoned, since workers with wages in their pockets are consumers and consumer spending is the principal driver of demand in the retail sector. It may seem counter intuitive that paying your staff better wages would increase your profitability, however Henry Ford demonstrated that he understand this economic principle almost 100 years ago when he made the decision to price his cars low and to pay his workers reasonably well.

I would like your company to make a public statement (press release) explicitly stating these two things:

1 That your company is no longer involved in any of the various unpaid labour or “work-for-your-benefits” schemes administered by the DWP or by private sector interests working on their behalf.

2. That it is company policy that all workers (including trainees) are paid in accordance with the National Minimum Wage.

I would appreciate it if the issues I have raised were dealt with by someone in authority. I shall look forward to hearing your response to these concerns.

Yours

[Your Name]

The following is taken directly from the Boycott Workfare website, where you can find further contact details of the various companies.

Debenhams

Debenhams has 165 stores across the UK and Ireland and has a turnover of £2.2 billion. They too have been taking advantage of wageless, rightless workers supplied by the DWP at the taxpayers’ expense. They’re very keen to insist that the scheme they’re involved in is voluntary, but DWP rules say if you don’t get take part you’re referred to a scheme which carries 3 year sanctions. So it’s only voluntary if you say yes.

Press Office: press.office@debenhams.com 
Customer services: customerrelations@debenhams.com 
Company secretary: company.secretariat@debenhams.com (Paul Eardley)
Facebook: Debenhams – the official page 
Twitter:

Poundland

Countless reports of workfare in Poundland’s stores have emerged, and the retailer has come under particular pressure since Cait Reilly successfully challenged her Poundland placement in the courts. So much so that instead of staying involved in the existing workfare schemes, they have set up their own. They tell us: “We currently have people taking part in work experience placements across 71 of our stores, and since launching the scheme, 20% have been offered a job with us”. That’s 80% who have worked for free for nothing. Poundland profits soared to £40 million last year. If Poundland needs people to work in its stores, it can pay them.

Feedback form: click here
Press centre: poundland@bottlepr.co.uk
Chief Executive (Warburg Pincus – their US based private equity fund owners): egustafson@warburgpincus.com 
Facebook: Poundland 
Twitter:

Asda

Asda has been at the heart of workfare in the UK, helping the government relaunch its “Work Experience” scheme last year. We have had reports that one of their stores in Manchester uses disabled people on workfare on the night shift. They are frank about their involvement here.

Asda contact form: Click here
Facebook: Asda

Argos

Argos appears to be using six week placements from the Job Centre on a massive scale. Multiple reports of Argos using workfare placements so that paid staff hours are being reduced and fewer Christmas temps employed have emerged.

Business email: info@argos.co.uk
Corporate responsibility (HRG): gordon.bentley@homeretailgroup.comcorporate.responsibility@homeretailgroup.com 
Media relations (HRG): media.relations@homeretailgroup.com 
Managing director: john.walden@argos.co.uk
Head Office (01908 690333)
Customer Services (01785 710253)
Facebook: Argos

Tesco

Tesco has committed to 3000 workfare placements, and so far 80% of the 1500 people who have gone through their stores have not been given a job. In response to public pressure, they have introduced a fudge which offers people a place on their own scheme instead but this misses the point.

Tesco’s profits last year were £1.7 billion. 1500 eight week, thirty hour placements would mean the company has so far profited from 360,000 hours of free labour on the schemes. Tesco need to stop fudging the issue, pull out of workfare and start paying every single person who works in their stores a living wage.

Head office email address: online@tesco.co.uk
Customer service email address: customer.service@tesco.co.uk
Phil Clarke, Current CEO of Tesco’s: philip.clarke@uk.tesco.com

Telephone: 0845 7225533 (Head office number) or 0845 600 4411 (This is the number for Tesco direct)
Facebook: Tesco

This week is national boycott workfare week.  Make sure you check out the Boycott Workfare website.  Each day, you can take part in a different  protest to bring down those companies that have agreed to join in the workfare scheme.  Today’s turn is A4E.  Why not copy and paste the following email and send it to all known A4E email addresses (included below the email)?  Hopefully, if enough of us do it, we will bring down their system.

workfareI believe all companies in the UK should pull together to end forced unpaid work for people who receive welfare. Workfare profits the rich by providing free labour, whilst threatening the poor by taking away welfare rights if people refuse to work without a living wage.

Yesterday, aside from a few votes against, Labour lined up with Conservative and Lib Dems to enable the workfare bill to go through by abstaining. Not only did politicians enable a retroactive law be enacted, they also deprived 225,000 people of justice, effectively robbing £130 million in welfare payments people were lawfully due.

You are one of the biggest beneficiaries of Government welfare policy. In 2011 your company’s turnover was £180 million, 100% of which came from the public coffers. Out of this your bosses shared out £11 million between them.

You have a catastrophic record of failing to meet even the paltry minimum targets set by the Department for Work and Pensions for finding people jobs on the workfare scheme, the Work Programme. You have more chance of finding a job without your bullying ‘back to work’ tactics.

Not content with what amounts to the officially sanctioned scam of lucrative welfare to work contracts from your  friends in Government there are numerous accusations of fraud against you, where records are apparently falsified, so that you can claim even more public money for not doing your job. You are further subsidised by the public by your use of mandatory unpaid labour within your company as well. The costs of Workfare are socialised while the profits are privatised.

I have worked with A4E myself regularly in my capacity as a council worker for children and young people’s services.  I am horrified by the fact that you have agreed to sign up to this scheme.  It proves that you have no clue about what is happening at grass root level, where your own employees are truly committed to helping people make the most out of their lives.  It is these same employees that will now be left with doing your dirty work, effectively telling their service users they will be expected to perform slave labour.

Pull out, while you still can.

The email addresses I have sent this to are:

Email A4e: customerservices@a4e.co.uk
Head of Communications: kmccrory@a4e.co.uk
Media Relations Manager: jkerr@a4e.co.uk

adutton@a4e.co.uk

If you know more email addresses, please add them here.

Yesterday, protest was directed at the Salvation Army.  You can still jump on that bandwagon by going to the Boycott Workfare website as well.  Also, make sure you join  the Boycott Welfare Facebook event.

Together, we CAN make a difference!

austerity is class war

Posted: March 3, 2013 in anarchy, politics, protest

austerity is class war.

NO DASH FOR GAS

EDF is trying to sue the activists from No Dash For Gas for £5 million. The activists shut down the first in a new generation of gas power stations, which if built will mean we won’t hit our climate targets.  You can help No Dash For Gas by leaving a nice message on the EDF Facebook page by clicking here.

For more information, click on the following links:

Channel 4 news

The Guardian

No Dash For Gas

GOVERNMENT WORKFARE PROGRAM

The government’s workfare program is basically endorsing slave labour.  There is not other way around it.  Expecting people to work around 35 hours a week to get their measily £69 worth of dole money means that they have to work well below minimum wage.  Nobody is suggesting that working for your benefit money is a bad idea, but fair pay for fair labour should always overrule.  Here is a list of the companies that have agreed to take part in the workfare program.  Send them a message to show how you disagree with what they are doing.  Try to be eloquent, that always hits them harder than swearing at them.

To make life easier for you, there is also a fantastic template you can follow to send them your message of discontent.  Use Facebook, Twitter, email and everything else you can think of.

Remember, one person can make a difference at that one person may just be you!

Dear [Use full name if apparent]

I am a longstanding customer of [Name of retail outlet] but I have decided to boycott your company because I object to your involvement in mandatory unpaid labour (Workfare) schemes. I believe that the exploitation of unpaid labour is morally wrong and urge you to reconsider your involvement with these DWP Workfare placements.

I believe that as a responsible employer, your company has an obligation to meet the statutory Minimum Wage for all of your employees. I shall continue my boycott until I am provided with satisfactory evidence that your company is no longer involved in these mandatory work schemes and agrees to the principle that all employees deserve to earn at least the UK National Minimum Wage. I also believe that it is actually in your own interests that these unpaid labour schemes are abandoned, since workers with wages in their pockets are consumers and consumer spending is the principal driver of demand in the retail sector. It may seem counter intuitive that paying your staff better wages would increase your profitability, however Henry Ford demonstrated that he understand this economic principle almost 100 years ago when he made the decision to price his cars low and to pay his workers reasonably well.

I would like your company to make a public statement (press release) explicitly stating these two things:

1 That your company is no longer involved in any of the various unpaid labour or “work-for-your-benefits” schemes administered by the DWP or by private sector interests working on their behalf.

2. That it is company policy that all workers (including trainees) are paid in accordance with the National Minimum Wage.

I would appreciate it if the issues I have raised were dealt with by someone in authority. I shall look forward to hearing your response to these concerns.

Yours

[Your Name]

It was in the news yesterday that Starbucks don’t pay taxes in the UK.  Basically, they have paid just £8.6 million in tax in the UK since 1998.  This is despite a profit of £3 billion pounds.  So how the hell were they able to do this?  Surely they are breaking the law?  Well, no, they’re not…  What Starbucks, a so-called “ethical” company does, is pay fees and royalties for other parts of Starbucks around the globe.  So, technically, Starbucks is making a loss, rather than a £3 billion profit.  Worst of all, HM Revenue & Customs seem to have no problems with this type of behaviour.  But Starbucks isn’t the only company that does this!  Let’s take a look at some of the other big players in the UK that conveniently don’t pay any, or very few, taxes here.

 

Vodafone – Keeping Britain in the Red

Vodafone earns hundreds of millions of pounds of money from people in the UK every year.  In fact, they have some 19 million customers.  Guess how much money in corporation tax they paid though?  None!  This is very strange, because the year before that, they paid £140 million in tax, but they made fewer profits…  The way they do this is by offsetting their tax bill against their capital expenditure.   In fact, the chairman of Google – Eric Schmidt – said well done to Vodafone.  According to him, the laws in the UK are so easy to get around that companies should take advantage of this.  Why pay anything above the minimum right?

The Wonderful World of Philip Green

Philip Green has long been the target of UK Uncut because he has been able to avoid corporate tax.  Bear in mind, as well, that this spineless little weasel even worked as a government advisor.  What Philip Green has done is bank offshore.  He owns a company in Monaco, which is run by just a single person: his wife Tina Green.  She is technically the owner of the Philip Green empire, and since she is not a UK resident, she is not subject to UK corporation tax.  This means some £285 million in tax does not get sent back into the country.  He then also manages to offset any loans and charges from Arcadia (the name of Philip Green’s company) against charges and profits.  Not just that, the man manages to pay himself £1.2 billion a year for holding 92% of the Arcadia company.  He said that this isn’t excessive, because he is “risky business”.  Yeah, no shit!  But then he takes it a bit further.  He doesn’t want to “lose” any money either, so he uses overseas sweatshops (child labour!) and other companies where there is no such thing as minimum wage, and even if there is, it is ridiculously low.  Next time some tells you that they got rich through hard work, ask them who’s hard work!

By the way, Philip Green owns the following companies in the UK:

  • BHS
  • Topshop
  • Dorothy Perkins
  • Burton
  • Outfit
  • Miss Selfridge
  • Evans
  • Wallis
  • Etam

And of course, every time he buys one of these companies (because he didn’t start them up), he sells them on to his wife in Monaco within 24 hours.  Clever little man, isn’t he?  So think about it next time you shop at one of these stores.

These are but a few of the shops.  It is expected that there are many more, Boots being one of them, for instance.  Think hard where you shop, because most of these stores have made cuts in their numbers of staff since the recession started, when there is no need to since their profits are larger than a mere mortal could possibly comprehend.

It is a scary thought that in this day and age, child labour and slave labour is still being used.  As terrifying as that is, we sort of know and understand that it still happens in “less developed” parts of the world.  However, if we were to know that an item that we use was made by children or through slave labour, we wouldn’t buy it right?  Wrong.  The range of companies on the big markets that use child and slave labour is absolutely frightening.  Of course, they also say they “don’t know” or that “there’s nothing they can do”.  Yeah, whatever.  So, let’s take a look at the brands you should avoid as much as possible.  Oh and one other problem is that one company often manufactures multiple products under different names, so you may not even be aware that you are still shopping from this company.  For instance, Proctor & Gamble (they don’t use child labour, they just test on animals in horrifying ways…) produce Andrex and Febreze.  So, I’ll also add a number of the products you should avoid.

Philip Morris

Philip Morris has actually admitted that 72 children work on the tobacco forms from which Philip Morris buys its plants.  The youngest of these was just 10 years old.  The problem is that they only admitted this when they were forced to by the Human Rights Watch.  Philip Morris only took a very small part of the blame as well.  The details on these 72 children (be aware that evidence has been found for just 72 children, that doesn’t mean there aren’t actually more) are horrifying.  They have neck and stomach rashes, their passports were confiscated, essentially enslaving them, and they were force to work overtime without receiving additional pay.  Philip Morris is yet to live up to their promise of changing these situations.

Philip Morris also makes Basic, Marlboro, Cambridge, Benson & Hedges, Commander, Chesterfield, English Ovals, Dave’s, L&M, Lark, Parliament, Merit, Saratoga, Players and Virginia Slims.  Don’t light any of those up in other words!

Victoria’s Secret

Ah, the one place all of us women run to when we want to seduce our significant others or new mates.  Well don’t, basically.  Yeah, they say that they only use “fair trade cotton”, but that is like saying a meal is “gourmet”, it actually means jack shit.  Victoria’s Secret uses cotton grown in Burkina Faso.  Here, it has been a known fact that there is not enough labour available to run the farms, so they turn to children instead.  So yeah, it’s fair trade because it comes from Africa, but it actually means that you are buying fabrics that are made from cotton picked by a little 13 year old girl who sleeps under a piece of plastic, getting shouted at to get up and go to work.  Oh and who gets beaten with sticks if she’s not quick enough.  This is no something that is a debate, it is a known fact.  Burkina Faso quite readily admits these practices go on.  And Victoria’s Secret readily admits they get their cotton from Burkina Faso.  But when asked about his, the shrug and change the subject.  Because Victoria’s Secret was eventually forced to make a statement, they said they would investigate it.  The result?  The “fair trade” label has been removed.

Chinese Factories and KYE

Remember I said above that we sort of know that child labour happens in under developed countries?  So it probably won’t surprise you when I say there are lots of Chinese factories that use slave and child labour.  After all, the Chinese are not particularly big on human rights.  What will surprise you, perhaps, is the amount of well-known brands that use KYE and other Chinese factories to create their branded products.  In these factories, employees are housed in dorms, 14 to a room.  Instead of a shower, they are issued a plastic bucket and a sponge.  They work 15 hour shifts with no weekend breaks at all.  There is no air conditioning in boiling hot environments.  They are not allowed to speak to each other.  They have to take part in military drills and women are subjected to sexual harassment.   And in return, they receive $0.65 per hour.  So, who uses these factories?

Some of the main branded products that use KYE and other Chinese factories include Microsoft and Apple (we will look at them in more detail later on).  Nokia is another guilty party.

Toys ‘R’ Us, Urban Outfitters, Forever 21 and Aeropostale

Each of these say they have stringent contracts in place to ensure that the cotton they receive uses “legally qualified workers”.  They are lying.  They buy their cotton from Uzbekistan, where the government removes children from school and sends them to work.  So yeah, they are “legally qualified”, but not by any humane standards.  Nothing at all is being done about this, besides a statement that “they would look into it”.  Profit before people, clearly.

Hershey’s Chocolate

Hershey has been using child labour in their cocoa farms for ever.  It is only since the Rainforest Alliance told them they would air a video that showed the child labour and the conditions in which they have to work that they made a real change to produce ethically sourced chocolate.  However, there are still thousands upon thousands of children that harvest cocoa beans for Hershey’s in West Africa today.  The only product you can buy from Hershey’s chocolate that doesn’t use child labour, in fact, is Bliss Chocolates.  But why not just boycott the lot?

Apple

Apple has recently admitted that they use child labour.  They couldn’t do anything else by admit it when eleven 15 year old kids were working in the factories that Apple uses.  These are some of the KYE factories described earlier.  However, the same practices go on in the other factories that supply Apple with products.  Apple has promises that they have looked into this and that these practices really aren’t happening anymore.  Well, don’t believe them since only last week 62 employees at an Apple and Nokia factory were poisoned by n-hexane.  Naturally, Apple is yet to comment on this one.

Primark

This one really breaks my heart because I freaking love Primark.  But yeah, I should’ve known that offering products as cheaply as this can only come from unethical practices.  In fact, a documentary from the BBC has proven that 11 year old children sew the products that are sold in the Secret Possessions Range of Primark.  Primark places huge pressures on their suppliers to provide items quickly and cheaply and this has led to absolutely shameful abuse of children and slave labourers.  Naturally, Primark has said they have now stopped using the Indian suppliers that use slave labour.  However, as we have seen above, it remains to be seen whether this is actually true, or whether they have just moved the problem elsewhere.

Nike

Nike has been using child labour for years and years.  In fact, when I was just 18 (and that is some time ago…) I went on a demonstration against Nike.  It seems nothing has changed since then.  They now use factories where human rights are broken on an almost daily basis.  People are kicked and slapped and verbally abused.  This is particularly true for the Converse factories in Indonesia, which really pains me because I freaking love Converse shoes…  Women and children at the factories in Pou Chen make only $0.50 per hour.  Nike has some stringent standards, but at least 75% of the suppliers they use don’t meet these standards, as admitted by Nike.  Why have standards at all then?  12 of the factories they use don’t even allow Nike inspectors access to the plant.  97 factories are said to be “improving”, but only in as such that they now pay minimum wage.  And six factories haven’t even been inspected by Nike.  Yeah, fantastic standards there…  Here are some interesting statistics for you.  Producing a pair of top end Nike’s (or Converse) costs between $0.88 and $3.  Add to this the shipping and tax payments, and it will basically cost between $4 and $6.  And these are the shoes that you will pay between $40 and $185 for!

So there you go, some of the biggest companies in the world use child labour and slave labour.  They don’t care about the way staff are treated and the profits they make through these practices are ginormous.  Will you continue to play a part in this?