Homebase faces protests over unpaid workers in Haringey and Willesden after attempting to mislead activists again

Boycott Workfare has decided to renew their protests at Homebase stores. To mark the start of this new campaign Boycott Workfare are announcing  simultaneous parallel protests on 22nd September 2013 at 1pm outside both the Willesden and Haringey stores. We are pleased to be joined once again in these protests by activists from Haringey Solidarity Group, Brent Housing Action and the Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group, and we wish to encourage all those who oppose the invidious and unfair workfare programmes to organise similar protests outside their local stores and to encourage their relatives, friends and colleagues to boycott this company who are determined to profiteer from the poverty of benefit claimants and the tax-payers who fund the benefits system.

This is a direct response to an email received from Colin McCarthy of the Homebase E-Commerce Customer Service Team dated 5th August which claimed that they were no longer signed up to a workfare programme, but would continue to work with local organisations to provide voluntary work experience without threat of benefits sanctions.

Regrettably, this does not appear to be true. Boycott Workfare has been contacted by staff members with information that Homebase had been seeking their “voluntary” staff via the Neasden Lane JobCentre Plus as late as 22nd August 2013. The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) is not a “local organisation”, and it will be the DWP who will enforce attendance or sanction the benefits of unwilling volunteers who try to leave the scheme. There is nothing in their claim to indicate that Homebase will offer available paid employment to help these unemployed people back into work, nor that – as previously has happened in Haringey – that paid workers will not have their hours cut. [1] Homebase has also failed to indicate how “non-participation” in a DWP-arranged scheme will protect these individual claimants’ benefits from being subjected to sanctions (financial punishments). This email is a masterpiece of dissembling.

Homebase has form for this type of misleading statement. On 13th and 14th July 2013 Boycott Workfare, together with local activists from Brent Housing Action, Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group and the Haringey Solidarity Group held successful pickets outside stores in Willesden Green and Haringey Green Lanes after discovering that Homebase had started to use unpaid staff from the workfare programmes a mere two months after Hayley Fowell, a PR Manager for the Home Retail Group, which owns Homebase, released the following statement:

“…after careful consideration we have decided to halt any further recruitment of colleagues through the work experience programme with Job Centre Plus”.[2]

This statement was issued after a series of protests outside their stores when it was revealed the Haringey branch had boasted about getting 750 hours of work with no payroll costs PER WEEK from 21 workfare “volunteers”.[3]

The message to Homebase remains the same: “If you exploit us we will shut you down!

[1] After a poster was leaked showing managers boasting about saving 750 hours of payroll costs (per week), a whistleblower told the campaign that all staff had had reductions in overtime, and that some people’s hours had been cut from 48 hours down to 8 hours: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=2404

 [2]http://wembleymatters.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/homebase-hammered-over-unpaid-labour-at.html; http://www.haringey.org.uk/content/workplace/257-anti-workfare-protest-at-homebase-harringay-sun-14-july-1pm

[3] Homebase Haringey’s large scale use of workfare first came to light when Finsbury Park job centre tweeted that it had secured 21 placements there. The tweet has now been deleted but a copy can be seen here: http://tompride.wordpress.com/2013/03/30/homebase-are-so-embarrassed-about-using-workfare-theyre-reduced-to-lying-about-it/

One comment

  1. There is now a facebook page you can send to your contacts too: https://www.facebook.com/events/1383097605255952/?context=create

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