By DeusExMacintosh

Boycott Tesco - Welfare to Workfare

Tesco has come under increasing pressure from customers to stop participating in government unemployment schemes which allow the company to take on jobseekers to stack and clean shelves for up to eight weeks without paying them.

After a link to a job centre advert was posted on Twitter on Wednesday evening, appearing to show that the supermarket giant was hiring for a permanent role as a night shift worker paying only jobseeker’s allowance, customers began bombarding the supermarket chain with complaints on Twitter and on the company’s Facebook site and threatening to withdraw their custom.

Tesco said an IT error was behind the posting. Under current government rules it is illegal to take on jobseekers for longer than six months without paying them. Tesco confirmed it does participate in the Department of Work and Pensions Work Experience scheme in which people claiming jobseeker’s benefit can be asked to work in charities and major profitable high street chains for up to eight weeks at 30 hours a week. If claimants withdraw from the scheme after a week they can have their benefits stopped.

The Guardian has uncovered other adverts for similar unpaid Tesco roles posted this month in Clevedon and in Dinnington. Britain’s largest private employer, which made over £3.5bn in profit last April, said that it had taken on 1,400 such claimants in the last four months. This amounts to 168,000 hours of unpaid work if all participants in the scheme work for 30 hours a week.

The campaign group Boycott Workfare has said it is organising a protest for 3 March to target firms involved in what it has described as modern-day slave labour.

The Guardian


  1. Posted February 18, 2012 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    The irony in all of this is that Tesco’s main rival, Sainsbury’s, pulled out of this programme right at its inception and has an excellent reputation for employing disabled people and the long-term unemployed – and paying them above the minimum wage.

    Sainsbury’s is a normal public limited liability corporation, not a mutual like John Lewis. It is perfectly possible to be of decent corporate character and highly profitable at the same time. Tesco deserves all the stick it is getting, I’m afraid, but then so does the DWP, which came up with the scheme to which Tesco is responding.

  2. paul walter
    Posted February 19, 2012 at 1:50 am | Permalink

    Skepticlawyer has beaten me to the punch. It’s a beaut example of examples, of the post Meltdown age.
    I can hear the skeletons of Murdoch and the Koch Brothers rattling away gleefully.

  3. Mel
    Posted February 19, 2012 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    Tory Policy”

    First, shrink the economy and consequently cause mass unemployment using discredited expansionary austerity economics.
    Second, force the least employable sector of society to apply for jobs they’ll never get while cutting their income.
    Third, destroy unskilled paid employment by giving employers access to free labour
    Fourth, blame the inevitable consequences of actions one to three on the welfare state.

    At some future date this “theatre of the absurd” will be considered an embarrassing stain on the UK’s history.

  4. Posted February 20, 2012 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    One wonders when these austerity hawks will start calling for human sacrifices, Aztec style, in order to appease their economic gods.

  5. Posted February 20, 2012 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    This is disgusting.

    I like the idea that if you are on benefits, AND YOU ARE ABLE TO WORK, you should be encouraged to work. BUT there should always be a community benefit, (IE not profits for a chain) AND there should be a further incentive that ‘work or we cut your payment.’

    Perhaps organise community jobs, and then give people a small bonus to their benefit – benefits everyone.

  6. Posted February 20, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    If the Bank of England had a more sensible monetary policy, and there was some tackling of supply-side reforms, a lot of this could be avoided. Even given the tax well has run dry (or at least reached share-of-GDP saturation point).

  7. Mel
    Posted February 20, 2012 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    “Even given the tax well has run dry (or at least reached share-of-GDP saturation point).”


  8. kvd
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 5:11 am | Permalink


    Ah, it’s this sort of well-reasoned intellectual cut and thrust which makes this blog so addictive 😉

  9. Posted February 21, 2012 at 5:56 am | Permalink

    Tax levels as a % of GDP tend to reach relatively stable points: this varies by country but there seem to be levels which it is difficult for a given political system to push tax revenue beyond.

    No doubt this is a combination of institutional factors, levels of accepted trade-offs, etc. So, other things being equal, small monocultural societies can make this trade off at higher tax-to-GDP levels than large diverse societies can.

    The UK tax-to-GDP level has been in the 34-36% range since 1987. Given cyclical economic factors, that is pretty stable. Does not suggest much room to manouevre on the tax front: not that raising taxes during an economic downturn is generally regarded as good policy.

  10. Mel
    Posted February 21, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    You are still talking ahistorical bollocks, Lorenzo.

    During your lifetime (and mine) the UK has had tax- to-GDP levels as high as 45% with only two years between 1996/97 and 1988/89 in which the tax- to-GDP level fell below 40%.

    “It is the conceit of every fool to think he lives in an age of permanence” – Helvetius the Younger

    But I of course agree that now is not the time for a general tax rise, although slugging the filthy rich is always a good idea.

  11. Posted February 21, 2012 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] Actually, data is data. Yes, the tax-to-GDP ratio can move around, and sometimes does. Nevertheless, there are relatively stable resting points, one of which the UK has been in for about 25 years and counting.

    I prefer to use the OECD data, since it is standardised. The UK’s statistical efforts are not all that well-regarded. But, even on UK Treasury figures, tax-to-GDP has been in the 36-39% range since 1989-90.

    A country which demonstrates remarkable stability in tax share of GDP is the US,. Its tax share was in the 25-28% range from 1965 to 1996, moved up slightly to 29-30% for a few years, then reverted back to its longer-term trend range before dropping down to 24% in 2009 but now seems to be reverting to that 25-28% range.

    If there is some major, accepted, change in tax-service trade offs, the tax share can move up. But they are harder to achieve the more diverse your country is.

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