Archive for February, 2012|Monthly archive page

Workfare #4 – The Responses

Well, I wrote to Tesco, got the response that we all got through Twitter, responded to highlight my question which went unanswered and which I restated.

I said

I therefore consider you have failed to respond to a legitimate request
regarding a policy whose parameters you either do not appear to understand
or you do understand but choose to exploit.  The question regarding
“voluntary, yes or no?” is not difficult – it’s a one word answer.

Having explained to a substantial degree about how you
are mocking Volunteer England, I am entitled to assume your failure to
answer as deliberate and will write accordingly.

In fairness to Tesco, I think I got a real person to respond this time, with a real name rather than the name at the bottom of the replies so far – Lexy St Clair – which either sounds like a New Orleans plantation owner’s spoilt daughter, an actress in 70s sexual farces with double entendres in the title or a small village on the A14.  Here it is.

Thank you for your recent reply.

The workers that come into our stores as part of the Workfare scheme are working in addition to our existing staff and the scheme has no impact on their pay, contracted hours or terms of service. The Workfare employees compliment our existing staff and work along side them to gain as much knowledge and insight as they possibly can as to how the business runs; with the aim of them using this knowledge to gain employment when they have completed their placement.

Please let me assure you that we are continually monitoring customer feedback, so your comments are very much appreciated and have been duly noted.  

Myself and my colleagues have nothing further to say on this matter.

Thank you for letting us know your views.

Kind regards

Sian Hackwood

I can appreciate the reply for what it is worth but the content is clearly at odds with reality.  If there is a job available and it is filled by a “volunteer”, no matter what the hourage is, those hours could have been worked at cost by a contracted worker.  If it’s a shadowing exercise then it would arguably be training/education.  It’s pretty obvious from anyone who has ever attended a retail outlet that it isn’t the latter.  Further to that, you wouldn’t be constrained to spend 240 hours shadowing – we’d notice the merry-go-round of repeat trainees on someone’s shoulder in the meat aisle during eight weeks of work experience.

As for “myself and my colleagues have nothing further to say”, aside from the correspondence pedant I am wanting to write back with “You mean ‘my colleagues and I’?”, I would suggest Tesco, were it to truly value its correspondence, would not seek to close a dialogue it did not begin.  I’ve worked in Customer Service and that’s a no-no.  It is the equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting “la-la-la” when someone has a legitimate complaint about your behaviour.  It only makes it worse. 

Nevertheless, it was a big week for WorkFare to the point that in the email above, Tesco even called it “Workfare”, recognising the term and with it the nature of the scheme (i.e. no Welfare without Work) and we got enough yardage out of them to cause our own domino effect (although we’ve yet to have a Pizza Hut effect).

My email to the increasingly hunted Grayling, who is now shaking his fist at clouds and claiming that his email account was hacked by Che Guevara’s ghost or something, went unanswered.  Mind you, I did ask him over the Volunteering England charter and the corner into which I had painted him isn’t easily escaped. 

The summary so far?  It seems Tesco will take action and respond on WorkFare issues (albeit it ruthlessly in terms of customer service) but Grayling will just sit there and pretend everything is just peachy.

The individual case mirroring  the routine behaviour of the protagonists in their societal roles, I think.


WorkFare #3 – Just A Bit About Me Now

OK, I intend to go back to my earlier posts (at the last look, Tesco have answered me a couple of times and with that, have took a long pace backwards from Workfare while Grayling hasn’t replied) in the next day or two.  However, despite not replying to me, it appears Grayling did spit a reply at me.

Grayling, a man of dubious expenses history – – and dubious honour, decided to go for broke today.  Not content with his “job snob” soundbite that obviously fell flat on its face earlier in the week, he set out for another smear today.

Apparently, we many, spread far and wide across the country, who are opposing social injustice whether it be Lansley’s attempts to kill us or Grayling’s attempts to starve out and destroy any quality of life on poor people and people with disabilities, are not doing so out of moral outrage.

We are not doing it out of a collective sentiment that seeks to support our fellow man in need.

We are not doing it out of any noble motive whatsoever.  No, really. 

Every single one of us, Grayling knows.  We are all in a shadowy cabal, a source of rabble-rousing on behalf of…

The Socialist Worker Party

Yes, you read that correctly.  Rather than address the points that the non-SWP Sainsbury, Poundland, Tesco et alia brought to public attention this week in the face of sizable opposition to slave labour, Grayling went for the time-honoured response of blaming some mythical reds.

The man has however realised that in this country, there is a distinct absence of a left-wing bogeyman.  Orwell gave him the lead in Animal Farm but with no substantial left-wing in this country, it’s a bit hollow to shout “surely there is no one among you who wants to see Jones come back?” when no-one has seen anything vaguely resembling a “Jones” in over thirty years.

Yet devoid of argument, without substance to back up his rudimentary defence (Channel 4 – presumably sponsored by the SWP – has gone as far as putting him to the “fact or fiction” test – and he’s up there with The Gruffalo for fiction) and with little to back him up save for his inflated ego and an increasingly-under-fire boss, he went for the smear, the painful, heavy-handed, unjustifiable smear, that the social campaigners who have shown this self-appointed emperor of his new clothes are all part of a tiny splinter of the political framework of the UK.

He had no-one else to pick on.  Heaven help him, he needed to insult and he had to go to the web to see which “revolutionary” organisation he could pick on that would make him look least a fool.  The man is such a fool that he persisted with the idea.

So, my SWP credentials.  I’ve never been in the SWP, don’t know where they hold their meetings and in all honesty, don’t fit into their ethos.  I’m not easily pigeon-holed as I’m not a slave to party politics, let alone a slave to DWP/A4e.  I see it and I call it.  I don’t need to be led because the animated free will and background I have means I am not a sheep, slavishly adhering to the media manipulation that slowly but surely, our protests are starting to either turn around or smash completely.

Of course, Grayling has henchmen, and Sarah Teather was wheeled out for a bit of support for the government line this evening.  Poor Liberal Democrats, forever on the fringes with wonderful public-spirited policies, now in power, hawking 30s-style Fascism and saying “we’ve seen the books and slavery’s the best for you, you know?  We’ll euthanise the sicker ones, it’ll be great”.  Teather called us “Liberal elite”.  Teather presumably classing herself as “Liberal not-elite”.

I don’t see how I’m Liberal elite.  I don’t know what it means for one – it’s the verbiage of the party politician talking their own Commons bubblespeak when we’re out in the real world acting on evidence and protesting against single issues.  I don’t see how that’s a political agenda, but if she wants to explain it, I’ll be happy to listen.

You see, I’m what she would call “council estate scum”.  I was brought up in a house that was condemned, moved in short term with grandparents, moved on to a forty-feet high slum for 5 years that wasn’t fit for human habitation and then at the age of ten, finally got my own bedroom in a breezeblock and pebbledashed council home.  Mum and Dad are there still, in their 70s, a former semi-skilled printer and a bookbinder who ended up working three jobs, one in care work in the public sector and as a contracted cleaner in the other two.  I went to a sink estate primary school that was eventually razed to the ground by vandals.  I did develop there – a reading age of fourteen at the age of six and at eleven, passing interview for a secondary school with no catchment area.  I had a great education, school was meat and drink to me and despite changes in priority as I aged, I managed a modest degree that should have been better. 

I returned to my home town after graduation, never really left in fact, and in the height of recession found myself at home with a father who had been forgotten and scrapped by the government of the day, a brother whose construction skills were not in demand as no-one was building and me, a graduate that no-one wanted.  Thatcher did for us all.  Mum worked on because like it or not, people still needed care and offices still got dirty.

It’s a different story now – Mum and Dad are retired but are fearful of any major decision on the home because of the society that now allows hawkers to attempt to prey on the vulnerable.  They aren’t stupid – they as a rule refer to me because I have the nose for a scam.  My brother isn’t in an ideal situation but despite the general ups and downs of a routine private life within, he finds steady albeit not unrelenting work – he gets to earn now.  Me?  Ever one for the quiet life, I now find that isn’t an option.

I’m a natural sceptic but at the same time, everyone starts with an “A”.  Your subsequent actions will affect that but that’s all down to you.  I believe in structure, education and training – work to a framework, give people the tools and skills for the job.  However, I also believe in fairness above all.  I will not see someone suffer because of injustice and target that I might be, I will be the head above the parapet shouting “NO!” at the top of my voice.  I have a disability but through exemplary ongoing management through any number of experts in a collective unit of the NHS, I have a pretty good quality of life to the point that I am, barring considerations I need to make and do daily, “well”.  I have a job that doesn’t appreciate me and with that, I don’t appreciate but it just about covers expenses and there is rewarding work within the same but which is in a niche I had to find myself.  I have a family, disability notwithstanding and I am inordinately proud of how my kids are turning out as it is a reflection that their mother and I are doing it right.

Now, Workfare is simply unjust.  I am not some “Liberal elite” member.  I am not a member of any political party and I have my own independent thought.  I did it all without you, Grayling, and given I have never met you and you do not know my name nor the name of my extended family, I don’t think you’re in a position to deride or smear me or let your attack dog off her “teather” (sic) to try and do the same.

And if you can’t do that to me, I doubt you can do it for the other thousands who are in the same position.  In your government of Christians (have a word with the boss or Pickles, it’s apparently so), you might remember the words of Christian author C S Lewis – “I tell no one any story but his own”.  I’d suggest you learn to do that.  Tell us about your failings, don’t make up what you think are failings for me, you fantasist.  I face factual discrimination daily – why you think I’d bow to your illucid, fictional rants I don’t know but I don’t think I’m alone in mocking your desperation.

Don’t second guess the British public.  Don’t lie about them to fit your own specious end.  One day you may have to sit among us and be accountable, out of your Commons bubble.  All the half-witted abuse in the world isn’t going to help you then.

Workfare – The Bite Back

Responsibility is an ugly word in the UK.

Having been one of many who rose up to question Tesco’s stance on Workfare in the UK after it published an advertisement in Bury St Edmunds for people to work for expenses alone (more on that later in the week), that pressure has caused Tesco to backtrack from the same.  It is early yet, but the reality of what that step down means will be more evident in ensuing weeks.  What can I say, I’m sceptical when the retail giant that apparently takes every sixth pound spent on the High Street tells me anything after several days of denial.  It didn’t become wealthy by not telling the people what they wanted to hear.

However, Christopher Grayling and Ian Duncan Smith, two “men” in place to represent us all in government, have seen fit from this to go out of their way and insult me!  How rude!  Grayling, the orchestrator of this grand plan of multifaceted slavery across the UK, has called me “absurd”.  He has also accused me of “having an agenda” in attacking Workfare.

I will come out and say it now.  I have an agenda in attacking Workfare.  I oppose slavery.  Ian Duncan Smith, because of my opposition to slavery, considers me a “job snob”.

Now, if we were getting personal and telling lies about each other, it could get ugly.  I’m not going to do that – I am more comfortable with the truth.  You see, the problem with living in a parliamentary bubble with other fat-necked, self-aggrandising, kickback-taking MPs is that when you meet opposition from real people you don’t know how to behave.

Here’s an example – the biggest waste of parliamentary time we have is Prime Minister’s Questions.  Every Wednesday, all manner of braying Oxbrigians trade insults with other Oxbrigians to absolutely no value to the public they represent.  I caught David Cameron in a direct lie in Prime Ministers Questions last year and the response was “he won’t correct it because it isn’t the done thing”.  No, really, that’s the rationale.  He can talk about goldfish on Mars and how he can summon angels to Cabinet meetings and we just have to wear it.  It doesn’t have to be true because he’s the Prime Minister and he can say what he likes, no need for responsibility or accountability.  A complete waste of time and resources.

However, because of this 650-member private club attitude, we have a siege mentality where the MPs are totally divorced from reality.  It’s the Norma Desmond mentality of my prior post.

I am happy to expand on and show responsibility for my position.  Here’s my “agenda”, Grayling; In 1945 this country came out of war, a ravaged Europe needed rebuilding, ourselves included, and the immediate future promised to be hard.  Rationing was more extensive after the war than during as the world rebuilt, for example.  The first General Election after the war was fought on two differing platforms.  Churchill considered the British public as a body who would recognise his efforts over the previous six years and campaigned on personality.  Attlee said “here’s the policies that will achieve our recovery”, campaigning on social reform.

The 1945 General Election ended in the celebrated “Attlee Landslide”.  Attlee had promised to rebuild and the country listened.  Labour (as it was then) had its first absolute majority and by some way.  Attlee himself was a quiet figure but nevertheless set about the rebuild.  He nationalised industries and utilities, making them profitable but also safer, better regulated and with improved conditions for workers.  He maintained a programme of almost full employment and kept inflation low.  He also took two ministries – housing and health – and gave them to one man.

Aneurin Bevan was given the agenda of building houses and creating a health service that would be national, free at the point of contact and would preserve the right of care from cradle to grave of every citizen according to need and  irrespective of wealth.

Clement Attlee had an “agenda”.  Nye Bevan had an “agenda”.  To go further, Mohindas Karamchand Gandhi had an “agenda”.  Having an “agenda” is not a bad thing judging by the examples.  I would sooner have the agenda of fair treatment for all than imposing my will on an opposing public like some sort of social rapist.  That’s what you are, Mr Grayling – whether it be in your attempts to drive slaves or to tear up the workplace safeguards that were put in by the Attlee government (yes, the Factories Act of 1948 for starters – again, another).  You will see people enslaved or die to fit your “agenda” and will impose that in the face of no end of people saying “no, no, NO!”.

Well, your agenda is little more than one of several elements of a resurgent Fascism (I never thought I would say that in my lifetime) in this country.  You represent a government cabal of millionaires attacking those in society who need the most support.  Ian Duncan Smith went as far as telling us that work makes you free.  That’s an aspiration my grandfather and his many brothers fought against and won in the late 30s and early 40s.  Yes, my grandfather had “an agenda”.

The “bite back” in the title is, however, that the “agenda” remark means nothing.  It isn’t justified, explained or based on any other grounds than the petty prejudices of the speaker.  If he wants to debate it, fine, but if he’s going to just run to the press and call me names because he has the ear of a tame publicist, then he’s little more than a modern-day Goebbels.  He won’t debate it, though, because it will mean he will have  to stand by his remarks and it is clear that such a move is a level of responsibility that does not sit well with this current government.  The PM can get away with groundless remarks at PMQs – why should it be any different for his underlings?

Clement Attlee’s time to shine came of course after the demise of Goebbels.  We can but hope.

It seems I’m not the only person that Chris Grayling thinks “absurd” (again, with or without superfluous adverbs)


Chris Grayling has hit out at those who oppose his workfare *cough* work experience schemes as being ‘job snobs’ in The Telegraph. The biggest problem with the entire article is that Grayling has told several whoppers.

He claims that under the last government claimants would have had their JSA stopped for taking part in work experience. While he is technically correct, if a work experience placement was arranged through the jobcentre then they kept all of their benefits. As far as I am aware Grayling’s schemes are arranged via the Jobcentre/work programme, so claimants would have kept their JSA anyway.

It is also claimed that the current placements are voluntary. They’re not. The word ‘mandatory’ means you have to do it, and don’t forget that if you do not complete your placement, don’t turn up, refuse, or fail to perform adequately you can be sanctioned, that means you lose…

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Workfare – It Still Doesn’t Add Up

Second post in the series.  The commissioning editor seems to have the opinion this might run and run…

After a stalwart occupation of a Tesco in Westminster yesterday, Chris Grayling, the bully who want to make it easier for you to die in the workplace and starve the poor and the infirm through slavery, has stepped up.

In a remarkable statement that sounds like Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, (“I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.”) Grayling has called the opposition to his Workfare “utterly and completely absurd“.  It seems that irrespective of the reality, Grayling thinks he is right and the entire British public opposing him is wrong.  Might I be so bold as to suggest you have a word with your co-minister Lynne Featherstone, who memorably said “We want to move away from the arrogant notion that Government knows best…”.  But I digress, another day, maybe.

I don’t appreciate being called absurd, even without the redundant adverbs.  So I sent him this.

Dear Sir,
You have been quoted as saying this

“Our work experience scheme is voluntary and thanks to companies like Tesco and many others has provided a route for literally thousands of young people to find their first job.
“The idea that providing work experience for unemployed young people is some kind of forced labour is utterly and completely absurd.”

The DWP have stated that allowances (you call them “benefits”) will be stopped after a week has passed on “placement”.  This is a clear element of compulsion, forcing individuals into non-contracted labour that subverts the national minimum wage.
The Volunteer England and TUC charter states that

“The involvement of volunteers should complement and supplement the work of paid staff, and should not be used to displace paid staff or undercut their pay and conditions of service.”


“The added value of volunteers should be highlighted as part of commissioning or grant-making process but their involvement should not be used to reduce contract costs.”

These “volunteers” you speak of are clearly displacing workers from legitimate vacancies and/or reducing hours for existing staff thus undercutting pay and conditions of service.  At nil cost to Tesco and at a nil increase of cost to “the taxpayer”, this is a clear case of your department reducing contract costs.
Please therefore explain to me how you justify your “utterly and completely absurd” remark as it appears to be hollow words without substance in the face of the evidence provided above.
I will be publishing this exchange so I would expect a reply within one week or I will assume “no reply”.
A concerned citizen

There is a complete arrogance and failure to acknowledge that the many without a vested interest are clearly more balanced on this than the few.  The Cabinet of course are not excessively wealthy individually and have never taken payment collectively from various giants of business around the country.  Like, say, Tesco.

Is Grayling just arrogant or dancing to the tune of private interest over public concern?  Let’s see what his reply says.  If, indeed, he deigns to reply at all.

“I’m ready for my close up Mr De Mille”

The Twists And Turns Of The Daily Mail

Mail Bashing is of course the preserve of every right minded citizen in the UK.  I had the misfortune to see the front page today (I’m with Nye Bevan on newspapers) while I was buying scones and cheese.  Not really relevant but there is more fact and research in that sentence than required for a job at a national rag. 

With the Mail, first you get the untrammelled nonsense, followed by the comments from Mad Dog John in Melbourne who left the UK because Wilson got in – again – and who seems to think he knows what’s best for us after nearly forty years of living it, Buster Edwards style, 12,000 miles away.

Yesterday, they bucked the trend.  Sonia Poulton wrote this article

and came out to tell the current shower that are in the position of “government” that they are little short of evil slavers.  It is unfair to say that “even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and again” about the author without at least further research, but it is entirely fair to say it about the paper.  It’s vile and for it to indicate that its source of main support is vile, well, that’s a whole new shade of vile.

Sadly, the world is supposed to work on balance.  The Korean flag addresses it, Newtonian laws cover it, even Locard’s Exchange Principle touches on it after a fashion.

Edmond Locard was a forensic scientist and effectively stated that everywhere you go, you take something with you, and you leave something behind.  Adapting that to the Mail, you get the good elements from the excellent article left behind and somewhere further along the line you’ll pick up the poorly-written nonsense. 

One day, it took.–taxpayers-foot-bill.html  The Taxpayer’s Anschluss were right in on it but given the imbecility of that unrepresentative organisation, it’s clear they’d never consider researching if any of the preposterous claims were in fact true.  Philip Davies MP, the disability hater, also pitched in, forgetting that he is, of course, a civil servant and parliament is the biggest gravy train of the all.

Let’s dissect the claims.

Now, I’ve known an awful lot of civil servants across an awful lot of departments and I’ve been one myself.  Compensation for lost or damaged property is a preposterous claim and in two decades in and around civil servants, I’ve never heard such nonsense.  This is borne out by the clothing farrago.

Replacing tights would assume the wearing of tights in the first instance.  Already we’re into fractions and those fractions don’t get preferential treatment over the majority.  Regarding replacing and recompensing any clothing, apart from having seen managers in the same clothes on rotation for over four years, how does that work for uniformed prison officers, police, border staff in uniform, indeed ANYONE in uniform?  It is hard to decide which is the more spectacularly dense; the claim, or; the simple fundamental principle of failing to think for more than four seconds and see that someone is having you, The Daily Mail and the Taxpayer’s Anschluss, for a patsy.

“Taxi for family to pick up an honour if the recipient has died”.  What?  Someone who dies in service (low percentage indeed) who does so after winning an honour [we all have honours, of course] but before the award (really?  In 500,000 civil servants, I doubt this has ever happened) is even more preposterous than the uniforms the employer provides being a source of income.  If I were reporting this, I’d be ashamed.  Next up…

Pensions?  A sustainable element of pay agreed through negotiation with successive governments?  Really?  I can see the only source of objection being because of the prospect of upcoming strikes (late March, kids, get ready) and that Francis Maude is cacking himself.  Again.

Partial retirement, part year working and flexitime, meanwhile actually save “the mythical  taxpayer”.  The first cuts salary and actuarially reduces pension payments, the second is a means of filling a department only when needed and the third is an element of statutory law that can be and is used for worklife balance.  It actually makes people more productive.  Do the research, it’s true, go on, I’ll be here when you get back.

Home workers, meanwhile, aren’t the “500,000 civil servants” cited because like it or not, you can’t lock down prisoners, police the streets or act as an MOD clerk in a war zone “from home”.  Border staff do not monitor entry clearance through a portal in their garden and DWP staff do not interview prospective claimants in their kitchen while making some toast.

Last one.  “Compressed hours”.  Aside from that being potentially flexible working, and so has legal backing, why would anyone care how you put in your time as long as you put in 36 hours?

And then I saw it.  36 hours.  Not 37.  36 hours is a London contract.  The civil service outside London works a 37 hour week as full time.  Unless all the half million are working in London – and they aren’t – then the wheels fall off completely here.  The most basic element of working contracts – hours worked – hasn’t even been investigated by two, yes, two reporters at a national newspaper.  And the Taxpayer’s Anschluss, who weren’t in on the “workfare is slavery” article above jumped in right behind this, filth that they are.

The article states within “It is not known how much money is claimed each year in compensation.”

Of course not.  That would involve truth and research.  And this is the Daily Mail.

Workfare – It Doesn’t Add Up

I wrote to Tesco today.  They’ve spent the last couple of days making claims that they just can’t justify in 140 characters or less on Twitter.

They stepped up with an outrageous remark this morning.  Apparently, the people who are working for nil pay are doing so because they want to!  No threats, no compunction, these people are walking in off the street and apparently saying “Hi, high street behemoth with mammoth running costs and similar profits, I’d like to join your team and do so for the princely sum of ZERO POUNDS!  Yes, ZERO POUNDS!”

Call me a sceptic (the title might be a clue towards that) but I don’t think that’s happened.  Ever.

So naturally, I wrote to Tesco.  Do you know they want a landline and mobile phone number to even consider fielding your enquiry?  True.  So I gave their own number and changed 0870 to 0770 for the mobile (my numbers are for friends and necessaries and Tesco fit neither) and sent this:

On Twitter today, you replied to a tweet regarding your policy of using slave labour to fill vacancies with “Jobcentre Plus has assured us that all of those who have come to Tesco have done so as volunteers.”

Volunteering England and the TUC have a charter.  It states

“The involvement of volunteers should complement and supplement the work of paid staff, and should not be used to displace paid staff or undercut their pay and conditions of service.”

It further states

“The added value of volunteers should be highlighted as part of commissioning or grant-making process but their involvement should not be used to reduce contract costs.”

Your claim that these WorkFare slaves are “volunteers” entirely subverts that charter.  I would appreciate a full and frank reconciliation or response.  I intend to publish the same.  Please respond within the week or I will assume a “nil response”.

Let’s see how far I get