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.


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