Dorset IWW General Members’ Branch is pleased to announce that our dispute with a Bournemouth outlet of the Co-operative has been settled amicably. We have a verbal assurance from local management who are USDAW members, that they have no wish to exploit unpaid workers on their premises, and that their connection with ‘Prospects’ has been severed. We congratulate them on their principled decision and affirm our commitment to defeat the government’s work programme and end unpaid labour.
Nationally however, the situation is less clear; we have had sight of a Co-op internal document that sets out the parameters of their unpaid work experience programme. Whilst it insists that placements must be voluntary and offer meaningful experience, we note that vulnerable adults are being conscripted who may not be fully aware of their rights. It’s highly likely some of them will not be able to make an informed decision and/or will get browbeaten by jobcentre staff with targets to meet. Once they are on the scheme if they leave they may be deemed to have made themselves intentionally unemployed, and be sanctioned. Lastly of course, however you dress it up, it’s unpaid labour. How long does it take to assess a person’s suitability for working in a grocer’s shop? A week, two? Why then should a national chain not speculate a fortnight’s minimum wage to find out?