Greens secure Council veto for forced labour schemes

Green Councillor Maggie Chapman today secured the Council’s principled opposition to the Westminster Government’s forced-labour Workfare (including Mandatory Work Activity) schemes. The schemes, which include a strand of forced work on threat of loss of benefits, is part of the Department of Work and Pensions welfare changes.

While the Council is eligible to take part in the scheme, the motion ensures that the Council opposes such activities, and would need to assess each proposed scheme before entering into any such arrangement.

Cllr Chapman said: “Forcing people to work for free for companies like Tesco on threat of losing their benefits is degrading, immoral and counter-productive. The only people benefiting from this are the companies exploiting people to boost their own profits. It reduces the number of paying jobs and prevents benefits claimants from seeking paid work. Edinburgh Council should be helping people to find paid work, not participating in a forced labour scheme.”

People forced onto such schemes must complete up to six months of free work for a big business or other employer or lose benefits.

These schemes mean that companies use unpaid benefits claimants to fill jobs instead of employing people. This exacerbates unemployment and perpetuates poverty. The schemes also makes it much more difficult for those subjected to mandatory work to find a job that pays them for their work, according to the DWP’s own data

The Administration backed the Green proposals with only Conservatives and Liberal Democrats dissenting.