Saturday, September 29, 2012

Liverpool Shoppers Turn Their Backs On Workfare Exploiters

A group of around a dozen activists held successful demonstrations at two Liverpool shops taking advantage of the government’s workfare scheme this afternoon. Many refused to cross our picket line and give Poundland and Tesco their business, after finding out that both use what is effectively slave labour to boost their profit margins. While anti-workfare campaigning has had some success, it is vital to keep hammering away at the scheme.

Not only is important in of itself, as any one of us could find us facing compulsory unpaid labour, it can be part of resurrecting narratives of class struggle and working class solidarity. It is essential to get across the fact that the introduction of ‘free’ work undermines the position of all who are paid for it.

As I described in my February article ‘Why Workfare is an Attack on the Entire Working Class’:
"Capitalism is based on exploitation. That's to say at root, it is exploitation. Without exploitation there could be no profit, because profit is the difference between the value of a worker's labour and their compensation for it. This contradiction is the foundation of all class struggle - the employers always want to extract more value from their employees, and the employees desire the opposite. How much better for an employer then - and how much worse for the employee - for there to be a wage of zero!” 
Today we began at the Poundland store on Williamson Square. With its two, big entrances, this posed a challenge, but when we fanned ourselves out with banners, flags and leaflets we were able to form an effective symbolic barrier, and get our point across to each and every customer. We got far more support than criticism, and loads turned away, especially when offered the alternative of Poundworld on Church Street. Those who did go in often looked particularly shamefaced when our megaphone guy announced they were “helping the Tories.”

We then journeyed to the Tesco on Bold Street, where we also got a generally favourable public reception. A far higher proportion crossed us however, with one otherwise sympathetic person returning to go past, complaining that Sainsbury’s “don’t have [their] brand of fizzy water.” 

The revolution clearly has a long way to go, but it was a positive day, and we will be back for more very soon! Every pound lost to Poundland due to workfare is a pound they could potentially choose to pay an employee - just £6.20 per hour would fund a minimum wage! And as for Tesco, they are of course absolute giants, but as they never fail to say, ‘Every little helps!’

The Liverpool Claimant Network write-up can be read here.
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