Salvation Army HQ occupied by workfare protestors

By staff writers
19 Mar 2013

The Salvation Army headquarters was the venue for a series of creative protests when workfare campaigners paid a surprise visit to challenge the church's use of forced unpaid workers.

Protestors sang hymns with subverted workfare lyrics in the public cafe, while a 'workfare army' occupied its reception area for one hour. Banners including biblical quotations such as 'The labourer is worthy of his hire' (Luke 10:7) were unfurled.

The Salvation Army is one of the few large charities to remain involved in the government's controversial workfare schemes. It had publicly denied involvement in the schemes until evidence of its involvement in Mandatory Work Activity - a scheme which carries a penalty of up to 3 years benefit stoppages - emerged in January. Since then it has stridently defended its involvement.

Commenting on the action Joanna Long, member of Boycott Workfare said: "Charities like the YMCA and Salvation Army are meant to help people, not make them poorer, but workfare schemes do just the opposite. People are forced to work without pay or face destitution.

"It is disgraceful that the Salvation Army can defend forcing unemployed, sick and disabled people onto workfare. It is time they join the growing list of charities who realise it's just not ethical."

The action was supported by Christianity Uncut. Chris Wood, a spokesperson for the group, said: "Workfare workers are not volunteers - their work is not voluntary but obligatory, and they should be paid a living wage. Instead they are being threatened with losing the benefits on which they live if they refuse to take part in this forced labour scheme.

"We are deeply saddened that charities such as the Salvation Army and YMCA are undermining the good work they do, and their witness to Christ, by participating in workfare schemes. Throughout the economy, workfare is increasing poverty and unemployment by reducing the jobs available for paid staff. Christians need to make a public witness against workfare and proclaim Jesus' teaching that 'The worker is worthy of his pay'."

Boycott Workfare is a UK-wide campaign network to end forced unpaid work for people who receive welfare. Workfare profits the rich by providing free labour, whilst threatening the poor by taking away welfare rights if people refuse to work without a living wage.

The Salvation Army has defended its involvement in forced unpaid work, ignoring the impact on poverty of the sanctions (benefit stoppages) on the schemes, say campaigners.

Christianity Uncut is an informal network of Christians campaigning against the UK government's cuts agenda and the wider injustices of neoliberal capitalism.

The sit-in launched a week of action against workfare, which runs until Sunday 24 March, and will see actions in cities across the UK including Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Nottingham, Glasgow and Leeds.

* The list of public actions for the week of action against workfare continues to grow and can be found here: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=1996

[Ekk/3]

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 England & Wales License. Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.