London GMB supports the following open letter to CWU against workfare at Royal Mail and the callout for a picket at CWU HQ at 150 The Broadway, Wimbledon, London, SW19 1RX on April 2 at 1100:

Open Letter to all members of the Communication Workers Union, (CWU)

We are writing this Open Letter because recent efforts both by Boycott Workfare and CWU members to gain written guarantees that the Work Experience scheme agreed between Royal Mail (RM) and the Communication Workers Union leadership  genuinely ensures the scheme is voluntary have failed.  Both Boycott Workfare and ordinary CWU members  have received little response from the CWU leadership other than to say they have had NO confirmation from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).  And in fact the  CWU leaders have not even spoken to the DWP about any of the issues concerning the Royal Mail work experience programme and any sanctions that can be imposed against unemployed workers on this scheme as they have only spoken to Royal Mail and NOT to the DWP.

We are aware that the joint RM/CWU statement stresses the “voluntary” nature of the scheme. But this is at best a drastic misunderstanding and at worst a deliberate misleading of the CWU membership, as they have made statements they cannot back up with basic facts.

Ministers have stated “the sanctions regime remains in place” and made it very clear that anybody turning down, or withdrawing from, a so-called “voluntary” work experience scheme will be transferred to Mandatory Work Activity.

How voluntary is a scheme where the interviewer tells you you can “volunteer for this or we will force you on to something else”? Or “You’re free to leave this placement but we will force you on something else”? In what sense is the scheme not still subject to sanctions?

The only possible proof the scheme is genuinely voluntary would be if the CWU and/or Royal Mail produced a written guarantee from the DWP that people leaving the RM/CWU scheme early will not be transferred to (compulsory) Mandatory Work Experience and or workers will not face ANY sanctions at ANY TIME throughout the period of the work experience scheme.

Unless this guarantee is provided this scheme cannot be considered voluntary,  it should be a simple matter for such a guarantee to be produced if our  leadership had bothered to talk to the DWP but of course they have not.

That  the CWU leadership have not spoken spoken to the DWP can only  lead  both public and the CWU membership to the inevitable conclusion that such a guarantee does not exist and the membership have been misled by CWU HQ.

Needless to say, if the CWU leadership continue to promote this scheme with Royal Mail without this guarantee, it is essentially supporting Royal Mail acquire a new unpaid group of workers who could be forced to cross picket lines on threat of benefit sanctions added to all the other problems these schemes would seem to have.

We feel strongly that the CWU leadership should not be supporting the Conservative led Government with yet another attack on workers’ rights and should not be giving a fresh lease of life to any work experience schemes but rather should be supporting workers get real jobs.

The scheme in question, Work Experience, has been the subject of a high profile campaign in recent weeks. The campaign is supported by PCS, and other trade unions and the Citizen Advice Bureau (CAB) continues to list “work experience” as compulsory.

We are therefore inviting all opposed to compulsory work programmes to join our picket at CWU HQ at 150 The Broadway, Wimbledon, London, SW19 1RX on April 2 at 1100 to demand “No Workfare at Royal Mail”. We also call on all CWU members to put in and support emergency resolutions to National Conference at Bournemouth from the 22/04/2012 – 26/04/2012 demanding an end to our CWU leadership supporting the conservative led Government and its  work experience schemes and instead getting real jobs with real pay for our unemployed workers.