Mustard Tree is a charity that works with homeless and other disadvantaged people in Greater Manchester. Until recently, it participated in workfare. But thanks to a sustained campaign by Boycott Workfare Greater Manchester, they’re no longer involved! Mustard Tree had been part of the government’s Mandatory Work Activity Programme (MWA) – 4 weeks’ full time unpaid work, carried out under threat of sanctions. Boycott Workfare Greater Manchester first picketed Mustard Tree in December 2014. Then again at the end of January 2015, again on March 21st, and again in November. On January 13th, Mustard Tree updated their position on MWA: “Following further consideration, the board of Trustees of Mustard Tree have decided to withdraw our offer of the 4 week work placements associated with the Mandatory Work Activity element of the Welfare to Work Programme.” This updates their earlier stance. In the previous position statement, from March 2015, they said that: “We believe that the 4 week work experience placement [i.e. MWA – unpaid work] is a wholly proportionate and effective tool for accessing sustainable employment.” Like Haringey Solidarity Group’s campaign against North London Hospice, it shows that sustained campaigns against charities using workfare are effective. BW Greater Manchester put pressure on Mustard Tree in different ways: 1. they wrote to supporters of the charity, like FC United, 2. they kept a dialogue going with Mustard Tree throughout the process, 3. they continued picketing their shops and offering information to people passing about what workfare is and how it links to sanctions. On all the demonstrations, people from BW Manchester had a massively positive response from passers by. Even people who were hearing about workfare for the first time very quickly understood what is wrong with workfare, and especially what is wrong with a charity participating in it.
againstworkfare in Mustard Tree: from workfare exploiter to workfare refuser (Boycottworkfare.org)