Slavery Returns

Finding cheap labour with little or no employment rights does not just cut the wages bill for corporation it also acts as a downward pressure on wages and conditions across the economy. While the affect of moving production overseas to China etc is well known there is a growing trend to use cheap (and some would say slave labour) in the developed world.

Job Seekers Allowance

Some people claiming Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) are being sent to work for supermarkets and budget stores for up to two months for no pay and no guarantee of a job. Not only is this forced labour it is also taking away real paid jobs and subsidising profit making organisations.

The scheme is being challenged in the courts by Public Interest Lawyers (see who alleged that it is ‘forced labour’ and hence is prohibited by UK and European human rights law, in particular by Article 4(2) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

There is also a campaign to get people to refuse to take part (

USA Prison Slavery

For a quick overview of the way in which prisoner labour in the USA see:

American Prison Labour – QI

It is stated in the programme that prison labour in the USA produce:

  • 100% of military helmets, ammo belts, and ID tags
  • 93% of US paint
  • 36% of home appliances
  • 21% of office furniture

“The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by . . . leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices . . . .”

Corrections Corporation of America, 2010 Annual Report on Form 10-K 19 (2010).

For a more detailed account on privitised prisons and prison labour see

UK Prison Labour

Prisoners in UK jails are working for some of Britain’s best-known brands for as little as £4 a week – with household names such as Virgin Atlantic, Monarch Airlines and Travis Perkins benefiting from work carried out by people not covered by the minimum wage. And it is not just the private sector that benefits; the NHS and Ministry of Defence also use goods produced by prisoners.

Inside the sell blocks, The Guardian, Wednesday 9 September 2009

Ken Clarke has said that he wants more jobs for convicts. He told his party conference: “If we want prison to work, then our prisoners have got to be working”. Although he said that he wants prisoners to be paid properly it is not clear what this means.

I have no problem with giving prisoners new skills and getting them out of their cells for more than an hour a day but is it being done for rehabilitation or for profit?

Companies such as G4 are working to bring US style prison slavery to the UK.

At HMP Altcourse in Liverpool, G4S works with Norpro, an engineering firm, which has converted three former metal workshops into the company factory floor. Over 25 prisoners run the factory, producing high quality office furniture at high volumes, and at an economic price. So successful has the scheme proved that work previously done in India has been brought back to the UK.



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