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Unemployed Speak for Themselves Regarding the Community Work Programme (CWP)

On Saturday June 20 sixteen Wardens from the Finsbury Park Business Forum’s Business and Community Wardens Programme took it upon themselves to attend an informal meeting held at the Fire Station in Mayton Street, Islington organised by the Workfare. A few days before Boycott Workfare had staged a demonstration at Finsbury Park Station, campaigning against the CWP – the Governments provision for the long-term unemployed, of which the Wardens Programme is a part. The Wardens turned up in their high-viz vests in a show of solidarity as a response to the demonstration. They were there to make a point about their own autonomy: their own right to choose in a situation that, though morally dubious, could still be turned to their own advantage. The Wardens, though respecting the right of these people to protest, were nevertheless annoyed by their arrogant attitude in presuming what was and wasn’t right for them. The Wardens felt that the people protesting were only interested in emphasising the negative aspects of such schemes while wilfully ignoring the positive aspects (a classic strategy of the ill-informed) and also gave very little awareness or consideration to individual concerns, or even past working histories and future aspirations of those on the Warden Programme. To the Protestors the Wardens are all ‘vulnerable’ people who are unable to fend for or speak for themselves. Is this the strong protecting the weak or is it just a group of people with a lot of time on their hands and elitist tendencies seeing the Wardens as the’ lumpen Proletariat’ to be exploited for their own political ends? This point is reaffirmed when you consider the involvement of certain other naïve politicians who are using this fracas merely as a means to bolster their own political profiles. If you think the Business Forum is exploiting these people then the Protestors from Boycott Workfare and the Politicians mentioned above are equally guilty of the very same thing: exploitation of the unemployed .

This meeting might have been a recipe for disaster but, to be fair, it turned out to be quite amicable although the atmosphere was described as ‘uncomfortable’ by some of the Wardens who attended. The intent of the Wardens was merely to get their own views across, to speak for themselves rather than have someone speak for them. The protestors were quite surprised to see the Wardens and it soon became clear that they didn’t really want them there and didn’t really want to hear what they had to say. It was obvious that they had made up their minds: Boycott Workfare was right and everyone else was wrong. Evidently, not only were the Wardens ‘vulnerable’ but they also didn’t know what was best for themselves. Only Boycott Workfare were elevated enough to see the whole picture and only they had the right to dictate what people could and couldn’t do. How Democratic of them.





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