Monday 13 August 2012

Right to Work South Wales Protest Tomorrow against ‘Prisonfare’

Prisoner on phone

illustration: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout

Following last weeks protest Right to Work South Wales has initiated an open letter challenging the use of prison labour to replace call centre workers in Cardiff.

Activists are also building for another demonstration outside the offices of Becoming Green on Wednesday 15th August from 4.30pm at the offices of Becoming Green, Eastgate House. Newport Road, Cardiff CF24 0AB.


We are shocked and outraged by revelations that a green energy firm, Becoming Green, has been using prisoners to staff its call centres. The company, based in Cardiff, has been bussing in prisoners from nearby and paying them as little as 40p an hour (£3 a day).

After this was revealed, HMP announced it had plans to move entire call centres into prisons. This is a form of 21st century slavery, where rehabilitation is scrapped in favour of hyper-exploitation. It is, in the words of the Unite union, Dickensian.

If Becoming Green is a test case for this, we should be very concerned. As well as using inmates as almost free labour it has sacked 17 fully paid workers since December, with prisoners now accounting for 15% of the workforce. At the moment in Britain 1 in 12 people are unemployed while more than 20% of young people aged 16-24 are without work.  The scheme proposed by HMP will only accelerate this trend as firms outsource operations into prisons in a bid to boost profits.

It will also, no doubt, create a competitive downward pressure on wages. In the midst of a recession, with GDP and living standards tumbling, these measures will not aid recovery but lead the economy further into the quagmire it’s in. As with the governments workfare scheme, ‘prisonfare’ is a policy aimed at massively increasing the profits of a handful of people while entrenching poverty for the majority.

It is vital that the trade union movement acts to stop this attack on jobs and incomes – and to defend those who are suffering at the sharp end of this exploitation. We offer our full support for action which calls for Becoming Green to withdraw and for the government scheme to be scrapped.

Bob Crow – RMT General Secretary

Andy Richards – Unite Wales General Secretary

Belinda Robinson – Unite Wales Regional Women’s and Equalities Officer

Ian Hodson - National President, Bakers Food & Allied Workers Union

Seb Cooke – Right To Work South Wales

Peter Harris – Secretary PCS Wales

Marianne Owens – Vice Chair PCS Wales

Steve West – PCS DWP Group Executive

Anne Greagsby – Green Party Wales Campaign Co-ordinator

Daniel De’Ath – Cardiff councillor

Celia Love – Cardiff councillor

Glenn Page – Plaid Cymru Ifanc (Plaid Cymru Youth)

Richard Morse, Secretary Torfaen Trades Council

Malcolm Degroot – Secretary Newport Trades Council

Dr Liza van Zyl – UCU Wales Vice Chair

Andrew Wilkes Wales Rep, Unite Construction Rank and File Committee

Cerith Griffiths Wales FBU Chair

Ramon Corria, Secretary Cardiff Trades Council
Clive Taylor, Branch Organiser, PCS South East Wales Branch
Andrew Jinks, Plaid Cymru and Unite community member
Jon Gamble – Secretary, Watford Trades Council
Sean Wallis – Branch secretary, UCL UCU
Adam Johannes, Cardiff Unemployed Daytime Disco
Mark Dunk – Right to Work and Unite community member
Andy Parsons PCS
Jaime Davies USDAW
Charlotte Bence Unison
Amelia Barker
Sophie Roberts
Phil Dobbinson CPS Cardiff
Jill Lewis UCU Committee University of East London
Cllr Peter Foley, Bridgend County Borough Council (IND)
Neil Harrison, Branch Chair PCS: National Museum Wales
Kerry Fairless Chair PCS Eastern Region
Sally Kincaid Divisional Sec Wakefield & District NUT
Steve Ryan Branch Secreatary PCS R&C North Wales
Sarah Allen Melvin Vice Chair PCS South West
Patricia Clinton NUS LGBT Committee Women’s Officer
Richard Evans PCS R&C South Wales
Sarah Weeks Unite
Ralph Williams Secretary Dover & District Trades Council
Hamish Drummond Dundee Trades Council

No to ‘Prisonfare’ – Real jobs Now!


Assemble 4.30pm on Wednesday 15th August.
Becoming Green
Eastgate House
Newport Road
Cardiff CF24 0AB



  1. Lesley Kane said:

    This is not a route to eceonomic recovery

    13 August 2012 at 7:06pm
  2. William Edmondson said:

    All such use of prison ‘forced labour’ should be stopped if the workers cannot be paid at least a minimum wage.

    13 August 2012 at 10:17pm
  3. Andrew Wilkes said:

    As the Wales rep on RnF National construction committee i support the RTW campaign against prisonfare.

    13 August 2012 at 11:20pm
  4. Tony Hodges said:

    Wage slavery without a wage – C21st capitalism and the new world Cameron and his crew want to inaugurate! Only organised workers can stop them. To paraphrase Joe Hill – “Don’t moan – organise!”

    14 August 2012 at 3:10pm
  5. Elaine Bourge said:

    With unemployment figures as high as they are I find I feel digusted at this practise!..Is it legal to sack and then replace workers with someone doing the same job?..It is no more than slave labour, which is also illegal. There are plenty of people on JSA that would be glad of the chance to work.

    15 August 2012 at 1:09pm
  6. Gloria Tanner said:

    I give all my best wishes and support for this campaign.

    15 August 2012 at 4:35pm
  7. Bob said:

    You do realise that although 17 people have been sacked since December the company has employed more than 50 since then and plans to employ another 50 or so in the coming months.
    Two separate stories of people getting fired and prisoners working are being combined. So just because they hire prisoners (which get minimum wage and taxed after their training) they are not allowed to fire anyone for performance or attitude?

    15 August 2012 at 5:21pm
  8. charles jolly said:

    It is good for rehabiliation if prisoners do real jobs but they MUST be paid at least the minimum wage, so that there is no incentive to sack other workers. The prison should then deduct the bulk of this pay to contribute towards the prisoners’ keep, thus (slightly) reducing the costs of running prisons.

    18 August 2012 at 9:45am
  9. Chris Davis (Labour Councillor Whitchurch and Tongwynlais) said:

    The simple fact is that there is an economic crisis, we cannot and should not pay Prisoners 40p an hour. It is immoral and totally nonsensical given the state of joblessness in this country. This Government has failed yet again to understand the plight of those who find themselves unemployed.

    21 August 2012 at 12:26pm
  10. sharon brown said:

    I thought slavery in this country had been abolished years ago! Dare I mention the ethnic make up of the prison population in comparison to ethnicity of the general population or the prisoners in Young Offenders’ Institutions with generally low levels of education or numbers of those who grow up in broken homes?
    There are obvious benefits for organisations to sign up to these schemes for cheap labour but does the prisoners benefit from this scheme when they are released or will the organisations just fill their placement with another prisoner? Does that placement take a job that could be filled by someone who is currently looking for work?
    These schemes do not help unemployment levels by creating jobs in the wider economy. What is the end result? A perpetual cycle of fuller prisons, long dole queues and richer fat cats?
    Whilst schemes like this appeal to some narrower thinking members of society they will not stop re-offending nor help the wider society. They should try to remember in times of high unemployment criminality goes up too and the reasons for offending and re-offending are numerous and complex. Although I support strategies that help tackle the re-offending issue I cannot support schemes of this type.

    21 August 2012 at 1:03pm

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