Demonstrators have protested outside a central London Greggs store, as part of a direct action campaign against its involvement in the government’s Workfare Scheme.
The Workfare Scheme, launched in June 2011, attempts to make jobseekers more employable by offering them work experience, with companies including Primark, Argos and Greggs taking part.
Greggs currently has six young people on voluntary Workfare placements, in roles in IT, accounts, customer contact, payroll and retail.
Participants are only be paid expenses for the 25-30 hours they work a week. They also lose their benefits if they pull out of a placement.
The protest outside Greggs was part of a “week of action” organised by Boycott Workfare, a UK-wide campaign network “to end forced unpaid work for people who receive welfare.”
The group, which mustered through twitter and social networking sites such as Facebook, explained that “peaceful protests will step up the pressure on those still involved in Workfare.”
A Greggs spokeswoman said Greggs believes that with one million 16-24 year olds unemployed, genuine work experience opportunities improve their chances of applying for vacancies as they arise.
It said in a statement: “The company supports 6 -12 participants at any one time, which enables it to give maximum support, ensure that participants are getting credible work experience and ensure they are not being used to cover vacancies.”
Around 40 young people have completed the scheme at Greggs, of which 16 were given a job with Greggs.
Sainsbury’s and Waterstones are among retailers who have dropped out of the Workfare scheme following controversy over unpaid work and loss of benefits for participants.