Mare Street businesses targeted by Workfare protesters

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Campaigners descended on Mare Street to protest about businesses involved in the government’s controversial workfare scheme.

Around 30 protesters demonstrated outside businesses including Tesco, Pizza Hut, McDonalds, Greggs, Holland & Barrett and Boots in a day of action held on Saturday 3 March.

Police threatened to evict the protestors from Primark, one of the shops targeted by the protest. Photo: Jaymi McCann.

Boots has withdrawn from the scheme, while Pizza Hut has stated that it is reviewing its involvement.

The protest was organised by activist group Hackney Alliance and the Socialist Workers Party’s protest group, Right to Work.

Police threatened to remove the protestors from outside Primark.

Glyn Harries, 49, from the Hackney Trades Council said: “[The Police] were saying that we were obstructing the highway and stopping people getting in the store. We were doing neither!”

There were 24 protests across the UK on Saturday as part of a nationwide attempt to put pressure on the companies to pull out of the government work experience programme.

By November, 34,200 people were on the scheme, with participants working 25-30 hours per week for their benefits.

The protesters dispute claims from the government that the workfare scheme is voluntary.

Activist Daniel Randall, 25 from Tower Hamlets said: “We are protesting against Tesco, and a number of other employers, who are part of government schemes such as Workfare.

“It is the exploitation of free labour by the biggest employers in the economy.”

The protests come after controversy last week, when several employers threatened to withdraw from the scheme after demonstrations in central London.

The Department of Work and Pensions said that participants would not lose benefits if they left the work experience programme.  Employment minister Chris Grayling also confirmed that the scheme would remain “totally voluntary.”

Other protests took place in Lewisham and McDonalds Oxford St, where protestors clashed with police and the fast food restaurant was forced to close.