Motherwell charity cuts ties with controversial work scheme

LAMH workers insist they're happy to be on the Government programme.
LAMH workers insist they're happy to be on the Government programme.

A Motherwell charity has pulled out of a Government employment programme after being targeted in a ‘slave labour’ protest.

LAMH Recycling says it has been bombarded with abusive messages and its Range Road premises have been vandalised since the Motherwell Times highlighted a daily vigil being carried out by former employee John McArthur.

He has been spending two hours every day standing outside the factory with placards critical of LAMH for taking part in the employment scheme. Participants get a six-month placement but no payment above their usual jobseeker’s allowance.

Mr McArthur (59) said his benefits were stopped after he refused a placement at LAMH where he had worked previously for a wage. He can’t afford to switch on his heating and is ‘living on 16p tins of spaghetti’.

Since our story two weeks ago Mr McArthur has received messages of support and offers of cash from home and abroad, but LAMH said it, in contrast, has been swamped by e-mails and other messages containing abuse and threats.

People on LAMH placements this week lined up to defend the work scheme which, they claim, is improving their chances of finding a job.

One, John Dowdie, said: “It’s completely wrong that the people here are getting hatemail and threats. This is a Government programme and the Jobcentre sent us here. It’s nothing to do with LAMH.”

Joe Fulton, operations and development manager at LAMH, also defended the scheme, saying seven people who signed up in June when it first started have gone on to find jobs elsewhere.

He said the 15 current participants will be allowed to complete their placements, but no more will be taken on.

Mr Fulton stated: “We are not in the business of surviving through slave labour, but it was obvious the people behind this campaign were not going to stop.

“We are forced into this action reluctantly for the protection of the people with us plus the safeguarding of the organisation, which is highly regarded for the good work it has achieved in the local community since 1999.”

Under the scheme, jobless people join the LAMH workforce, whose tasks include repairing computers and collecting materials such as cans and bottles for recycling.

They also get access to telephones and computers to make job applications under the supervision of an employment co-ordinator.

Elaine Tollan, from Craigneuk, gave the scheme her approval.

She said: “I’ve been unemployed for four or five years, but after 14 weeks at LAMH, I feel more motivated to get a job.

“I’m getting unemployment money and I’m fine with that.”

Richard Dawson, from Muirhouse, praised the ‘welcoming’ atmosphere at LAMH and scoffed at the ‘slave labour’ claim.

He said: “Before, I didn’t get out of bed till dinner time. I was very negative about this when I started, but now I feel motivated and confident.

“I don’t think about the money. I come here with a spring in my step. It’s another step towards getting a job and it’s all positive.”

More on this story in the Times and Speaker, out now.