While we were in the Peak District a week ago I sat down with H and said I thought we should cut up our Tesco cards and send them back, saying we would not shop they until they replaced unpaid labour with proper jobs for unemployed people. I think the last straw for me was the revelation that they were expecting people to work 'permanently' for no money, and that some were working night shifts. My son worked nights in a shop a couple of years back, and it's tough to do it week after week. It's hard to work 10pm-6am for enhanced pay, compelling people to do it for pennies an hour is disgusting. Particularly when it's me paying those meagre wages, rather than Tesco, who are a sight richer than I am.
Anyway (calm down dear) I shall stop ranting, because of course before I got back from my long weekend Tesco had already backed down, and all the other employers have followed since or soon will. I am thinking - though I do not know - that if I (the laziest and least effective boycotter ever) had been driven to scissoring up my Tesco card, there were many many people who got there ahead of me. We will never know I guess. In any case, we won, we got our way.
Conclusion - boycotting and embarrassing companies is one of our few remaining powers, and we should probably use it more.
ETA just seen on the BBC site, appeared while I was typing the above, Ministers have dropped sanctions against the unemployed - they will no longer lose benefits if they refuse to work for free at Poundland. A couple of hours ago Cameron described people who didn't agree with this as 'Trotskyites' and Clegg has said we have 'messed up priorities'. Now they have both backed down.
However the Govt will still be (effectively) giving money to Poundland, instead of putting it into the NHS or whatever, so all is not well by any means.
NB That BBC report I've linked to says that the schemes involve the unemployed working for up to 8 weeks, but I remember that in mid-February Tesco protested that people were forced to work without pay for 'no more than six months' (they said that web sites advertising permanent compulsory unpaid work were 'an IT error').