According to the media we Brits have been happily flag waving our monarchy over the last few days not caring one iota it would seem that the country is in a financial mess. Well to put the record straight not all of us took notice of the celebrations. For one group of unemployed in the UK it was far from a time to celebrate.
According to the Guardian around 80 people were bussed into the London area to help police the event as part of the Coalition Government's "work program" The group included up to 30 who are classed as long term unemployed. Around 50 are part of the same government's "apprentice scheme". This scheme has young people working for a pittance on the promise of learning a trade. It is not the same as the traditional apprenticeship scheme of years gone by. This means that it is open to abuse by some employers. Cheap labour is all that it is to those who are so inclined.
The Guardian's report follows claims by two of the group. They would not be named for fear of benefit reprisals. The "work" was forced in that to refuse meant a loss of benefits. The two said that "they had to change into security gear in public, had no access to toilets for 24 hours, and were taken to a swampy campsite outside London after working a 14-hour shift in the pouring rain on the banks of the Thames on Sunday"
A young female worker said she was, "on duty between London Bridge and Tower Bridge during the £12m river spectacle of a 1,000-boat flotilla and members of the Royal family sail by . She said that the security firm Close Protection UK, which won a stewarding contract for the jubilee events, gave her a plastic see-through poncho and a high-visibility jacket for protection against the rain"
Close Protection claim that for them this was a dry run for the work it will be responsible for during the Olympics. It claims then the work will be paid work. Utilising the unemployed in this way will have save them a small fortune. apart from the obvious costs of proper clothing and accommodation, there is the fact that Bank Holidays in the UK attract a higher rate of pay.
According to the Close Protection website the company, "CPUK was founded in 2005 as a result of government legislation introduced to regulate the security sector. CPUK's Security Consultants and Close Protection Operatives are highly trained individuals and have extensive experience within all areas of the security industry. We specialise in providing dynamic risk/threat assessments to clients and then tailor security solutions to their specific needs. CPUK supply a high calibre of Close Protection Operatives to personalities within the music, sport, radio and television industries and also conduct surveillance operations using best practice and the latest techniques."
Well that is obviously bunkum.
One wonders just who owns this company?
The Coalition would love to scrap the minimum wage. Fact. If it were purely a Tory government it would already have done so. It will come soon though. The excuse will be to boost growth and other falsehoods. Love or loathe Tony Blair the minimum wage is one positive which British people should thank him for. Prior to its creation many adults worked for a little over £2 an hour. Currently those on a UK apprenticeship receive £2.80 an hour.
If there are so many flag waving Brits in the UK it is surprising that long term unemployed had to be press ganged into working to support the Jubilee celebrations. Surely out of the 2.63 million unemployed in the UK willing volunteers could be found? Perhaps it was also a dry run for enforced labour by the UK government, who knows?
You may think that is just a storm in a tea cup but trust me it is not. If the two individuals had not spoken out to the Guardian who would know of this matter? How many more times has this happened or will it happen. The Government Work Program has already been proven to be flawed. In the past the Guardian had written a damning report on the schemes.
You can dress this story up as you like to make it sound acceptable but it is not. The charity Tomorrow's People, which set up the placements at Close Protection under the work programme, said it would review the situation, but stressed that unpaid work was valuable and made people more employable. Yes sometimes it does but many times it does not. Do they all work for nothing?
It cannot be about making someone more employable when there is no work out there. Perhaps it is more about making life uncomfortable for the unemployed and encouraging them to stop signing on? After all the number of people signing on continues to drop although unemployment remains high. Manipulated figures once more?
If it were happening in another country we would be up in arms. Volunteers should be just that Yes we know that the Tories would like us to return to the dark days of Charles Dickens but there shenanigans have not gone unnoticed.
So did I flag wave for the Jubilee. No I did not.
Guardian report here
Eileen Kersey manages TEK Staff Blog