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Jun 05 2012

It’s almost like going to law school

At least people are making a stink about the “work programme” that makes people travel for four hours in the middle of the night then throws them out at 3 a.m. to stand waiting for 20 minutes and then be ordered to sleep under London Bridge, in order to wake up refreshed a few hours later, change their clothes outside in public, then work for 14 hours in pouring rain with no toilet access, and then take the tube to camp out in a swamp in Essex. No food provided. Oh and for all this? No pay, either. I know you already know, but it’s worth reciting it all over again. Such a deal. Bus, night, sleep outside, dress outside, work double shift, no toilets, no food, tube to Essex, camp in swamp, no pay.

Ministers are being urged to look into reports that unemployed people hired as unpaid stewards for the Diamond Jubilee ended up having to sleep outside.

Volunteers from the government’s work programme spent part of the night under London Bridge before Sunday’s Thames pageant, the Guardian said.

Is “volunteers” the right word? It doesn’t sound like the right word, given the part about “if you refuse this gig you don’t get the Olympics gig, which actually pays a wage.”

In a statement, managing director Molly Prince offered her “sincere apologies”, but accused the newspaper of trying “to sensationalise an unfortunate logistics planning problem”.

Again – I would like to know how much time Molly Prince has spent lying down under a bridge at 4 a.m. to prepare for working a double shift in the rain with no food or toilet access or pay.

She added: “There was no intention to exploit anyone or indeed supply cheap labour.”

No? What was the intention then? Since the labour was not paid at all, what else could one call it, and what else could the intention possibly be?

But Lord Prescott has written to Home Secretary Theresa May calling on her to urgently investigate what happened.

“If the allegations are true, it is totally unacceptable that young unemployed people were bussed in to London from Bristol, Bath and Plymouth and forced to sleep out in the cold overnight before stewarding a major event with no payment,” he wrote.

“I am deeply concerned that a private security firm is not only providing policing on the cheap but failing to show a duty of care to its staff and threatening to withdraw an opportunity to work at the Olympics as a means to coerce them to work unpaid.”

Quite so. Not “volunteers” and not so much “cheap labour” as free labour.

Close Protection said the unpaid roles were a trial for paid positions at the 2012 Games, for which it also has a contract to provide stewarding.

That’s fascinating; since when is that legal? Since when do companies get to demand that people do a job unpaid as “a trial” before doing it for real?

Oh no wait, I know, these were “internships.” Yeah that’s it – these lucky young people had “internships” being stewards for Big Events in London. That puts the whole thing in a completely new light.

17 comments

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  1. 1
    Sastra

    Sounds like an “internship” for the military. I thought the term was “boot camp.”

  2. 2
    Ian MacDougall

    OB: “No? What was the intention then? Since the labour was not paid at all, what else could one call it, and what else could the intention possibly be?”

    Clearly the provision of a morally uplifting experience. Those on the receiving end should be grateful.

    Bet the buggers aren’t though. Well, that’s human nature for you. Still, one can but try.

    ;-)

  3. 3
    'Tis Himself

    Sastra #1

    When I was in Navy bootcamp in 1966, I was paid the princely sum of $77 per month plus I got food, clothing, and a bunk with fresh sheets every week.

  4. 4
    Sastra

    ‘Tis Himself #3 wrote:

    When I was in Navy bootcamp in 1966, I was paid the princely sum of $77 per month plus I got food, clothing, and a bunk with fresh sheets every week.

    Yorkshire Diamond Jubilee Stewards: “LUXURY!”

  5. 5
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    Exhibit #4,384,908 of Why Libertarians Can Go Fuck Themselves.

    Seriously, do the shills and suckups who will (inevitably) defend these practices want people to start singing “The Internationale” again?

  6. 6
    sambarge

    For the record, I have never stopped singing “The Internationale” or “Solidarity Forever.” Sometimes I sing them super loud in the car.

    Now, I want to fly to England and teach them to “volunteers” from Close Protection.

  7. 7
    evilDoug

    ” an unfortunate logistics planning problem”

    Sounds like (to swipe an expression from someone I used to know, Scottish, in reference to a group of English) they couldn’t organize a pie into a paper bag.

    … “internships” Well, perhaps the “intern” part, but I’d go with “ment” instead of “ship”.

  8. 8
    'Tis Himself

    Seriously, do the shills and suckups who will (inevitably) defend these practices want people to start singing “The Internationale” again?

    You forget the Libertarian motto: “I’ve got mine, fuck you!”

    The distance between the Occupy Movement and the IWW isn’t that far.

  9. 9
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    ‘Tis:

    You forget the Libertarian motto: “I’ve got mine, fuck you!”

    Oh, I haven’t forgotten it. I’m highlighting the stupidity of thinking that the mindset will protect them from growing numbers of desperate people.

  10. 10
    Musical Atheist

    But you see, it’s completely unreasonable to expect companies to provide minimum health and safety standards and a living minimum wage. Because people can always choose not to work for an unscrupulous company. That’s the market. What do you mean ‘accept exhausting work for no pay under dangerous and inhumane conditions or you won’t get paid work later’ can’t be called a meaningful choice? Fucking bleeding heart hippy.

    Also: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/

  11. 11
    David

    Its not just the threat of not working at the olympics, there is also the fear of , once you have “volunteered” (mithered and coerced)to then refuse or possibly be sacked, could result in finacial sanctions against future benefits.there was a stink about it a few months ago, where huge companies got workers for free, and if those workers left they were fincialy penalised.To be fair some of the companies left the scheme in protest.

  12. 12
    Musical Atheist

    Yes, that’s the really awful thing about it. Because you’re expected to be grateful for any work – even if it’s not worth having and the working conditions are hazardous – it’s as though people have no moral right to refuse the work. And as if that wasn’t enough, apparently some of the workers were told erroneously that they had to stop claiming their benefits in order to take this work in the first place. It will take weeks for the DWP to sort that out.

  13. 13
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    Musical Atheist, someone I used to know once explained to me, with perfect sincerity, that slavery could be “a good deal” for the slave, because the alternative might be starvation.

    Of course, this person is highly privileged, deeply lacking in empathy, and scornful of anybody who gives a damn about other people in the abstract (he thinks they only pretend to do so for “cred”), so system justification is how they roll.

  14. 14
    Lyanna

    “Internships” are themselves an exploitative scam.

  15. 15
    amhovgaard

    #13: well, according to the short film “Ilha das Flores” the main difference between poor people and pigs is that pigs have owners, so they get to eat first…

  16. 16
    Rick Litherland

    Speaking as an Englishman, I think this story sums up the spirit of the jubilee rather nicely.

  17. 17
    Zengaze

    It’s the fucking right wing utopia.

    The state providing forced, free to the boss man, labour. Make no mistakes about it, that’s what the “internships” are, state subsidised private enterprise. The government has always found ways to use tax payers money to fund private self enrichment, but the internship charde is beyond belief, couple this with the legislation the Tories are going to bring in to ” enable flexible employment arrangements, to enable companies to be more responsive to demand” (read the destruction of all labour rights in one move) and we have accomplished the Tory economic agenda in one sitting of parliament. How long do you think the minimum wage is going to exist for in those conditions? It’s a fucking disgrace, low skilled labour will be back to begging the boss man for a crust, putting him just where he wants to be at the top of his little fiefdom, where he can abuse and bully his peasants without fear, the only fear that will exist is within the serf, fear of losing his/her job and not being able to feed their family, if they don’t bend over literally and metaphorically for the boss mans dick.

    I’ll stop now before I go completely over the edge, and just to clarify, I am an employer, and I have been offered people FREE OF CHARGE on the internship scheme. NO fucking NO.

    As a Note, anyone who believes they live in a free market capitalist society is as delusional as a catholic priest.

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