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.