Welcome to Dickensian London

This sounds like a joke, but apparently isn’t.

A group of long-term unemployed jobseekers were bussed into London to work as unpaid stewards during the diamond jubilee celebrations and told to sleep under London Bridge before working on the river pageant.

Are you kidding me? Not just no pay but told to sleep outside under a bridge? 

Well happy jubilee to you too.

Up to 30 jobseekers and another 50 people on apprentice wages were taken to London by coach from Bristol, Bath and Plymouth as part of the government’s Work Programme.

Two jobseekers, who did not want to be identified in case they lost their benefits, said they had to camp under London Bridge the night before the pageant. They told the Guardian 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.

Happy Big Society.

Close Protection UK confirmed that it was using up to 30 unpaid staff and 50 apprentices, who were paid £2.80 an hour, for the three-day event in London. A spokesman said the unpaid work was a trial for paid roles at the Olympics, which it had also won a contract to staff. Unpaid staff were expected to work two days out of the three-day holiday.

The firm said it had spent considerable resources on training and equipment that stewards could keep and that the experience was voluntary and did not affect jobseekers keeping their benefits.

[One of the workers] said that people were picked up at Bristol at 11pm on Saturday and arrived in London at 3am on Sunday. “We all got off the coach and we were stranded on the side of the road for 20 minutes until they came back and told us all to follow them,” she said. “We followed them under London Bridge and that’s where they told us to camp out for the night … It was raining and freezing.”

I suppose they should be grateful they weren’t made to sleep actually in the Thames.

Both stewards said they were originally told they would be paid. But when they got to the coach on Saturday night, they said, they were told that the work would be unpaid and that if they did not accept it they would not be considered for well-paid work at the Olympics.

Molly Prince, managing director of Close Protection UK, said in a statement: “We take the welfare of our staff and apprentices very seriously indeed.”

No you don’t.

“The staff travelling to the jubilee are completing their training and being assessed on the job for NVQ Level 2 in spectator safety after having completed all the knowledge requirements in the classroom and some previous work experience. It is essential that they are assessed in a live work environment in order to complete their chosen qualifications.”

Hey you know what? Workers should be paid for training. That’s one of the expenses for the employer. Period.

“The nature of festival and event work is such that we often travel sleeping on coaches through the night with an early morning pre-event start – it is the nature of the business … It’s hard work and not for the faint-hearted.”

And the pay is zero, so only the truly dedicated and strong need apply!

One wonders how much time Molly Prince spends sleeping in a swamp and working a 14 hour shift for bupkis.

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…

“Tomorrow’s People believes strongly in the value of work experience in helping people to build the skills, confidence and CV they need to get and keep a job and we have an exemplary record going back nearly 30 years for our work with the long-term unemployed.”

Oh shut up. Work experience is one thing, dumping people out to sleep under London Bridge at 3 a.m. is another.


  1. julian says

    This is…. I don’t even.

    Were they at least given sleeping bags and tents?

  2. mnb0 says

    How exactly is sleeping under a bridge supposed to be beneficial for the careers of unemployed people?
    Thanks – now and then I have to be reminded why I call myself a socialist.

  3. 'Tis Himself says

    We take the welfare of our staff and apprentices very seriously indeed.

    They get to sleep under the best bridges.

  4. says

    Sleeping bags?! Tents?! What do you think this is, Windsor bleedin’ Castle? Of course they fucking weren’t. They were given combat trousers and boots, which cost their generous employers upwards of 100 quid per person. Ungrateful sods.

  5. maureen.brian says

    I worked for Tomorrow’s People for a while. I don’t have as high an opinion of them as they do of themselves.

  6. evilDoug says

    We take the welfare of our staff and apprentices very seriously indeed.

    But the unpaid people we used were neither staff nor apprentices, so we care snuffall about them.

    It would be interesting to find out how many people CPyUK was contracted to provide for the event, and compare that with the number on the ground. If the unpaid people were truly there for training and evaluation, it would seem reasonable and necessary that they were there in addition to extra “full fledged” staff who would be supervising and doing the evaluation. I haz dowts.

  7. says

    I have every confidence that this invitation was extended to all, right up to Her Majesty, and to her husband as well.

    In their royal case, it would also seem that regrettably, both had prior commitments.

    Never mind. Perhaps next time.

  8. David says

    They probably made a few bob, for charitable purposes, they pay themselves a lot too, as the accounts will attest, top bod on 100k plus, five on 60k plus and two or three inbetween those amounts. its upwards of 500k on 8 peole, ouy of an income of 8 million


    I despise these, do gooder, NPO,s, I once did a comparison on shaw trust, it had three times more higher paid workers , than a real charity 3 times its size. Thier job was to pressure sick people into crap jobs.
    As to the bridge, LUXURY…when i were a lad…

    ps apologies for spelling, grammar, general incoherence, but its very late.

  9. Shatterface says

    They get to sleep under the best bridges

    Ironically I learned the full quotation There is one law for rich and poor alike, which prohibits them equally from stealing bread and sleeping under bridges from the 70s kid show The Tomorrow People.

  10. left0ver1under says

    Close Protection UK … [said] the experience was voluntary and did not affect jobseekers keeping their benefits.

    Yeah, right. If the serfs…I mean “volunteers” were asked with a guarantee of anonymity, we’d probably hear a different story. If these people were not threatened into participating, I’d be surprised.

    Remember, folks, this is the same queen who two years ago asked for money to be redirected away from subsidies to heat the homes of the poor and to instead pay the heating bill for buckingham palace.


    Why should a lack of decency and civility surprise anyone?

  11. badweasel says

    Well fuck the Jubilee. And fuck Cameron and his dead-in-the-water ‘Big Society’.

  12. says

    I’m reminded of an episode of an anime I watched (Mai Otome) where the newly crowned queen of the city decides to throw a 15th birthday party for herself. It was huge and extravagant and she spent no small amount of the peoples’ money on herself.

    She decided to have this amazing celebration while people were living in slums alongside the river.

  13. A nym too says

    Welcome to the ConDemNation.

    Disabled people committing suicide, young mums jumping from tower blocks, benefits stopped because “There’s no money”

    Libraries trashed, care homes demolished, community centres shuttered up, because “There’s no money”

    SureStart scrapped, Independent Living Fund axed, hospitals and nursing homes closed with nurses and support workers sacked, because “There’s no money”.

    Royal Wedding
    Afghanistan and Iraq
    The Olympics
    Vodafone owes 6bn tax
    Four day Jubilee celebrations

    Welcome to the ConDemNation. We’re all in this together. Three cheers for Big Society, you filthy serfs.

  14. Blondin says


    There were ‘undred & fifty of us livin’ in shoebox in middle o’ road…

  15. Mal says

    This story, which was published 15-16 hours ago, has just hit the rest of the press and then only because of Twiter.


    Disgusting that unemployed people can be coerced into working for nothing under threat of losing decently paid temporary work. In my opinion it should be illegal to do this.

  16. says

    Suddenly I’m having ideas for a new story in my series of novels featuring a “beloved” queen having some extravagant celebration of her crowning, taking over the lowest income area of the city – forcing the inhabitants out of their homes which causes general distress among the already distressed citizens there. I guess I’ll throw in some kind of assassination plot or some evil wizard or something like that.

  17. says

    First Collector: At this festive time of year, Mr. Scrooge, it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the poor and destitute.

    Ebenezer: Are there no prisons?

    First Collector: Plenty of prisons.

    Ebenezer: And the union workhouses – are they still in operation?

    First Collector: They are. I wish I could say they were not.

    Ebenezer: Oh, from what you said at first I was afraid that something had happened to stop them in their useful course. I’m very glad to hear it.

  18. Lyanna says

    Tabby Lavalamp: Scrooge is no longer a villain. He’s an ideal among right-wingers and even “Sensible Centrists.”

  19. Shatterface says

    Yessenia says:
    June 4, 2012 at 8:47 pm
    The quote’s actually a bit older than that.

    Sure, I was just pointing out the irony of where I first heard it – in an episode of The Tomorrow People called ‘One Law’.

    Given that every law student will learn the quote in their first week you’d think Tomorrow’s People’s lawyers might have advised them against an action that would be dismissed as heavy-handed symbolism in a work of fiction.

  20. says

    BBC Radio 4 just said that their lunchtime news programme, “The World at One”, will today include an interview with one of the people in the group you mentioned, stuck under London Bridge all night. You can hear it via the website (http://bbc.co.uk/radio4), but not all news programmes are included in the “Listen Again” feature, so I don’t know for sure that you can hear that segment. Those segments that are included are usually available for a week after the original broadcast.

  21. Derek E Smith says

    disgusting the way this horrible greedy firm can get away with treating people like that,they should be ashamed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *