Tuesday, 5 June 2012

A diamond job: the inhumanity of Workfare

Something deeply disturbing occurred on the river Thames in London over the weekend. While thousands had their parade rained upon as a flotilla of boats celebrated the Queen’s diamond jubilee, the scale of the attack on the poor in this society became more obvious.

To steward the event, a large team of unemployed men and women were bussed in from the South West of England by Close Protection UK . The company initially told the team that they would be paid for two days work during the weekend and bank holiday. Upon arrival in the middle of the night in London, the company reneged upon this offer. Thirty received no money at all while fifty more, on ‘apprenticeships’ received £2.80 per hour. The stewards were told to camp on the concrete under London Bridge as the rain poured.

When they woke, they were given clothes for the stewarding but nowhere to change. There were not even toilet facilities. After the parade, the group were taken by tube to Essex to pitch their tents in the dark. Another uncomfortable, cold and rainy night followed. Close Protection UK laughably claimed that this was part of the training for an NVQ in ‘spectator safety’ and, if the group did this work for nothing, they would be considered for the paid jobs at the Olympics. The question is how much are the contracts to provide safety at the parade and the Olympics worth to the company? Did the company’s bid include not paying staff and making them sleep rough in the streets?

While huge amounts of money are lavished on the diamond jubilee for a monarch who is paid by the taxpayer yet has wealth in excess of £300 million, the poorest are being reduced to Dickensian workhouse conditions. While enormous sums of money are frittered away for the Olympics, slave labour is being introduced for those without work. A government Work Programme has shown its true colours.

The Respect Party believes:
  • The Close Protection UK contracts for the jubilee celebrations and the Olympics should be made public immediately.
  • The group of unemployed people subjected to this abuse should be paid the going rate for manual labour from the point of pickup until return home and they should be given compensation by the company and the government for the indignity of what they suffered.
  • The government must declare how much it knew about this abuse and whether there are any conflicts of interest in relation to this company.
  • Close Protection UK should removed from all government contracts forthwith.
  • All government workfare and Work programmes should be immediately investigated.

The number of poor people in Bed and Breakfast accommodation has tripled; the number of people reduced to the charity of food banks has rocketed; jobs, wages and services are being slashed while contracts are awarded to private sector outfits that treat people in this disgraceful and inhumane way.

This is not the celebration of the pride of Britain, it is the calculated and brutal destruction of all that prevented widespread poverty. This is the scandal of government Work Programmes, for which the government should be put out of work. Our hope lies in resisting these attacks on our living standards and breaking the political orthodoxy that says austerity for the poor and bailouts for the rich.