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By now the glad tidings that ninety of her majesty's most loyal subjects were happy to celebrate 60 years of her reign by kipping under a bridge before a joyful thirteen hour shift of telling union-jack-sporting buffoons the way to the big river in the middle of London without being paid has been splashed all over the papers. But it's just the tip of the iceberg.

Eighty unemployed folk from Bristol, Bath and Plymouth were forced into the unpaid work by agency Tomorrow's People – yet another private company gorging itself on the welfare budget by claiming to provide a route into paid work. They were bussed into London by Close Protection UK Ltd in the early hours of Sunday morning and told the only accommodation available was to doss down under London Bridge. Fifty of them were paid an apprentice wage of £2.80 /hr for the fourteen hour shift that followed, the others were told the whole thing was 'work experience' for potential roles during the Olympics. An 'apprenticeship' in directing people to the toilets – only in Cameron's Britain.

Now, this bunch of chancers have unwittingly shone a light into the murky world of Workfare, where big business gets a labour force without the hassle of having to pay them. Workfare isn't a single program, according to the Solidarity Federation in their excellent pamphlet on the subject. “Workfare is a term used to describe a range of schemes in which people are forced to work without wages in order to receive their benefits. After recent controversies the government has sought to obscure the nature of its workfare policies”

Close Protection UK are of course now being singled out as bad apples, with questions about their contract to supply fire marshals for the Olympics. A government spokeswoman said: "This is a one-off … This is an isolated incident. The company has apologised." – well they would wouldn't they?

However SchNEWS is positive that the whole barrel is positively stinking. We spoke to others pushed into crowd control for the Jubilee by the dole office. One told us “I was told to apply for this job under the usual sanction of potentially losing my benefits even though at that time I'd only been signing on for a week” This was a paid position but the job,with Vespasian security, was advertised at £6/hr, (below the minimum wage). The accommodation was a campsite in Essex and stewards were expected to supply their own tents and sleeping gear. Our interviewee worked three days, the first shift was 4am until 7pm, a ball-busting 15 hours, followed swiftly by 11am to 12pm then for a finale 6am to 6pm. “The worst thing was the fact that when travel time to the camp site was factored in we only got two hours sleep on the second night”.

Of course the Jubilee was a one off occasion (although all the same stuff is going to happen on a grander scale at the Olympics) but Workfare is simply the new way to do business. It's got bugger all to do with creating jobs - every time a company gets someone to work for free or below minimum wage they're not likely employ someone with a regular contract and all the tedious employees rights that go with it. Free staff also mean cutbacks on overtime, especially hard for those relying on extra hours to make ends meet.

The workfare agenda is all about breaking the lowest sectors of society to the will of the highest – forcing us in a time of austerity into competition for the scraps thrown from the table. In effect it as a massive public subsidy to big business and a weapon against those who want better pay and conditions. It 's also set to be rolled out across the unemployed population to an unprecedented extent.

The fightback is gathering pace though and the jubilee shenanigans have underlined the point. While the campaign against workfare continues to go from strength to strength, the government’s workfare policy continues to flounder. A recent conference – 'How do we break workfare?' was organised by Brighton Benefits Campaign. Ideas and information were shared and ways forward planned, including a week of action from 7-14 July, a counter conference during the Welfare to Work convention (10-11 July), and a national boycott of Holland & Barrett – enthusiastic participants in the workfare schemes.

According to them “The message is clear. Those of us who oppose workfare in all its forms are winning. There has never been a better time for you, your workplace and your union branch to get involved and say no to workfare. After all, we know where we are going. Come with us. We are going to win. Boycott Exploitation. Boycott Workfare.”

National campaign http://www.boycottworkfare.org

Anti-workfare protest
There are 4 comments on this story...
Added By: Anonymous - 8th June 2012 @ 2:23 PM
I worked for Vespasian security several years ago at the Club 18 - 30 Reunion and never got paid. Letters and phone calls about payment went unanswered.
Added By: Anonymous - 11th June 2012 @ 10:58 PM
Informative stuff, but how come your website advertises Ladbrokes now? You never used to do advertising.
Added By: ladbrokes - 14th June 2012 @ 1:07 PM
if you click on it you can see its a joke picture..
Added By: Eric - 24th September 2012 @ 6:03 AM
he spine was crumbling and she had to stop, I supesct you know what spina bifida is if not the spinal cord has a gap it is not complete it can be serious it can be mild my wife's is serious.Then I had an accident in which I cut my spinal cord at the L5, this is called a lesion it has affected things like my bowel and my bladder but the loss of use my legs really caused me serious problems , when doctors said to me you will not walk again I said we will see.This was eighteen years ago and I can walk sort of with crutches but in the most I use a wheelchair, I can cope with all of this and live with it. but the nerves in my spine are firing off pain, it's so severe it can cause my brain to fit and I've had four now already one leaving me in hospital for three months not knowing who I was or anyone else.Doctor have now found the damage to my spinal cord is severe but thats not half of it, they found the accident had in fact caused damage to my kidneys liver and heart, and then I was told that I might have a tumour I sat down and said for god sake what next, but when you think I fell 100ft straight down hit the floor and told my work mates shit that hurt before passing out, I spent eighteen months in hospital.Now then thats about me, in the past six years I have tried to return to work, but not work as you know it. My bladder does not work so I have a bag fitted or I can empty my bladder by pushing a tube into my bladder, my bowel does not work, I have to take drugs to empty my bowel and this can happen at anytime and I've no control.this means sometimes when I'm out I will have a bowel movement because of the drugs it's like water and it's messy.So simple put what job do you think I would do or could do. let me tell you what my job center thinks and this is no joke.Perfume sales assistant at Boots did not get it. Painter and decorator doing small jobs like skirting boards from a wheelchair mind you, and then taxi driver for me to drive a car it would cost a320,000 to adapt the car for hands only, sadly I still could not do it because of fits.Then I was told window cleaning.Under the new medical regime I would be deemed fit to work
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