Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Security firm used unpaid jobseekers on 'Work Programme' to police Queens Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
The Home Secretary, Theresa May, has been asked to investigate a complaint made by Lord Prescott, the former Labour government deputy leader, against a Wigan based security firm after it used unpaid unemployed jobseekeers on the governments' 'Work Programme' scheme, to police the Queens Diamond Jubilee celebrations and forced them to sleep rough, under London Bridge, the night before the pageant.
On Tuesday, the Guardian reported that up to 30 unpaid jobseekers on the Work Programme had been asked to sleep rough under London Bridge after they had been brought by coach to London by 'Close Protection UK'(CPUK), to work unpaid as stewards at the Diamond Jubilee celebrations on Sunday. The coach had brought the unemployed youngsters from Bristol, Bath and Plymouth, to engage in 'work experience'. The company also brought 50 'apprentices' to act as stewards for the event who were paid £2.80 an hour. According to CPUK, the standard rate for this kind of security work is £10 an hour.
Two jobseekers who took part in the event - "who did not want to identified in case they lost their benefits" - told the Guardian that the had slept under London Bridge overnight and had no access to toilets for 24 hours and had changed into security clothing - 'rain ponchos' and 'combat trousers' - in public. After working a 14 hour shift in the rain, they had then been taken to a 'swampy campsite' outside London on the banks of the Thames. One woman told the newspaper that she had worked a 16 hour shift after no sleep, and did not have access to a usable toilet for 24 hours. In the morning she had been given a paper bag containing a sandwich and a bag of crisps and told not to eat it, because it was her lunch. Other jobseekers were also told that any work they might get at the Olympics, was dependent on them working unpaid at the pageant.
Although this form of modern-day slavery was introduced by the last Labour government, by Work & Pensions Secretary, James Purnell, who told the unemployed "work or lose your benefits", Lord Prescott - who is seeking to be elected as a police and crime commissioner for Humberside - now believes that "unpaid work is exploitation". In his letter to the Home Secretary, Lord Prescott, who believes CPUK are "providing policing on the cheap" said:
"What we are talking about about now is the development of forced labour camps for unemployed unpaid workers. All governments have attempted to say, if we offer you a job you have to take it, but not unpaid work. Unpaid work is exploitation however you see it, unless there's a long term. He also added that the company had shown a "blatant disregard for the care of its workers."
Although CPUK have taken much of the media flak for this fiasco, they are not the prime provider. The compulsory work under the Work Programme, was sub-contracted to them by 'Tomorrow's People', a registered charity who also got paid, ("which helps people find and keep a job") and which is headed, by Baroness Stedman Scott, a Tory peer. Scott and Tomorrow's People, have already been reprimanded by the Charity Commission for breaching rules on political activities because of their links with the Tory Party.
Molly Prince, the Director of CPUK has had nine different companies since 2006 all of them in the same business, 'Event Safety Solutions'. All of the companies have been dissolved and some struck off by the regulator, for failing to submit accounts. Given the companies economic background and incompetence, it has just been awarded another contract to handle fire safety and security at the forthcoming Olympics.
In a statement issued to the press, Molly Prince confirmed that some stewards had been unpaid and apologised that some had been forced to sleep under London Bridge because they had been dumped by the coach driver. She denied that staff had been without toilet facilities and forced to work unpaid for a 14 hour shift and that they, had been exploited.
Although some of the jobseekers have stated that they were only informed just before they got on the coach that they wouldn't be paid, Molly Prince said the jobseekers didn't want to be paid, because it would affect their jobseeker benefits and that they wanted the work experience.
Two jags Prescott is calling on the government to review the companies Olympics contract. He told the Independent:
"How did this company, given its economic background get a contract to handle fire safety and security? Is this the Olympic model?