Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Workers sacked and replaced by prison labour. POA says government's use of prison labour, is immoral and disgusting!

Earlier this year the Daily Mail newspaper, ran a story that the Swedish company IKEA, had used political prisoners in STASI camps in East Germany during the 1970s and '80s to make the IKEA sofa. Mail readers were told that prisoners working three shifts a day were used to assemble cheap furniture for the company whose founder, the Swedish billionaire, Ingvar Kamprad, had been an active recruiter for a Swedish NAZI group the SSS, while a young man. In 1987, IKEA had also ordered 45,000 tables to be manufactured in Cuba, most of which, had also been made by prisoners. The newspaper stated that all this had been revealed on Swedish national television and that Kamprad, had apologised and doubled his charitable donations to £100m.

Now, as we all should know, the former GDR (East Germany) and Cuba, are Communist country's and amongst other things, what is implicit within this story written in a right-wing English newspaper, is the view that the use of prison labour is what you might expect from any beastly communist regime that imprisons its citizens for their political opinions. We are expected to be shocked by this, because we're being led to believe, that such a thing could never happen in a country like little old England.

Of course, prisoners have always undertaken work within prisons and are often glad of it. But as Britain heads towards a triple dip recession, the clueless Con-Dem government, have latched onto a novel way to boost the profits of companies which has the potential to undercut the wages of those in work, and to put more workers on the dole.

Increasingly, what we are now seeing in Britain is the use of prison labour to work outside of prison for a pittance, for the benefit of private companies, which is euphemistically described by the government as 'training' or 'work experience'.

Last week, the Guardian newspaper revealed that dozens of prisoners from Prescoed prison in Monmouthshire, Wales, were being ferried in busses to go to work in Cardiff for a call-centre that is operated by a company called 'Becoming Green' a roofing and environmental refitting company. The prisoners are being paid the princely sum of £3 per day and according to the newspaper, since being taken on, the company has fired 17 paid members of its staff. Although not 'political prisoners', the Guardian says their convictions range from murder to fraud and drug offences. A former employee of the company told the newspaper:

"As they started bringing more and more in, they (the company)started firing people... They would have kept their jobs if it wasn't for the prison thing... Everyone was pretty miffed because at the end of the day there's no way you can compete with £3 a day."

The company confirmed that since starting the prisoners, it had sacked other workers for "performance issues" but denied that they had been sacked because it was cheaper to hire prison labour. The Ministry of Justice (MoJ), said they had sought assurances from the company that the prisoners would be put into "genuinely vacant" posts.

Steve Gillan, the General Secretary of the Prison Officer's Association (POA), said:

"For any company to rely on the cheap labour of prisoners was 'immoral and disgusting'. The POA wants to see prisoners working and leading law-abiding lives, but not at the expense of other workers being sacked or laid off to facilitate it."

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