The 30 unemployed people made to sleep rough under London Bridge before stewarding the Jubilee pageant unpaid were supplied to security firm Close Protection UK via a workfare provider run by Tory life-peer Baroness Stedman-Scott. The Baroness, who was given a life peerage in 2010, is the Chief Executive of Tomorrow’s People. The organisation is a registered charity engaged in bidding for government contracts to supply unpaid work placements.
The company proudly displays a list of companies it has worked with on it’s website, including Boots, Primark and Sainsbury’s who were targets of anti-workfare protests earlier this year.
A spokesperson for Tomorrow’s People defended the use of unpaid labour and claimed they were ‘unable to verify the accuracy of the situation with the people on work experience’. However those that spoke to the Guardian about the incident did so under condition of anonymity for fear of losing their benefits.
Unemployed people from Bristol reported that they were dumped off of coaches in London at 3am before being told to sleep out on the street. Others came from Bath and Plymouth. One woman 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.”
Close Protection UK claimed that it had spent ‘considerable resources’ on outfitting the unemployed and wasn’t exploiting them. They failed to mention that these ‘costs’ were more than covered by the thousands of pounds they saved in wages by using both the unpaid who worked 14-hour shifts and some 50 people working for an apprentice rate of just £2.80 an hour.
Mark Dunk, unemployed activist with Right to Work said, “This goes to show that government workfare schemes haven’t gone away. Tory peers and Tory ministers are all in it together when it comes to exploiting the unemployed.”
Michael Bradley said, “For young people to be shipped half way across the country to sleep under a bridge shows just how little this government cares about the unemployed. Austerity is wrecking the futures of young people all over Europe but the Tories want to keep on cutting rather than invest in jobs and training.”
Right to Work is backing a protest this Saturday at the offices of Close Protection UK in Wigan.
Rage Against ‘Close Protection UK’
Saturday 9 June, 1pm- 3.30pm
St. Johns Methodist Church
Wigan WN2 3 AN
Right to Work also plans to stage a protest on the 20 June when the latest unemployment statistics are announced. More details will be released soon.
The TUC have posted the following comment on their website
Unpaid Jubilee stewards show government programmes may be displacing proper jobs
Commenting on reports of poor working conditions faced by unpaid stewards of the Diamond Jubilee, TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said:
‘The appalling treatment of staff working for free over the Diamond Jubilee weekend highlights the damage that unpaid work experience risks causing people who are desperate to get back into proper employment, as well as the exploitative treatment that they can face.
‘The fact that unpaid job seekers were working alongside fully paid employees also suggests that government programmes may be displacing proper jobs that pay at least the minimum wage.
‘The main experience gained by staff appears to have been poor working conditions and exploitation. Worse still, the government is encouraging more employers to treat staff poorly at work by stepping up its attacks on basic employment rights.
‘This case has attracted attention because of its link to the Diamond Jubilee. Sadly low-paid vulnerable employment such as this occurs on a daily basis throughout the country. The number of involuntary temporary workers is at a record high. These are not the jobs that will take Britain out of recession and improve people’s living standards.’