Jubilee workfare: A Dickensian tale brought to life
It’s as though Charles Dickens himself penned this story, and authorities in power have sought to bring it to life 142 years after his death. What a throwback to the dreary Victorian era often portrayed by the novelist; the forgotten unemployed bussed into the capital under moonlight and told to get their ‘heads down’ under a dirty bridge in readiness for a gruelling 14-hour shift.
And if all that these vulnerable people recount is true: no toilet facilities, told they were to be paid and then that the weekend was actually a ‘trial,’ and only a wet London campsite awaiting them after watching the diamond Queen sail by; the shocking revelations only further cement this country’s inequality and divide between opportunity.
As those with jobs, enjoying a bank holiday of tea and scones and flag exulting merriment watch our glorious institution celebrate 60 years, with the BBC in excitable frivolity watching on, those unlucky men and women ushered the fortunate.
Whether these delinquents were on a training scheme, eyeing the prize of more 14-hour days stewarding happy Americans into Olympic dreams; whether they were given uniforms and lunch and maybe even an NVQ Level 2 qualification, does not account for the fact that these people were left stranded.
If Close Protection UK didn’t want to pay for accommodation, they should have got their timings right at least. But why couldn’t the coach have been arranged to travel earlier and a hotel organised in order to prepare anyway? This is such an important event, after all; surely you would need those involved to be at the top of their game? Especially those who are inexperienced. Tomorrow’s People, the charity which provided the workers, has started an enquiry. Its head, Tory peer Baroness Debbie Scott, is not looking so charitable now.
Workfare might be a good idea in theory. Although encompassing many a flaw the thought to get the unemployed into work, equipping them with the skills and practical guidance they need can be seen as positive in ideology but just isn’t going to work when companies employ such ill practice.
It is ludicrous; ludicrous that the most down-trodden in society and those with the fewest prospects were treated as if they were second class citizens. And some media organisations haven’t even bothered to tell their readers this occurred at all. No inhumane acts of indecent exploitation should meme 60 years of brilliance. There is no place for such an abysmal tale when the monarch stands there humbly, shrouded in courteous elation and honour. That just wouldn’t do at all.
‘The London Bridge incident’ is more than just an incident. It is clarification that people are mistreated and taken for a ride all too often by big corporations. John Prescott has called for an inquiry and urged the government to review whether Close Protection UK is the right company for London 2012, which are positive steps – but changing the security contract now only 50 days before the Olympics is hugely unlikely. And you have to ponder, if this hadn’t come out how would they have treated others during the Games? As we watch Usain Bolt fly by there would be no time to check whether the stewards are okay I suppose.
There have been tales and controversy surrounding workfare from the off; indicators as to whether this is ‘modern day slavery’ or simply a productive initiative to get the jobless into work. Talk of unpaid internships too, at the other end of the spectrum, hints to the general feeling of dismay amid current aspiration. Quite simply though, this is all irreverent concern compared with the simple matter of fact: that volunteers hoping to secure a job were given nothing but a concrete floor to sleep on before working for free.
It is a scandal, one that is gripping Twitter and those who read the news indeed. But the majority of the country – many of whom will have read Dickens before I’m sure or at least watched Oliver Twist – will be at work today after a joyous long weekend of rainy picnics and fireworks shows, oblivious to the price of the Jubilee.
The least Molly Prince can do now is promise them a job at the Olympics. Paid. That would be compensation enough perhaps for such a moral exclusion.Tagged in: bank holiday, Close Protection UK, jubilee, London 2012, olympics, The London Bridge incident, unemployment, unpaid internships, work, work fare
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