The blogosphere has been abuzz with the news that Tesco in league with the Tories has instigated slavery for the unemployed.
Only it hasn’t.
So what has happened?
A work experience scheme has been set up by the government together with major employers to help the long term unemployed youth (unemployed more than a year, aged 18 to 21) gain experience that will allow them to find work. The scheme even has a guaranteed job interview at the end for those that stay the course.
So what’s wrong with that? Everything it seems.
In normal circumstances Tesco would advertise a job and include the words “Experience required”, no one wants to hire people without experience, they take up resources from elsewhere and slow things down. So the unemployed person looks at the job, says “Don’t have that experience” and doesn’t apply. The point then is that the unemployed person will no longer be in a position to dismiss the job in that way.
Tesco aren’t paying the person, but of course they aren’t, the person involved is doing this voluntarily to try to develop skills so they can get a job. They are continuing to receive job seeker’s allowance during this time because in taking part in this scheme they are making steps towards finding a job. They aren’t, at this stage, employed by Tesco’s, they aren’t employed by anyone (although one might argue that in receiving money from the state they are employed in some way by the state, but that’s probably a whole other discussion).
The voluntary aspect seems quite contentious. No one has to do it, but in order to receive job seeker’s allowance you have to show that you are willing to find work and if you aren’t willing to participate in a work experience scheme in order to gain experience to gain work how willing are you to find work? This, apparently, constitutes bullying. Bullying used to involve taking people’s lunch money, now it’s when you give people money in order to do something and say you’ll stop giving them that money unless they do what they said. Say you employ someone to put in double glazing, you pay him some money up front, he then fails to put in double glazing. If you ask for the money back or refuse to give him more money you are now a bully.
The DWP has said:
“The scheme is voluntary and no one is forced to take part and the threat of losing the benefit only starts once a week has passed on the placement – this was designed to provide certainty to employers and the individuals taking part”
The number of people employed by Tesco is also causing issues, 1400 people, and 300 of them got jobs at the end of it. Well consider the size of the operation, Tesco’s has around 2800 stores in the UK. If they’ve taken on 1400 people that’s one person for every two stores. Sounds like Tesco’s isn’t trying to get involved in this process. If they’d taken on 3 people per store (over the last year, that’s how long it is since the government announced this scheme) then that would be 6 times the amount of people they’ve given experience to. On that score the question is, if Tesco is committed to this scheme why have they engaged in it so little? That’s where we should be criticising Tesco. Then we have the take up. They’ve taken on 1400 people and only given 300 jobs. Well they’ll only have given interviews to those that stayed the course, and some of those who did will have not wanted to stay at Tesco and some of those who were interviewed may not have been wanted by Tesco. But we can only say some at this stage because we don’t know the numbers. Perhaps it would make sense for judgement to be reserved until we do?
Then we have the whole contentious issue of Workfare at all. Well workfare has a bad rep. It’s obviously an evil Tory construct to oppress the unemployed. Although it isn’t and why would they want to?
Workfare was first suggested in the 60s by the US civil rights movement. Were they Tories? Were they evil?
Why do Tories want to oppress the unemployed? It’s in the interests of everyone, across the whole planet during this global recession to get as many people working as possible. To reduce the drain on the welfare state and boost productivity in all economies.
Personally I think Workfare should be implemented differently. Set up municipal construction and redevelopment schemes to improve conditions in our immediate environments, require the unemployed to work 16 to 24 hours a week in order to receive their benefit, thus allowing them to have time to seek other work while they are doing this and giving them experience along the way. I’m told that it would be unreasonable to expect the unemployed to do “menial” tasks like this. Maybe I’m living on a different planet but when I look at what plumbers, builders, electricians and decorators charge in the domestic market the word “menial” isn’t forefront in my mind. OK, not everyone can or will do trades type work, but any such scheme will need support staff, back office, design, a raft of other skills will be needed so everyone can get involved. On top of that it does provide added incentive to get off unemployment and into full time work. If it’s needed, I don’t think it should be. I think the mere state of being unemployed should be motivation to get back into work. I’ve been between jobs for short periods (longest was about 6 months) and it gets dull and frustrating pretty quickly (and no, I didn’t take from the state when I was).
But the nub here is that the workfare like scheme being used by the government isn’t slavery, although some papers, bloggers and tweeters seem determined to portray it as such. Political bias perhaps?
The net result is that many employers have backed out of a scheme that has got many people into work and could get more.
And then …
Then there was an article in the Guardian saying that the DWP was intending to force the sick and terminally ill to work, Disabled people face unlimited unpaid work or cuts in benefit. Read the article, please. Read it to the very end. See how the writer gets the reader wound up with the terrible possibilities of what this scheme could mean. Then, at the very end the DWP says
“It is clear that some groups wish to label people with a variety of illnesses and conditions as unable to work. This is not only wrong, it is unfair to those individuals who despite their illness want to keep working.
“Our reforms look at what an individual can do and wants to do. For those claimants for whom work is not a realistic option, there will be unconditional support available.”
So basically what they’re saying is that some people who are labelled as disabled and unable to work who still want to work and are able despite what some people say about their disability will be helped to work, obviously if they’re working then, under existing rules they won’t be eligible for some benefits.
This is in contradiction to what the rest of the article says. The rest of the article is intended, no doubt, to encourage the sort of person who is likely to be suspicious of any such scheme to be suspicious, so suspicious that they are likely to dismiss whatever the DWP says.
Does this remind anyone else of the sort of shenanigans we expect from the Daily Mail?
Could people please, when reading these things, put aside their bias, read all the information, consider the bias of sources and think for themselves using a little common sense.
Is that too much to ask?