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Slavery At Tesco?

20 Feb

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?

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4 Comments

Posted by on February 20, 2012 in Newsy

 

Tags: , , , ,

4 responses to “Slavery At Tesco?

  1. Tom Pride

    February 20, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    Damocles – you’re so touchingly naive.
    You really think firms won’t use free labour paid for by the taxpayer so they can avoid paying wages themselves? You really think employers will consider employing those who have finished their ‘work experience’ on a full wage instead of letting them go and getting the next group of free employees instead?
    Plus – the government has openly said that terminally ill patients will only be excluded if they have less than 6 months to live.
    There are already cases of people being found ‘fit to work’ who have died literally days later.
    You really think the government isn’t just simply making it as difficult as possible for disabled and sick people to work because the whole ‘scrounging benefit claimers’ angle is politically useful to them? You really think the government wants to make it easier for people to find work?
    You really believe that?
    I thought it was lefties who were supposed to be naive??

     
    • Damocles

      February 21, 2012 at 4:25 pm

      Tom, apologies first for the delay in responding first I was caught up in domestic servitude yesterday evening, today by work and by a wee misunderstanding by some atheists about pancakes.

      While you call me naïve, I can only respond by suggesting that you are relentlessly cynical.

      “You really think employers will consider employing those who have finished their ‘work experience’ on a full wage instead of letting them go and getting the next group of free employees instead?” Well Tesco did take on some of those who did the work experience, you know that, we don’t know what percentage that is of those that completed the scheme, but 20% of those that started isn’t nothing.

      “You really think firms won’t use free labour paid for by the taxpayer so they can avoid paying wages themselves?” You have a lower expectation of people than me. Yes it’s conceivable that some employers might try to take advantage of the situation. It’s equally conceivable that the DWP has considered this possibility and put in steps to remediate against it. The point in the scheme is to get people off benefit and into the workforce. It does not serve the interests of the DWP for people to shuffle off the scheme not into work. They still count as benefit recipients throughout the process and still when they come off it without having gained a job.

      “There are already cases of people being found ‘fit to work’ who have died literally days later.”, you know I looked into this and can’t find any evidence to support it. I can find evidence that people died months later during the appeals process. Or rather I’ve found that 31 people died in a 3 year period while going through the appeals process and that it is unclear whether the appeal was over their being deemed fit for work. It does mean that these people were possibly put into a state of having to appeal by ATOS, and some of them would have been during the last government who brought in ATOS to perform this testing. This does open a wider question as to why the Coalition government is continuing to use ATOS. Has anyone asked them? Do we know what sort of contractual obligation was instituted between ATOS and the previous government to which the current government is bound? Why don’t you find out?

      “the government has openly said that terminally ill patients will only be excluded if they have less than 6 months to live.” Actually that isn’t quite what it said, it’s more what the Guardian said, you read the article? There’s a link above if you haven’t.

      “The policy could mean that those on employment and support allowance who have been placed in the work-related activity group (Wrag) could be compelled to undertake work experience for charities, public bodies and high-street retailers. The Wrag group includes those who have been diagnosed with terminal cancer but have more than six months to live;” there are two “coulds” in that paragraph, it’s conjecture on the part of the article writer.

      “The DWP said that although there was nothing in the proposals to prevent terminally ill cancer patients from being financially penalised for refusing work experience placements, it believed it would be “absurd” for jobcentre managers to apply sanctions in such cases.”, so the proposals include guidelines for job centre managers. Do you think job centre managers will interpret the letter of the proposals to destroy the spirit of them and hurt terminally ill people? That really is cynical. No I don’t think lefties are naïve. I think they are unpleasant cynical and spiteful toward their fellow man. You know that most public service jobs are advertised in the Guardian? You think the sort of people who read the Guardian would send someone terminally ill out on a work placement? You really think that?

      “You really think the government isn’t just simply making it as difficult as possible for disabled and sick people to work because the whole ‘scrounging benefit claimers’ angle is politically useful to them? You really think the government wants to make it easier for people to find work?” Yes, I do, but not because of naivety. I am also cynical. I believe that what politicians really want is re-election. I believe that Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem politicians all want to be re-elected. I also believe that Coalition politicians think that by reducing unemployment and increasing prosperity they can achieve this. I’m reasonably sure that they realise that pissing off 8.4% of the population is not the way to go about it.

       
  2. Rogue_Leader

    February 21, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    It’s a lot of fun watching the Tories making themselves unelectable. Again. They’re a lot more efficient about it now: it took them a term and a half to get to this stage last time.

    I thought Major was bad, but Cameron makes him look like Clement Atlee.

     
  3. Rogue_Leader

    February 21, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    @Tom Pride “I thought it was lefties who were supposed to be naive??”

    It’s interesting to see the massive volte-face on the conservative blogs: three years ago, cilvil servants were lying, parasitical worms. Now they have the backing of a Tory government they appear to have transformed into sterling chaps whose every word is part of a solid, unrenegable contract with the public who they serve so faithfully. This transformation occurred instantly and miraculously without any change of personnel.

    Except, of course, the OBR, who are lying weasels whose only job is to undermine the coalition.

    The myth of Tory credibility on the economy, on law and order, on everything their ossified blue-rinse fogey-brigade power base think is important, is being shredded before our eyes.

     

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