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Posted on 17 February 2012 at 14:44 GMT

Slave labour retail jobs scandal

Fight workfare - For real jobs!

Over the past few months the government's work experience scheme has come under increasing scrutiny. The scheme attempts to introduce slave labour for the young unemployed, with young people working 30 hours a week for eight weeks and receiving no additional pay on top of their Job Seekers Allowance (JSA), which they are threatened with losing if they do not participate.

The case that has received the most media attention is that of Cait Reilly, a geology graduate who had been volunteering in a museum to try to get a job there, but was forced to work in Poundland.

The scandal reverberating from this has prompted Sainsbury's and Waterstones to pull out of the scheme.

According to the government's propaganda this 'experience' will give young people the skills to make employers take them on.

But there is no guaranteed job at the end of the 'experience'. Tesco has already taken on 1,400 'volunteers', but only 300 have received jobs and who's to say that they wouldn't have been taken on anyway.

Tesco has now started advertising jobs as 'JSA + expenses' in the job centre plus system, including one dated 9 February for night shift workers (usually premium rates) in East Anglia.

The truth is that this is a massive attack on pay, terms and conditions of retail workers. Instead of filling vacancies with real jobs, companies can bolster their profits by taking on conscripts for a month or two.

It is welcome that shopworkers' union Usdaw has now heeded the call we made three months ago and has come out in open opposition to the scheme, with general secretary John Hannett being quoted in the press as demanding 'the rate for the job'.

Usdaw putting pressure on companies it has agreements with is a step forward, but it shouldn't be left there.

Activists and reps should link up with unemployed campaign groups such as unemployed workers' centres and Youth Fight for Jobs to build a campaign linking those in and out of work to scrap the 'work experience' scheme and replace it with real jobs with union rates of pay and conditions.

Youth Fight for Jobs is organising actions around the country for the 'Boycott Workfare' campaign national day of action on Saturday 3 March. Get involved!

Iain Dalton

Paul Callanan, Youth Fight for Jobs national organiser commented on the government's scheme: "This demonstrates loud and clear that companies like Tesco see youth unemployment not as the modern day blight it is but as an opportunity.

If Tesco has the work that needs doing then they should pay a living wage and give decent terms and conditions to the people doing it. If they lack the will to do so then they should be nationalised and forced to do so.

If Tesco get away with this it sets a very dangerous precedent. This could mean a whole generation of young people being trapped in a cycle of working poverty.

We are calling for the government to invest in genuine job creation. We say that there should be a publicly funded programme for decent jobs, apprenticeships and training schemes to really give young people opportunities.

On Monday 20th February and also on the 3rd March 'Boycott Welfare' day of action we will be protesting at Tesco stores up and down the country.

We are calling on Tesco to withdraw from the scheme. We are also calling on the government to put an end to this exploitation".

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