Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/750/16060
Jumping through hoops for a job
The latest unemployment figures showed a small decrease in the number of people officially unemployed.
But it's a drop in the ocean when compared to the scale of the problem. Below Jack from Brighton explains his experience of looking for work.
Jack isn't alone, around a million young people are unemployed, while only 489,000 vacancies exist according to the latest official figures.
And, as Jack describes, those who are 'lucky' enough to have a job are generally facing appalling conditions - poverty pay, insecure contracts and bullying bosses.
Youth Fight for Jobs is launching a new initiative aimed at these young people - the underemployed. We will be organising campaign stalls, press stunts and public meetings asking, are you sick of your boss? If the answer is yes, get in touch to get involved or to tell YFJ about your experience of work, unemployment or looking for a job:
Since graduating from university last year I, like many other young people, have discovered the harsh reality of trying to find work in Con-Demed Britain.
The only work I've managed to find was a two month temporary job on the minimum wage. Apart from that I've been surviving on housing benefit and Jobseeker's Allowance, both of which are threatened with withdrawal or cuts.
Recently I applied to a call centre through a recruitment agency, hoping to earn a bit of money and be able to stay in my current house.
Call centres, particularly where I live, are often the only source of employment available to young people.
In recent years there has been an increase in students working in them attempting to make ends meet.
Pay slightly above minimum wage is attractive, however this is offset by rotten working conditions and an incredibly insecure position - you can be removed for any reason, at any time.
The TUC has recently described call centre work as being dangerously similar to the conditions factory workers faced in the 19th century, with long, heavily monitored hours, few breaks and cramped working areas.
When I arrived for my interview I was placed in a large waiting room with around 20 other people and was told to fill out an application form.
Along with the usual questions, there were tick-boxes asking what work you would be happy to take part in for the job.
One asked if you would be happy to "fund-raise for political parties and their campaigns". Unwilling to work on behalf of the very people who were cutting my benefits, throwing hundreds of thousands on the dole, and claiming thousands of pounds in expenses, I did not tick this box!
The second part of the interview involved groups of four in a mock telephone fund-raising scenario. This was used to cut down the groups, so only half the people who arrived for the interview got past this stage.
We were told this brutal process was necessary because of the "extremely high level of applicants" - they were 'interviewing' around 50 people that day.
The people in my group were a first year uni student who had to work to stay at university, a recently retired man who was being forced back to work as he couldn't afford his living costs, and a middle aged man who had recently been made redundant by another call centre - a cross section of the people on the receiving end of the government's austerity programme.
Anyone who 'passed' the mock telephone step spoke to an interviewer for five minutes. We had waited for well over an hour.
I heard from the recruitment agency later that day, informing me I had not got the job. They gave no reason, but I suspect my refusal to take part in campaigns for political parties had something to do with it!
My 'choice' was to live on benefits, which are under constant attack or campaign for the axemen in government who are cutting jobs left, right, and centre - resulting in the huge levels of applicants for places like call centres.
This is no choice for young people, or any person in society. What is needed is a huge job-creation programme.
There is plenty of work that needs doing that could create millions of well-paid, secure jobs. But as long as the wealth remains in the hands of the 1%, the banks and their politician friends, this will not happen.
Young people need to fight back against these conditions and for a society that offers real opportunity, not a life on benefits or low pay.
At the same time we need campaigns and trade unions that organise call centre workers and others in insecure jobs.
We deserve a decent level of security and pay in work - something that an effective trade union campaign could fight for.
Youth Fight for Jobs campaigns on all these issues and offers a chance for young people to not only get angry, but to get organised. This is how we can resist austerity and begin fighting back to improve our lives.
Sick of your boss?
Youth Fight for Jobs demands:
- Decent tea and lunch breaks and no being 'clocked off' when we take one. It's not possible to work long shifts without some time to breathe. We shouldn't be penalised for it
- Give us proper contracts guaranteed hours and full employment rights. No to zero hour contracts and insecure employment. No more uncertainty and insecurity dressed up as 'flexibility'!
- Pay us enough to live - Companies which make the bosses millions are paying us (who make them all that money) pennies. For a living wage which is enough to afford the basics in life. Right now, many of us have to top up our wages with tax credits and benefits. We shouldn't have to. A living wage of £10 an hour is not too much to ask.
- Stop the bosses 'fire at will' attitude, backed up by the government. Making it easier to sack us will increase youth unemployment - not reduce it!
- We won't be used as cheap or free labour on apprenticeships, internships and work-for-benefits schemes. A day's work is a day's work and it deserves a decent day's pay.
- We have the right to get organised at work - Trade unions are there to help give workers protection and fight to improve our conditions. In this country there is a legal right to join a trade union. Despite this, workers who try to get organised are sometimes penalised by their bosses. We say the right to organise is fundamental - full trade union rights now!
- Scrap the anti-trade union laws - We have a right to try to improve our conditions and stop the bosses that 'make us sick'! It's up to us to democratically decide how we do this. If we want to go on strike or take action to try and do so then that's up to us, the courts should not stop us.
- Build democratic campaigning trade unions - We want trade unions that will fight our corner. That means representing us in the workplace, defending us if we're under attack and, crucially, helping us use our collective strength as workers to fight back. All workers, young and old, deserve democratic trade unions with fighting leaders!
- No to benefit cuts - Attacks like this affect all of us, not just the unemployed. For a start thousands of low paid workers rely on benefits. Plus if unemployment benefits are lower it means the bosses have even less incentive to pay a decent wage. Don't let their lies divide us!
In The Socialist 30 January 2013:
Socialist Party NHS news & campaigning
Socialist Party news and analysis
Fighting the cuts
Workplace news and events
Socialist Party review
Socialist Party reports and campaigns