Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/587/7512
The Socialist 7 July 2009 |
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JOBS NOT DOLE
Youth Fight For jobs demonstration, photo Paul Mattsson
With every passing week yet more companies announce yet more redundancies. The figures are astounding. Earlier this year we saw the largest quarterly fall of people in employment since 1971. I have experienced a drastic fall in both opportunities and standards in two very different sectors.
Neil Obler, Reading
I worked as a self-employed IT contractor, quite a rewarding occupation, albeit hard work. One week I was calling at four to six major high street chains, building societies and government departments a day to resolve IT issues. The next week I was being informed that contract after contract was terminated with work to be carried out 'in-house' or by small companies battling to offer the lowest price.
The occasional job that came through was at very short notice, with very short timescales to complete large-scale projects. I often found myself working with a group of extremely tense and nervous colleagues, desperately exchanging contact details of clients and agencies. Some you'd see again in a week's time and some you didn't. Soon there were no calls. Nobody was calling out for field engineers. Long-standing clients ended all contact.
After months of desperately negotiating work, the next step was to resort to registering with a construction agency I had worked with years before. It was as if the previous three years of work hadn't happened. There I was, up earlier than dawn, protectively equipped to the scalp, working at least 50 hours a week. I laboured alongside workers from up and down the country who, despite having the security of a permanent employer, debated which small few of them would be first in line for the next job.
A large Charles Church residential site was close to completion, with just another block of flats and seven or eight houses, out of roughly 200, to be finished. Then Charles Church announced that the project would not be completed due to 'mismanagement of budget'.
This site was part of a larger project comprising 1,500 houses. Less than ten of these houses are housing association. This is an outrage when you look at the number of families desperately seeking accommodation in the Bracknell Forest area and nationally.
As such 'residential economic disasters' became the trend, more work was offered on commercial sites where agency workers were 'touted' to tradesmen on site. For an average 45-hour week the average weekly take-home wage, after various agency fees and tax schemes, fell to £180.
I couldn't support my family on this and I had no choice but to leave it behind. Eight months, two weeks IT work, and much grief later I have tried to get back to work on site. Now nothing from steelwork to casual labouring is on offer. I can, unfortunately, foresee that the 600,000 or so students leaving school, college and university, who have studied dedicatedly, and apprentices who have worked for a pittance while training, will find no better fortune. The increasing number of young people signing on at Jobcentres across the country paints a grim picture.
Fortunately the Youth Fight for Jobs (YFJ) campaign is right behind the unemployed, students and exploited youth with full knowledge of the difficulties these young people will face down the line. YFJ has the ability to rally them together, to lend them a voice in the hope of turning this situation around.