Socialist Party and CWI public figures keywords:
Usdaw: Fighting against the policies of 'social partnership'
Activist is the paper of Socialist Party members in the shop workers' union Usdaw. Recently it carried an article explaining how, after 12 years, Robbie Segal has decided not to stand for re-election to the Usdaw executive (EC). Robbie has been struggling for the last year against a neurological disorder and now feels it is impossible to play the role of an active EC member. Often Robbie has been the lone voice on the EC against Usdaw leaders' collaborationist policies with the bosses.
Robbie explains how the failure of Usdaw's leaders to challenge the exploitation of unpaid unemployed youth working for free in big retail companies is connected to their slavish support for the now discredited 'social partnership' policy.
Tesco, Poundland, Argos, Sainsbury are just a few companies Usdaw has agreements with and all have embraced the Con-Dems' 'job experience programme' for young unemployed. This latest scheme forces young people - 16 to 21 year olds - to spend eight weeks working a 30 hour week as slaves. They receive no payment for their work and if they refuse to participate they lose their Jobseeker's Allowance. For trade unionists, this is a form of slavery - working for nothing.
Usdaw should be fighting to ensure these modern-day slaves are paid the same wages as our members which, unfortunately, is little more than the minimum wage. Such a campaign would act as an example of how trade unions are relevant to young people today.
Youth unemployment has climbed to over one million which means a staggering 22% of 16-26 year-olds and in some areas over one in three are on the dole. Rather than implement genuine training programmes to develop real skills, the response of both the major political parties - Con-Dems and Labour - is to establish this cheap labour work experience scheme.
It is the responsibility of the trade unions to join these young people in the fight for a future.
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