A supermarket worker
The Jarrow March for Jobs 2011 ends with a demonstration in London on 5 November , photo Sujeeth

The Jarrow March for Jobs 2011 ends with a demonstration in London on 5 November , photo Sujeeth   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

I went on the government’s workfare scheme out of sheer desperation, having been unemployed for over two years. My dad took early retirement so I had to start bringing more money in.

The first day was an eight-hour introduction. I had an interview but there was no guarantee that I’d even be able to work for free, many were turned away!

I didn’t hear anything for weeks. Then out of the blue I got a call from the jobcentre, saying I had to start at Sainsbury’s in the next couple of days.

I work on grocery, shelf stacking. My training lasted for 20 minutes, then I was doing the same job as everyone else for no pay. This lasted for six weeks. Out of all the people there who were either workfare or temporary I got a permanent, but part-time, job.

My day starts 4am. I leave the house at 4.30am if I haven’t fallen back to sleep. I have to leave at this time to start at 6am because there are no buses at that time. Even if there were it would cost me nearly £10 a day to get to and from work, so I walk.

I spend my shift walking around the supermarket picking online orders.

I’m given 30 seconds for each product scan. This would be fine if the products were all in the same location and where they’re supposed to be, if I don’t have to substitute an item, or deal with a customer.

The scanner doesn’t take into account the distance you have to walk and it doesn’t start timing you when you start picking, it starts as soon as you log in the scanner. It doesn’t account for getting to and from the warehouse.

If I over-run by a few minutes picking up the last items then I’ll be in trouble with my manager. I’ll receive a message over the scanner saying I am not keeping to pace.

We are usually finished by about 12pm. The fulltimers are not supposed to go home till 2pm so there is no need for them to insist on this unworkable pace. The only incentive to work this fast is fear that you’ll lose your job!

When I’ve finished my shift I have an hour’s walk to get home. Then I have to make a choice – do I try to stay awake, it’s only about 2 or 3pm – or do I get some sleep? Like most people I’m living to work, not working to live.

Youth Fight for Jobs Demand:

  • No to workfare – for real jobs
  • No cuts to youth services
  • Bring back EMA – no to sky high university fees
  • Build affordable social housing