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From: The Socialist issue 676, 22 June 2011: All strike together

Search site for keywords: Jobs - London - Unemployed - Benefits

Finsbury Park - No to A4e cheap labour schemes

Neil Cafferky

David Cameron's 'big society' is a backdoor attempt to introduce privatisation into our public services and undermine wages and conditions of workers.

One 'big society' company is A4e. On its website visitors are greeted by the ringing declaration of A4e's pledge: "A4e is a social purpose company with one sole aim. To improve people's lives around the world. We do this by helping them to find work, skills, direction - or whatever it is they need."

The reality is somewhat different. As the government continues to make cuts in the department for work and pensions, and in particular, Jobcentres, A4e is ready to step into the gap by winning government contracts to provide the same service.

The advantage from the government's point of view is that for profit A4e is a non-unionised workforce unlike DWP workers, who are organised in the PCS union (and are striking on 30 June).

One of A4e's ventures involves a partnership with Finsbury Park Business Forum to provide wardens for the local tube and overground train and bus stations. These wardens are supplied by A4e from jobseekers who work in exchange for their benefits. They are doing work that had previously been done by Transport for London (TfL) staff.

This is at the same time as Transport for London is sacking 800 staff on the Underground. Naturally this has drawn an angry response from trade unionists, with RMT London regional organiser Steve Hedley writing to TfL demanding a meeting to clarify the situation. Underground workers at Finsbury Park station told the Socialist that they're extremely unhappy to see their colleagues lose their jobs and be replaced by people on a fraction of their wages.

Socialists and trade unionists have no problem with schemes that offer the unemployed a chance to get back to work. But the unemployed should not be blackmailed into work through the threat of withdrawal of benefits and they should not be used to undermine the jobs, wages and conditions of those already in employment.

Rather than waste money on private sector fat cats like A4e, back-to-work schemes should be run by properly funded and staffed Jobcentres with the unemployed placed in work on the same terms and conditions as those they work beside.

The biggest problem remains a lack of jobs, with a national average of five claimants per vacancy. Youth Fight for Jobs (YFJ), with the support of seven trade unions, calls for decent jobs and benefits and massive investment in job creation.

Jarrow to London YFJ march

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