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Monday, 8 September 2014

Traineeship Scheme and the TUC — Statement from the Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group

As the Trades Union Congress annual Congress opens in Liverpool today, Swheatie of the KUWG publishes here the Statement about workfare for 16-23 year olds that we issued to Megan Dobney, Secretary of the Southern & Eastern Region TUC (SERTUC) on 25 August and the reply from Megan Dobney.

Traineeship + TUC — KUWG's statement

It has come to our attention at Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group (KUWG), that the TUC has allied with the Confederation of British Industries (CBI) to jointly back the Traineeship-scheme.

Given that we have firsthand knowledge of how unemployed people are treated by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), let us outline the many problems with the TUC statement of Support for the Traineeship-scheme / Work-Experience-Placements:

  • Although the statement says that these "should be voluntary", this "should" is too meaningless and is likely to be abused by the DWP and employers, and simply ignored.
  • And even if it would say that these "must be voluntary", the question remains who is going to enforce/check this? --Because often the DWP gives the impression that sanctions will be applied if voluntary things are not taken up, and with people being bullied onto the scheme with little knowledge of their right to refuse, or face increased pressure (sometimes through the threat of other workfare schemes) if they do refuse, it is likely these traineeships will amount to yet another workfare scheme.

On a general level, we are opposed to the Traineeship-scheme for the following reasons:

  • it furthers the normalisation of unpaid work,
  • it undercuts the Minimum Wage,
  • it further undermines employment rights,
  • it allows for benefit-sanctions to be applied by the DWP

(despite any polite requests that it should be voluntary),

  • it is likely to replace regular, paid jobs (--simply because it is cheaper for employers),
  • the quality of the training is mostly poor and does not provide any real qualifications.

We are in favour of preserving the rights to benefits for all claimants including the young, and ultimately of abolishing the means-testing for benefits.

We are in favour of allowing people who are claiming benefits to volunteer without any interference on the part of the DWP. Voluntary work should be completely voluntary (from start to finish) (and without hidden sanctions).

We are in favour of allowing everyone (whether they are claiming benefits or not) to do unpaid work only in sectors which are not driven by profit. In reverse this means: it is important that all for-profit organisations are prevented from access to any forms of unpaid labour.

What’s needed are jobs, at proper wages and fair conditions. That’s what the TUC should be fighting for. That’s what unions owe to their members. A fair taxation of the wealthy would quickly secure enough funds for the public sector to employ staff at decent wages and working conditions.

We eagerly await your response and strongly request that the TUC end their support for this Traineeship-scheme and publicly announce their withdrawal. Please reply to us within a reasonable time so that we don’t feel as if this issue is being swept under the carpet.

In future, we would be happy to assist the TUC with our expertise before decisions are being made about the unemployed. As a group we have acquired such inside knowledge of the problems with the current benefit system, that even Jobcentre Advisors are now referring cases to us.

Sincerely yours,

Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group

Reply from Megan Dobney, SERTUC Secretary, dated 26 August 2014
Thanks ___ for KUWG’s contribution

We’ll look at this when I’ve got the views of PCS (I know some are on holidays still so it’s likely to be next week at the earliest)

In the meantime, KUWG might want to consider that the TUC position is not from TUC officers but that of the TUC’s General Council and was approved by all unions, including Unite to which many of your members are affiliated – you could open a discussion there perhaps?

Cheers, Megan

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