New Internationalist

Jobless used as unpaid jubilee stewards

Well, it’s almost over. The street parties, the bunting, the flag waving and (Sir) Paul McCartney with his ludicrous, Union Jack-emblazoned bass guitar and equally ludicrous hairdo (come on Paul you’d never get away with all this crap if John was around, he’d kick your arse).

And now the cost to the taxpayer must be totalled up for this nonsense. Except there’s one cost no one will be incurring.

Difficult as this is to believe, as part of a Work Programme, a group of long-term unemployed jobseekers were bussed in to London to work as unpaid stewards during the diamond jubilee celebrations and told to sleep under London Bridge before working on the river pageant.

One woman said to The Guardian that people were picked up at Bristol at 11pm on Saturday and arrived in London at 3am on Sunday.

‘We all got off the coach and we were stranded on the side of the road for 20 minutes until they came back and told us all to follow them,’ she said. ‘We followed them under London Bridge and that’s where they told us to camp out for the night... It was raining and freezing.’

Close Protection UK confirmed that it was using up to 30 unpaid staff and 50 apprentices, who were paid £2.80 an hour, for the three-day event in London. A spokesman said the unpaid work was a trial for paid roles at the Olympics, which it had also won a contract to staff. The unpaid staff were expected to work two days out of the three-day holiday.

Molly Prince, managing director of Close Protection UK, said in a statement: ‘We take the welfare of our staff and apprentices very seriously indeed... The nature of festival and event work is such that we often travel sleeping on coaches through the night with an early morning pre-event start – it is the nature of the business... It’s hard work and not for the faint-hearted.’

Indeed.

So, this is what it’s come to. Unpaid work, sleeping out in London in freezing rain – while the rich and famous continue on their merry way. What a disgrace. I bet the cost of Paul McCartney’s hairdo alone would have paid the jobseekers' wages.

How much longer are we going to put up with this?

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