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.’


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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  1. #1 AWorkfareBoycotter 05 Jun 12

    Not much longer we reckon!

    Loads of ways to take action with Boycott Workfare:

  2. #2 Paula 05 Jun 12

    There will be a lot more of this in the future, and the public will do nothing because we are all blind and stupid , we are all slaves. Its revolting, Shame on me –Shame on all of us for allowing this to happen in the first place to our fellow man. Im so worried for my sons future.

  3. #3 John L 05 Jun 12

    'The nature of the business...' Utter rubbish. I worked in events and promotions for more than 10 years and was NEVER paid less than £10 per hour with per diems and a hotel provided. Plus a 'base camp' set up nearby for toilet and rest breaks. This is exploitation, pure and simple. Molly Prince, and the company she represents should be investigated, not only for this horrific treatment of vulnerable young people, but, more sinisterly, for the amount she would have charged the event organisers for each steward she supplied to work in slave labour conditions. She would have made a FORTUNE. This is what's wrong with society in microcosm - This revolting woman would rather see her 'volunteers' sleep in the rain than pay for a hotel for the night - just to make a few more lousy bob.

  4. #4 Gary Robertson 05 Jun 12

    Are we at the stage where armed struggle is the only logical response? I hope not. But what is the alternative? Democracy seems to have failed thank to the newspapers.

  5. #5 Alan 06 Jun 12

    Yes, to be honest when I first read the report I thought it was a spoof. How could this happen? Then when I realised it wasn't a joke I knew we'd finally reached the logical conclusion to the policies this government is imposing on us. I say imposing because for most things they are implementing they don't have a mandate (due to the vagaries of our first past the post election system and the Tories being propped up by the utterly disgraceful LibDems).
    I always referred people to The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell. That's where we are heading I'd say... well, now we all need to say, we're already there!
    As you rightly point out Paula, there will be a lot more of this to come. And unless we do something soon I too fear for the future.

  6. #6 Cinderella Dreams 11 Jun 12

    I am shocked! Unbelievable! Where are we heading I wonder??

  7. #7 Peter Berger 12 Jun 12

    This is shocking, why was it not possible to pay those people even a minimum wage, this is taking advantage of the most vulnerable in society.

  8. #8 merle lester 13 Jun 12

    disgusting.... slave labour

  9. #9 Gillian Green 16 Jun 12

    What a disgrace..If there are jobs that need done, then pay those who do them..I am totally disgusted..

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About the author

Alan Hughes a New Internationalist contributor

Alan Hughes was a graphic artist at New Internationalist. He retired in 2014. He is a life-long socialist and trade unionist and is currently involved in the Keep Our NHS Public Campaign. He is passionate about The Beatles and has supported Aston Villa FC for over 50 years. He lives in Oxford with his daughter.

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