The Scambridge campaign which was launched by Paul Murphy MEP and the Socialist Party held a picket today at the meeting of European Ministers for Social Affairs and Employment.
With every announcement the government makes on JobBridge, it looks more and more like the National Slave Labour Exploitation Scheme.
Fresh from announcing the extension of the scheme by an extra 2,500 places in December’s Austerity Budget, Minister Joan Burton has announced that she will also extend the eligibility criteria for people who can take part.
Currently, if you had been self-employed or are a young person who lives at home but find yourself unemployed you are not entitled to any social welfare payment or to take part in any employment scheme. The Socialist Party supports the right of the self-employed and young people to receive social welfare payments. Joan Burton on the other hand, rather than take away the restriction on welfare payments, has taken away the restriction on these people taking part in JobBridge!
This raises the prospect of a formerly self-employed worker, like many in the building trade who during the boom went out on their own, now not receiving any social welfare payment but taking part in JobBridge, working 40 hours a week. They may not even qualify for the €50 “top-up” interns currently receive. They would be working for free, in fact it would actually cost them money to take part when travel and food are factored in.
The government proudly announced that it had banned 12 companies from using JobBridge because they had been found to be exploiting the scheme. This is farcical, and is only the tip of a massive iceberg.
In the government’s own report on the scheme they found that 3% of companies had admitted to using the scheme to replace positions which were previously paid positions. That amounts to over 200 companies who have admitting to abusing the scheme, how many companies is there that weren’t honest / stupid enough to admit to it?
The fact is that there are hundreds, potentially thousands, of jobs being lost because of this scheme. Employers are taking advantage of state-sponsored free labour to boost profits and drive down wages. Disgustingly, this scheme is being presided over by a Labour Party Minister’s department. The Labour Party rather than representing the interests of workers and the unemployed, as they claim, are now clearly the mud guard for weak Irish capitalism and multinationals in accelerating a race to the bottom in wages, social and working conditions.