Work without Wages, Sleep under Bridges.
ANOTHER PRINCE has made the news, and this one has given us a glimpse in this Jubilee Weekend of the glorious future in Cameron's Big Society, betokened by the way Britain is treating its young people.
This is Molly Prince, the director of the company that arranged for young unemployed people to be bused to London from Bristol, Bath, Plymouth and other cities, to serve as stewards for the Jubilee pageant. These young people were employed by a private security firm called Close Protection UK. But the company did not have to pay them proper wages. Nor apparently was anyone responsible for seeing they had somewhere to sleep.
The stewards were supposedly training, under the government's work programme. Of the 80 whom Close Protection engaged, 50 people under the age of 25 were paid the government's standard rate for apprentices of £2.60 per hour and the other 30 either accepted the same rate or refused payment because it would adversely affect their benefits.
Close Protection also has a contract for the Olympics, and promised that those who did well this weekend might be selected for Olympics work. Work experience is a compulsory part of the NVQ2 qualification in stewarding required for work at major events such as the Olympics.The government and police are reportedly keen to clear rough sleepers, among others, off the streets of London before the Olympics. Now ministers are being urged to look into reports that stewards for the Diamond Jubilee ended up having to sleep outside. Volunteers from the government's work programme scheme had to spend the night under London Bridge before Sunday's Thames pageant, the Guardian said. Labour's Lord Prescott has written to the home secretary, saying the contractor owed staff a "duty of care".
Close Protection UK has apologised and blamed a "misunderstanding". The company said staff arriving from outside London on Sunday morning - ahead of the pageant on the Thames - should not have been dropped in the capital at 0300 BST with nowhere to stay.
The company, one of those awarded a stewarding contract for the Diamond Jubilee events, said there was confusion on the part of the coach driver who was two hours ahead of schedule.
The Guardian reported that volunteers bussed in from Bristol, Plymouth and Bath had to spend part of the night under London Bridge, one telling the newspaper that conditions were "freezing" and another saying it was impossible to pitch a tent due to the concrete surface.. They also told the newspaper that they had to change into their clothing - which included a plastic poncho for protection against the rain and high-visibility jacket - in public and had no access to toilets during the 14-hour shift.
Labour's Lord Prescott has urged Home Secretary Theresa May to begin an urgent inquiry into what happened."If the allegations are true, it is totally unacceptable that young unemployed people were bussed in to London from Bristol, Bath and Plymouth and forced to sleep out in the cold overnight before stewarding a major event with no payment," he wrote.
"I am deeply concerned that a private security firm is not only providing policing on the cheap but failing to show a duty of care to its staff and threatening to withdraw an opportunity to work at the Olympics as a means to coerce them to work unpaid."The Wigan-based charity Tomorrow's People, which set up some of the placements at Close Protection UK under the work programme, said it did not approve of unpaid work but in this case believed that it was valid work experience. However, it is seeking further clarification from the stewarding company.
The Department for Work and Pensions said the work programme used organisations such as charities to help get the long-term unemployed back into work and while on such schemes individuals continued to receive their Jobseeker's Allowance.
The Third Estate blog which named Molly Prince says her Twitter account has been hastily taken down since it suggested people get in touch with her. But her company, Leadership Development Centre is based at Salford University.