The Blog

Was Unpaid Jubilee Work Experience Good For The Soul?

How have we become a nation that presumes doing 'work experience' alongside the river Thames in the pouring rain for an event that happens once in a blue blooded moon will in any way lead to a valuable career?

Its been two days since the Jubilee Eternity, sorry, weekend finally finished and I think its safe to say in retrospect, everyone had a really great time. Especially those who got hypothermia, anyone who tried to get transport and all those who hungered for any other bit of news or television other than the consistently dull commentary on a lot of different large, slow moving types of transport.

Yes, I include Elton John in that description.

All of the UK enjoyed the tirade of watching millions of pounds that could have been used fishing our erstwhile dead economy out of its black hole of deficit we are constantly told about, instead being used to provide the sort of party only the sort of people who'd start a neighbourhood watch might enjoy. Those sort of people. You know the type. The ones who'd spend far too much time pruning a hedge and spent at least six months saying how awful Russell Brand was when he did that thing they'd heard about once and never researched. Many people, who pretend they can actually feel emotion when an Adele song comes on the radio despite it being proved scientifically impossible*, spent four days pretending they didn't mind dressing like a tool and waving flags. Cameron stated today that while the whole shebang wasn't 'good for the economy, it was good for the soul.' Great. We can all relish in the knowledge that while thousands are unable to pay their bills due to unemployment, they can at least enjoy a well nourished mythical notion that will allow them to live in a better post death nothingness.

But who's soul? Probably not those at Close Protection UK, who it appears, according to a Guardian expose and a call for an enquiry from John Prescott, hired jobseekers to do unpaid work at the Jubilee celebrations, where they were forced to sleep in the cold, had to get changed in public and had no access to public toilets for 24 hours.

All this, apparently, whilst being denied pay as it would affect their JSA. All the thrills of being at a music festival if you'd had no choice in going, the line-up was awful and you didn't even have cheap cider and people with poi to punch so you could numb the despair. But in defence of such awful treatment, Downing Street has said this was a 'one-off', Molly Prince, head of the company has said it is the 'nature of event work' and Abi Levitt at Tomorrow's People - the charity who set up the placements with CPUK, have said it was all important work experience to help young people get jobs. Backing those views up, several Tory MPs have accused Labour and left wingers of nit picking about the exploitation of people just to be anti-Monarchy, and the Daily Mail managed to find some named 'volunteers' who seemed all too happy with their 'labour camp' treatment. So with all those trusted resources, it'd be hard to see why all the complaints eh? There are times when I wish there was a font for sarcasm. However it'd only end up with me constantly upset when I read Tory MPs tweets that didn't use it, sadly proving they really aren't just character creations of Chris Morris.

There are lots of issues to this, and I'm not clever enough to coherently delve into the intricacies of Close Protection UK's financial difficulty, or Molly Prince's - appropriately surnamed for the Jubilee - previous five companies' history . Neither will I discuss that it's perhaps suspicious that the boss of Tomorrow's People is Baroness Scott, a Conservative peer. But what I do want to point out is that even if, somehow this is all reasonable, non-exploitative correct practice, then how have we become a nation that presumes doing 'work experience' alongside the river Thames in the pouring rain for an event that happens once in a blue blooded moon will in any way lead to a valuable career?

If you are honestly of the opinion that those are qualities that would be revered on a CV, leading towards a decent career then you're barking up something isn't even a tree in the first place. How can you 'tackle' the vast unemployment in the UK by training jobseekers up with skills that, after perhaps only the Olympics, will definitely be useless after the summer? I've done awful work experience before, but while all of them made me never want to do those jobs again, I was very well looked after and learnt customer service skills, admin abilities and never to go near ancient artifacts with a massive metal trolley ever again. All, with clever wordplay, transferable skills. How do you translate 'standing in the rain', 'being forced to change in public' and 'sleeping under a bridge' into qualities? Weather resilient, willing to abandon dignity and adaptable to the environment? Well done, you've qualified for homelessness!

I can only assume Tomorrow's People have seen the Conservatives recent take on environmental policies and are training 'aqua people' for the oncoming global warming. Anyone who defends slave labour is very much in the wrong, no matter how good the bunting is for your soul.

* It hasn't. But I bet it will be one day.