A group of long-term unemployed jobseekers were bussed into London to work as unpaid stewards during the diamond jubilee celebrations and told to sleep under London Bridge before working on the river pageant.
A particularly horrendous case, this, but not an aberration. It’s mindblowing how much of the grunt-work of running big occasions is now turfed over to the exploited unemployed. The government and private sector have figured out how to get work at only the cost of unemployment benefits. And however much they are described as ‘volunteers’, there’s a strong element of coercion:
Both stewards said they were originally told they would be paid. But when they got to the coach on Saturday night, they said, they were told that the work would be unpaid and that if they did not accept it they would not be considered for well-paid work at the Olympics.
That promised paid work is hardly utopian, by the way:
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. Unpaid staff were expected to work two days out of the three-day holiday.