WorkMustPay by Graham Harrington Aug18

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WorkMustPay by Graham Harrington

“Yes friends, governments in capitalist society are only committees of the rich to better manage the affairs of the capitalist class.” – James Connolly

WorkMustPay is a campaign of young trade unionists and political activists against the JobBridge internship racket. JobBridge is a state scheme which forces young workers to work for periods of 6-9 months for only €50 euro on top of their dole. This is unacceptable.

The minimum wage in this state is €8.65 per hour yet interns under the scheme only receive €3.65 on average. The purpose is quite clear: it is to provide employers with slave labour and encourage workers to engage in a race to the bottom against each other. The Department of Social Protection provided interested businesses with a subsidy to take on people from social welfare. This massages unemployment figures and alleviates the burden on the state of providing jobs for people. It is a scheme designed solely to make Joan Burton and her Labour colleagues feel as if they are doing something when in reality what they are doing is destructive. It will only lead more people below the poverty line and more young people to the plane to Australia.

If a business has a vacant position then they at least should owe any potential applicant the basic respect of the minimum wage. JobBridge waives that responsibility for employers and promotes a mentality of “Don’t like it, feck off.” Employers have the right to sever any agreement with interns and interns do not have any right to trade union representation. If the intern has any problems with conditions then they have to be silent or will lose even the meagre allowance of €50 a week. This allowance is merely a token amount and in many instances is not enough to cover travel expenses, lunch costs or childcare costs, so can cause a worker to actually suffer a loss while working let alone cover the costs of the basic necessities of food, water, clothing and shelter.

Workers in a place of employment which uses JobBridge but who themselves are not on the scheme aren’t in the clear either. If an employer has the choice of hiring someone for €8.65 an hour who is a member of a trade union or a person who they can hire for €3.75 an hour who they can make perform any tasks they want or send packing, then there isn’t much hope for the former.

An employer also has the right to lay off fully-paid employees and then re-hire them under the scheme, essentially having the benefit of labour without half the bother.

The scheme does not provide interns with experience or so-called incentive. Many positions are for those with university qualifications and prior experience, while others are so broad it is a thinly-veiled right of employers to make the worker do what they want, when they want. The amount of interns who progress on to fully-paid employment is only 1 in 4, which is already small, but also we must ask the question “why weren’t these people given fully-paid positions from the start?”

Over 16,000 companies have used JobBridge so far and that number is rising. The state, pleased with its achievement, plans to update the scheme into its new JobsPath scheme which is the plan for making intern positions mandatory and giving the bosses and employers further strength in their war against youth. If we do not oppose JobBridge then we can only hope for our youth to get the next plane abroad to escape this mess.

WorkMustPay was started to actively challenge JobBridge. We did not feel engaging in meetings upon meetings was the answer and asking politicians nicely sure as hell wasn’t doing much. We decided to go on the offensive. We find businesses advertising for JobBridge online and send them a warning e-mail. If we do not receive any correspondence then we have a protest outside their premises where we chant peaceful slogans and hand out leaflets. This has resulted in positions being removed and promises from employers to provide fully-paid positions next time.

Predictably, we have rattled the exploiters. The Gardai are usually called to our protests. We sometimes receive insults from bosses and have even suffered physical assaults on one occasion. Yet, we have continued to directly challenge JobBridge and the ongoing war against young workers and thankfully the campaign has grown in size, publicity and momentum. The small battles are being waged now, but the battles are getting bigger and so also are the victories.

We demand – not ask for – a living wage to cover the basic necessities of life for young people and their families. The struggle for fair working conditions is being waged on the streets and we are sure that this will make the exploiters take notice. A day’s work for a day’s pay is our simple but far-reaching demand.

We’ve faced 6 years of emigration, unemployment, suicide and destruction of our living environment. Is there any hope now for young people finishing the Leaving Cert? Precarious work is now the norm for young people, with most unaware of their rights or not members of any trade union. Sadly, many do not even know they are being exploited. This is not good enough; we need to rally together and oppose austerity and all its manifestations. We need to fight back and put the pressure on the establishment for once for if we do not we’ll be having chats with our grand-kids over what life was like back when contracts and trade unions and workplace representation existed.

Work Must Pay!