Enforced labour for the jubilee

// 5 June 2012

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ETA: I originally called this post “Slave labour for the jubilee”, but as some have pointed out, forcing someone to work for free is not the same as actually owning other human beings and it’s not appropriate to use the horrors of the slave trade as a metaphor. I didn’t think this through properly and I apologise.

 How fitting:

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.

Up to 30 jobseekers and another 50 people on apprentice wages were taken to London by coach from Bristol, Bath and Plymouth as part of the government’s Work Programme.

Two jobseekers, who did not want to be identified in case they lost their benefits, said they had to camp under London Bridge the night before the pageant. They told the Guardian they had to change into security gear in public, had no access to toilets for 24 hours, and were taken to a swampy campsite outside London after working a 14-hour shift in the pouring rain on the banks of the Thames on Sunday.

The Guardian has more.

This is the reality of life in Britain at the moment. While half the country inexplicably celebrates the continued existence of an institution that represents colonialism, global oppression and the hereditary wealth and privilege upon which our deep-rooted social inequality is based, the other half is being stamped in the face by a government of money-grabbing millionaires and their private sector chums.

Street parties and getting together with friends, neighbours and family is all very nice, but this isn’t a time for celebration. Disabled people are under attack, with half a million set to lose essential benefits and hate crime on the rise. UK child poverty is set to increase as a result of the government’s economic policies. Gender inequality is getting worse, with 74% of the cuts coming from women’s incomes. And people are being forced into what is essentially slave enforced labour – unpaid, with no respect for their rights as workers, and no choice but to do as they’re told if they want any prospect of paid work or even the benefits they need to house and feed themselves and their families.

Instead of champagne and strawberries, how about we get together and fight for a country where everyone matters?

Check out the Boycott Workfare website for more information on the government’s unpaid work programmes.

The photo at the top of the post is of a red badge made for the silver jubilee. It says “Stuff the jubilee” and features an angry-looking woman holding a placard that reads “Fight the cuts!”. Shared under a Creative Commons licence by dannybirchall.

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