[Marxism] Queen's jubilee uses unpaid workers forced to sleep under London Bridge

Stuart Munckton stuartmunckton at gmail.com
Mon Jun 4 22:15:54 MDT 2012


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.

One young worker said she was on duty between London Bridge and Tower
Bridge during the £12m river spectacle of a 1,000-boat flotilla and members
of the Royal family sail
She said that the security firm Close Protection UK, which won a stewarding
contract for the jubilee events, gave her a plastic see-through poncho and
a high-visibility jacket for protection against the rain.

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.

The firm said it had spent considerable resources on training and equipment
that stewards could keep and that the experience was voluntary and did not
affect jobseekers keeping their benefits.

The woman said that people were picked up at Bristol at 11pm on Saturday
and arrived in London at 3am on Sunday. "We all got off the coach and we
were stranded on the side of the road for 20 minutes until they came back
and told us all to follow them," she said. "We followed them under London
Bridge and that's where they told us to camp out for the night … It was
raining and freezing."

A 30-year-old steward told the Guardian that the conditions under the
bridge were "cold and wet and we were told to get our head down [to
sleep]". He said that it was impossible to pitch a tent because of the
concrete floor.

The woman said they were woken at 5.30am and supplied with boots, combat
trousers and polo shirts. She said: "They had told the ladies we were
getting ready in a minibus around the corner and I went to the minibus and
they had failed to open it so it was locked. I waited around to find
someone to unlock it, and all of the other girls were coming down trying to
get ready and no one was bothering to come down to unlock [it], so some of
us, including me, were getting undressed in public in the freezing cold and
rain." The men are understood to have changed under the bridge.

The female steward said that after the royal pageant, the group travelled
by tube to a campsite in Theydon Bois, Essex, where some had to pitch their
tents in the dark.

She said: "London was supposed to be a nice experience, but they left us in
the rain. They couldn't give a crap … No one is supposed to be treated like
that, [working] for free. I don't want to be treated where I have to sleep
under a bridge and wait for food." The male steward said: "It was the worst
experience I've ever had. I've had many a job, and many a bad job, but this
one was the worst."

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.

Molly Prince, managing director of Close Protection UK, said in a
statement: "We take the welfare of our staff and apprentices very seriously

"The staff travelling to the jubilee are completing their training and
being assessed on the job for NVQ Level 2 in spectator safety after having
completed all the knowledge requirements in the classroom and some previous
work experience. It is essential that they are assessed in a live work
environment in order to complete their chosen qualifications.

"The nature of festival and event work is such that we often travel
sleeping on coaches through the night with an early morning pre-event start
– it is the nature of the business … It's hard work and not for the

"We had staff travel from several locations and some arrived earlier than
others at the meeting point, which I believe was London Bridge [pictured
left], which was why some had to hang around. This is an unfortunate set of
circumstances but not lack of care on the part of CPUK."

The company said it had spent up to £220 on sponsoring security training
licences for each participant and that boots and combat trousers cost more
than £100.

The charity Tomorrow's People, which set up the placements at Close
Protection under the work programme, said it would review the situation,
but stressed that unpaid work was valuable and made people more employable.
Tomorrow's People is one of eight youth charities that were supported in
the Guardian and Observer's Christmas appeal last

Abi Levitt, director of development services at the charity, said: "We have
been unable to verify the accuracy of the situation with either the people
on work experience or the business concerned.

"We will undertake a review of the situation as matter of urgency.
Tomorrow's People believes strongly in the value of work experience in
helping people to build the skills, confidence and CV they need to get and
keep a job and we have an exemplary record going back nearly 30 years for
our work with the long-term unemployed."

“Disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is humanity’s
original virtue. It is through disobedience that progress has been made,
through disobedience and through rebellion.” — Oscar Wilde, Soul of Man
Under Socialism

“The free market is perfectly natural... do you think I am some kind of
dummy?” — Jarvis Cocker

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