Fraser Nelson: Dollar a day

Fraser Nelson doesn’t know much about the UK benefits system or basic economics.

Fifteen hours ago Nelson tweeted:

Why sneer at Jubilee stewards who wanted experience needed to be security guards? My column in tomorrow’s Telegraph

Alas for his argument, the “sneering” at the 220+ “apprentices” and Work Programme clients drafted to be stewards at the Jubilee seems to have come not from John Prescott, nor indeed for anyone else concerned about these people, but from the woman who sent them there, Molly Prince:

“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 faint-hearted.”

(Molly Prince got into training after discovering it paid a lot better than running a pub.)

Eddie Gillard wrote the first blog about this, after picking up two of the “volunteer” stewards from the swampy campsite where they had been dropped to spend Sunday night:

This is a young woman , First time in london, first time away overnight without a member of her family trying to comply with DWP rules.

Well as far as I am concerned she did herself proud. While others had given up and left in the morning , she stuck it through til after the Queen had passed and the crowd dispersed before asking for help.

She has taken a couple of photos and has agreed to send them to me when she wakes for posting.

She slept almost all the way back to Bristol last night, and when she was helped into her home byan elder brother she was obviously finding it hard to walk.

Now I don’t know if Fraser Nelson read that blog. No excuse not to, since it was the original source of the information about the Jubilee Stewards, and he was supposed to be writing a blog about this for the Telegraph. But if he did, can he just explain to Eddie Gillard and to the rest of us where he got the idea that Gillard was sneering at this young woman?

Nelson’s colleague Daniel Knowles kindly explained to him earlier in the week how stimulus works to get a country out of recession. I doubt if Nelson paid attention.

It is the fond belief of many right-wingers that unemployment problems would be resolved if only poor people were willing to work for free. If employers didn’t have to pay wages, they could afford to hire more people, and unemployment would be lower.

What this misses is that high employment gets a country out of recession not magically because people aren’t signing on as unemployed, but because a person in a job can afford to spend money. It’s the circulation of buying and selling by the general population that causes an economy to recover, and for that, people need to be paid for their work.

Fraser Nelson bragged on Twitter that he had got his initial step in journalism by working for free.

When I asked him how in that case he had paid for his rent, his food – his laundry! – he refused to answer and blocked me, though he’s still engaging on Twitter with people asking less challenging questions. (Given that he went to Dollar Academy, a prestigious private school, my guess is that he was funded from the Bank of Mum and Dad.)

Close Protection UK confirmed (Guardian, 4th June) 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.

Molly Prince then blithely contradicted this three days later, claiming that

Not one person was forced to go, or told that the event was a selection process.

[Update, 15:45 –
Molly Prince has an SIA licence. (Political Scrapbook) Following a violent incident that she may have witnessed at the pub she used to run, she was convicted of perverting the course of justice after refusing to testify.

Perverting the course of justice in relation to a violent offence is classified as “serious” by the SIA — the most severe rating possible under the schedule provided by the regulator. This poses the question as to how Molly Prince not only obtained an SIA license, but public sector training contracts worth millions of pounds.

It would appear that it’s not difficult to get this kind of money from Cameron’s government, if you have the right connections.]
[Update, 16:49 –
Molly Prince has hired Max Clifford to handle her PR. Well, that should be interesting. According to this BBC story, he hates hypocrisy in public life. But imagine he’ll be getting paid a lot more than £2.80 an hour.]

Fraser Nelson claims to be under the impression that:

(1) none of the stewards were compelled. No one in Work Programme is compelled to work for a commercial company… (2) no one who is unemployed is mandated or threatened to take unpaid work for any company. Only mandatory work is community projects (3) yes, by choice – no one is forced to work for any company. The work experience slots arranged by the gvt are all voluntary. (4) yes, and the gvt allows people to do work experience while on benefits. Stops work exp being preserve of rich.

Cait Reilly had arranged a work placement for herself.

I explained to my adviser my reservations about taking part: I was already in the middle of a work experience placement that I had organised for myself (and which was more relevant to the museum career I hope to pursue), and I already had retail experience.

I thought the “training” was optional, and it came as a shock to be told I was required to attend or risk cancellation or reduction of my £53 per week jobseekers’ allowance – despite the fact I have always actively sought paid work. So I began the “placement” with Poundland – it was not training, but two weeks’ unpaid work stacking shelves and cleaning floors. I came out with nothing; Poundland gained considerably. …

The nature of such work is not the problem. I would be happy to do it if I had a say in it and, crucially, was paid. While hoping for a career in museums, I have also been applying for any job I am able to do. Like more than a million young people today, I find living on £53 a week extremely difficult, and would be delighted to find any paid work.

For this attitude, Iain Duncan Smith called her a “snooty so-and-so”. Apparently if you can’t afford to get your food and rent paid for you by your parents (Cait Reilly couldn’t) it’s “snooty” to expect to be paid for stacking shelves in Poundland when you’re doing a work experience placement to start you off in your chosen career.

I’ve seen no evidence that John Prescott thinks targeted work experience placements ought to be the preserve of the rich. But Iain Duncan Smith quite explicitly thinks they should be.

As Channel 4 Fact Check made clear back in February, the idea that “work experience” for commercial companies is voluntary comes with heavy qualifications:

Firstly, you do run the risk of having your benefits stopped if you agree to do a placement, then change your mind after a “cooling-off” period of one week.

So much like the French Foreign Legion, the scheme is “entirely voluntary” to enter, but there may be an element of compulsion later on if you decide to leave.

And there have been unproven allegations that Jobcentre staff are misleading claimants into believing that the work experience scheme is in fact mandatory.

Despite evidence mounting up that the scheme isn’t voluntary, that Maplins and other businesses were getting free workers (even the Daily Mail objected to Tescos getting shelfstackers for free) the government has taken the position that whatever the participants may say about not being given a choice, it jolly well is voluntary because we say so and only Trotskyists would say different. (And not forgetting to edit the documentation on the DWP website.) No surprise, perhaps, to see the editor of the Spectator and a Telegraph columnist lazily repeating the government line without bothering to check if it’s true.

Fraser Nelson also writes:

The idea that 220 of Britain’s unemployed actually volunteered to help with the celebrations must be, to Lord Prescott, a puzzle. That some of them described it as an “amazing experience”, and wrote to Close Protection UK to thank them for the opportunity, would presumably strike him as an utter mystery.

It’s not a mystery to me that people who desperately want to get into full-time paid work will write whatever positive cheery messages Molly Prince wants from them.

The reality of the “amazing experience”:

My child is part of the farce up there but is so desperate for a job they have stuck it out. They have been on the phone in tears, saying they are soaking wet, bleeding feet and sleeping in a wet muddy field with barely any facilities. I have said for gods sake come home but if they did it would be the end of the course and no SIA badge. I feel murderous, they are still there with one more night to do. Lets not forget that we as parents had to provide the tent and all the camping gear, not cheap.”


Filed under Economics, Poverty

2 responses to “Fraser Nelson: Dollar a day

  1. Grayling

    Frankly through experience I’m not surprised at all …everything about that firm had Bouncer Agency written all over it . We’d a Crown Court Case when the two local Security Agencies started a war with each other , at one time bouncers would have an arrangement to be paid by the Landlord / Landlady …yes shock horror ..not ….it could be cash in hand …then these bouncers would be intimidated and ” encouraged ” to join these agencies , in fact there was more trouble in the town centre caused by bouncers than the usual scrotes and hoodlums …many anecodotal accounts of bouncers being told to start a kick off in a venue to get a contract ….I’m afraid I’m inclined to believe a lot of them ……..and these agencies on a very superficial level appear to be respectable with town centre offices …often supplying retail guards to shops etc .

    No wonder Beecroft and the Tories want red tape and regulation removed ….a Tory Peer on the BBC in trying to justify the Jubilee Stewards scandal said we must grow the industry …even if it meant turning a blind eye to Employment Law and H&S .

    this is / was a very dubious firm Parking Solutions Security Parking (UK) Ltd operated out of Shrewsbury ….started up by a black guy …ex boxer ……………..there was a lot of compliants at a important Central Lancashire train station junction ………

    …………AFAIK no one was assaulted by this guy but a lot of people felt that they were very intimidated ….commuters seemingly went to their MP and from a Google Search there was questions tabled in the House ……..despite their business address they worked from the Midlands ….Tamworth ..

    .I think ……..they got a contract with Virgin Trains and did Car Park duties when VT were running replacement buses when the main lines were closed .

    …….none of the staff were vetted , had SIA licences , there was no equipment , no staff got holiday pay when they qualified for it …one guard claimed that the propreitar couldn’t afford it as he’d his wedding to pay for , they broke staff in gently by mere 14 hr shifts ….but some staff had to do 22 – 24 hrs ones at Carlisle …

    ….there was no facilities for staff at the stations whatsoever ….interviews were held in station buffets … member of staff had his postal wages by cheque stolen …….it was patently obvious he hadn’t drawn on the cheque but was basically told to Foxtrot Oscar .

    ….the firm expected their guards to ride shot gun on these rail replacement buses as bouncers with no restraint or first aid training ….However Virgin Trains are indirectly to blame for hiring these cowboy outfits too

    Staff have very little due recourse in law ….they can complain to ACAS but the only remedy to obtain holiday pay which is due under the EU Working Time Directive is take out an Industrial Tribunal out against these firms …..a lot of staff are frightened to rock the boat …as the word could get round and they’d be unofficially black listed in the Security Industry …and never work in it again .

    The Health and Safety Executive are a toothless paper tiger if complaints are brought against them …judging by the amount of pathetic handwringing and wriggling out of things .

    However aggressive Car Park Firms is basically the business model ….licences are given out wily nily to these semi literate sub criminal types .

    However this is by no means the lower end of the Security Industry Market whatsoever ………there’s outfits that dump people on building sites for the whole weekend …of course they’ve never paid …and if they complain they get a good kicking for their temerity .

    There’s a lot of outfits that are formed when the people in them fall out ……’s not unusual to see the bosses with black eyes having had a good kicking …and many have to work out of the area for their own personal safety .

    One amusing incident was a building firm outfit breaking into a site to get a contract …successfully I may add ! had to buy proper padlocks for the site ….the margins were minimal anyway …the market dictates for these ” cocky watchmen ” firms ….as it happens a outfit set up by a Lawyer and Ex Policeman were looking for him …for using virtually the same company name …they were higher up the security market …guarding large industrial premises etc and the shady outfit lost business the building firms thought well if they’re so cheap …they can’t be any good .

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