Abolish “Steps to Work” – modern day slave labour

Youth Fight for Jobs is demanding the immediate abolition of Steps to Work, the scheme introduced by the Assembly which forces the unemployed to work for free. Steps to Work can be compared to modern-day slave labour. If people refuse to participate, they face getting their dole cut off – not much of a choice there! Employers don’t have to pay a single penny in wages to those who are put to work.

Bosses have been taking on Steps to Work participants on a rolling basis (one young person every 13 weeks) to ensure there is someone continually working for free. This is a system of exploitation where bosses, facilitated by the Department for Employment and Learning, are abusing young people desperate to find a job.

Steps to work = less jobs + more exploitation
When a boss can get a job done for free by someone on a compulsory training scheme then why would they offer a position where they would have to pay the minimum wage?

The Department for Employment and Learning will claim that this is an opportunity for people to gain experience and allow them to get jobs in the future. This echoes the argument of the Daily Mirror which stated that young people can find a job – if they are prepared to work for free! In the real world employers would prefer to pay as little as possible, even nothing, to increase their profit margins.

Steps to Work is used mostly by bosses in retail, services and professions that require a basic minimum experience eg. bar work, IT etc. However, retail in Northern Ireland has just experienced its worst Christmas sales since 1998 with only 0.3% growth. Every day six bars close across Northern Ireland and Britain. While in the IT sector, placements have dried up with a number of big companies, like Fujitsu and Nortel, closing or announcing redundancies.

Steps to Work does not create jobs or help people find a job. In fact, it is assisting employers avoid employing people and take on slaves instead.

£33.6 million to bosses – no jobs for young people
A typical Steps to Work “job” consists of 32 hours a week. 32 hours of free labour for bosses. If these employers were to pay at least the minimum wage for workers aged between 18 and 21, it would cost £4.83 an hour. Each participant must spend 13 weeks working for nothing, which amounts to £2,009.82 unpaid labour. 16,726 young people are claiming Job Seekers Allowance, for whom Steps to Work is compulsory after a period. That represents a potential £33.6million in unpaid labour for bosses.

This slave labour scheme was introduced by Minister for Employment and Learning Reg Empey. It also receives the support of the Committee for Employment and Learning which represents all the main parties in the Assembly. Youth Fight for Jobs will be demanding that this 21st century slave labour scheme be abolished and replaced with a real job creation scheme which provides full employment. Proper training should also be provided to young people. Nobody should be kept out of education. Tuition fees should be immediately scrapped so education can be opened up to all, not just those who can afford it.

If you are on the Steps to Work/Work Experience scheme and would like more information about our campaign e-mail Youth Fight for Jobs at youthfightforjobsni@gmail.com

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