Scrap Steps to Work!

Imagine carrying out the most menial work for 38 hours/week – working late nights, early mornings and long days. Now, imagine having to carry out this work for just £15.31/week from the government on top of a basic Jobseeker’s Allowance! Unfortunately, this is the reality for thousands of young people on the Steps to Work programme.  Steps to Work is Stormont’s answer to the ever growing issue of youth unemployment, with just over one in five young people in the North out of work and out of training.

The scheme offers ‘work experience’ at an entry level position in local companies – for up to eight weeks at a time –  to young people who are on the dole. Minister for Employment and Learning Stephen Farry claims that the programme “helps improve their prospects of gaining and sustaining employment”. The reality is that the work people have to carry out under the scheme has little real value in gaining employment. In fact, only 30% of young people involved in Steps to Work last year actually moved on to employment with the majority going back on to the dole. These schemes will contribute to even higher numbers of young people on the dole, as big businesses will use the slave labour schemes to reduce the amount of waged workers in their employment in favour of subsided workers on Steps to Work.

Whilst young people feel that they are left with no choice but to accept a poverty wage of £67 a week in benefit and £15.31 for their “work experience” – the companies involved in the scheme are rolling in money. McDonalds – a major participant in the scheme – made over one billion pounds profit in their UK operation alone last year, yet they do not have to pay a penny to any of their workers on the scheme, despite clearly being able to afford it. The companies administering these slave-labour schemes are making huge profit out of other people’s misery too.

But young people can fight back! In Britain, the ConDem government introduced an even more draconian attack on young unemployed people – Workfare. Under this scheme, young people get paid NOTHING except their benefits, despite working full-time hours. Dropping out could mean being kicked off of the dole!

Pickets and demonstrations at Tesco – one of the main participants – across Britain, led by Youth Fight for Jobs and Education (YFJE), forced the firm to make significant concessions. They now pay minimum wage to those on Workfare. Protests forced nearly a dozen companies out of the scheme entirely, including Sainsbury and Waterstones. The ConDem government faced a humiliating climb-down when they had to make participation in the scheme non-compulsory. A similar campaign can defeat Steps to Work!

YFJE has been leading the fight against Workfare, Steps to Work and other slave labour work schemes in the North and across Britain. In Belfast, our “Name and Shame Tour”  in March toured just some the businesses in Belfast exploiting young people on the dole, including Tesco, Primark, Topshop, McDonald’s and Poundland. We left bosses fuming as we exposed their greedy profiteering and got a great response from workers and the general public.
We want to build a mass campaign of young people to fight back against the attacks on our education, against low-pay, crap jobs and for a decent future.

If you want to get involved, contact
Neil on 07941841092 or
and come along to our launch rally!

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From a young age, I was brought up with the sense of an ‘other’. Protestants were different, and that’s why we avoided their areas, why we went to different schools and why there was conflict. I accepted this as ‘just the way it is’. However, as I grew up, I made friends from the Protestant community and what I found was a collective viewpoint that the division between Catholics and Protestants is totally futile.