Over the past few months the government's work experience scheme has come under increasing scrutiny. The scheme attempts to introduce slave labour for the young unemployed, with young people working 30 hours a week for eight weeks and receiving no additional pay on top of their Job Seekers Allowance (JSA), which they are threatened with losing if they do not participate.
The case that has received the most media attention is that of Cait Reilly, a geology graduate who had been volunteering in a museum to try to get a job there, but was forced to work in Poundland.
The scandal reverberating from this has prompted Sainsbury's and Waterstones to pull out of the scheme.
According to the government's propaganda this 'experience' will give young people the skills to make employers take them on.
But there is no guaranteed job at the end of the 'experience'. Tesco has already taken on 1,400 'volunteers', but only 300 have received jobs and who's to say that they wouldn't have been taken on anyway.
Tesco has now started advertising jobs as 'JSA + expenses' in the job centre plus system, including one dated 9 February for night shift workers (usually premium rates) in East Anglia.
The truth is that this is a massive attack on pay, terms and conditions of retail workers. Instead of filling vacancies with real jobs, companies can bolster their profits by taking on conscripts for a month or two.
It is welcome that shopworkers' union Usdaw has now heeded the call we made three months ago and has come out in open opposition to the scheme, with general secretary John Hannett being quoted in the press as demanding 'the rate for the job'.
Usdaw putting pressure on companies it has agreements with is a step forward, but it shouldn't be left there.
Activists and reps should link up with unemployed campaign groups such as unemployed workers' centres and Youth Fight for Jobs to build a campaign linking those in and out of work to scrap the 'work experience' scheme and replace it with real jobs with union rates of pay and conditions.
Youth Fight for Jobs is organising actions around the country for the campaign national day of action on Saturday 3 March. Get involved!