Since graduating from university last year, I like many other young people have discovered the harsh reality of trying to find work in the Con-Dem's Britain. The only work I've managed to find was a 2 month temporary job that paid minimum wage, apart from that I've been surviving on housing benefit and JSA, both of which are threatened with withdrawal or cuts because of the ramped up sanctions brought in recently.
Jack Poole, Brighton Youth Fight for Jobs
When my benefits were about to be cut I applied to a call centre through a recruitment agency in the hope I could at least earn a bit of money and stay in my current house. Call centres, particularly where I live, are often the only source of employment available to younger people like me, and in recent years have particularly seen an increase students working there in order to make ends meet.
Pay slightly above minimum wage is attractive, however this is offset by poor working conditions, and an incredibly insecure position; you can removed for any reason, at any time. The TUC trade unions have recently described call centre work as being dangerously similar to the conditions factory workers faced in the 19th century, with long heavily monitored hours, few breaks and cramped working areas.
When I arrived for my interview I was placed in a large waiting room with around 20 other people and was told to fill out an application form. Along with the usual questions, there were tick boxes asking what work you would be happy to take part in for the job. One of these asked if you would be happy to “Fund-raise for political parties and their campaigns”. Unwilling to work on behalf of the very people who were cutting my benefits, throwing thousands on the dole, and claiming thousands of pounds in their own lavish expenses, I did not tick this box!
The second part of the interview involved groups of four where we would take part in a mock telephone fund-raising scenario. This was used to cut down the groups of four to just two, so only half of the people who arrived for interview got past this stage; we were told this brutal process was necessary because of the “extremely high level of applicants”, they were “interviewing” around 50 people that day.
The people I got talking to in my group of four were a first year uni student who had to work to stay at university, a recently retired man who was being made to go back to work as he couldn't afford his living costs, and a middle aged man who had recently been made redundant, in a cruel twist of irony, by another call centre! We were a perfect cross section of the people on the receiving end of the government’s austerity programme.
Anyone who “passed” the mock telephone step spoke to an interviewer for 5 minutes. We were waiting for well over an hour, while the interview process took less than ten minutes.
Following the interview I heard back from the recruitment agency that day, informing me I had not got the job, they gave no reason, but I suspect my refusal to take part in campaigns for political parties had something to do with it!
My choice was live on benefits which are under constant attack or work for the millionaires in government who are cutting jobs left, right, and centre - resulting in the huge levels of applicants for places like call centres.
This is no choice for young people, or any person in society. What is needed is a huge job creation programme. There is plenty of work out there that needs doing that could create thousands of well paid, secure jobs. However as long as the wealth remains in the hands of the 1%, the banks and their politician friends, this will not happen.
Young people need to fight back against these conditions and for a society that offers real opportunity, not a life on benefits or low pay. At the same time we need campaigns that organise call centre workers and others is insecure jobs. We deserve a decent level of security and pay in work, something that an effective trade union campaign could fight for.
Youth Fight for Jobs campaigns on all these issues and offers a chance for young people to not only get angry, but to get organised. This is how we can resist austerity and begin fighting back to improve our lives.
Tell us your experience in ‘Your Stories’, get in touch, firstname.lastname@example.org