Brighton students are planning to hold a march today (Saturday 3 March) to protest about the government’s work programme.
The organisers, from Youth Fight for Jobs and Education, said that they would be leading a “chain gang” of young and unemployed people from the job centre to Tesco and McDonald’s.
They said: “This is a protest against the government’s workfare scheme where young people must work 30 hours a week for eight weeks and receive no additional pay on top of their jobseekers allowance which they are threatened with losing if they do not participate.
“The government is using unemployment to undercut the pay, terms and conditions of those in work.
“The working class is now threatened with a race to the bottom.
“With 2.67 million unemployed facing working for their benefits, big business has no motivation to employ people on real wages and is more likely to lay people off in order to use the cheaper option.
“Tesco has since raised concerns that the scheme is not voluntary and has pledged to pay the same wage to those on work placements.
“While this is a step in the right direction it is not enough.”
Youth Fight for Jobs and Education called for
- A day’s pay for a day’s work without exceptions
- Keep up the pressure to force all companies still part of the work programme to withdraw immediately
- All unemployed people currently on a placement to be taken on with a proper wage
- Scrap the work programme entirely
- A minimum wage of £8 an hour, regardless of age
- Mass investment in a programme to create socially useful jobs and real apprenticeships with guaranteed jobs at the end
Jack Poole, Brighton University student and Youth Fight for Jobs activist, said: “At a time when there are over one million young people unemployed, tuition fees are rising to £9,000 a year and EMA (education maintenance allowance) has been scrapped, it is utterly unacceptable to force the unemployed to work for free.
“An entire generation is being thrown on the scrapheap.
“We are protesting against Tesco and McDonald’s because of their participation in the workfare scheme.
“The last couple of weeks has shown the huge anger that exists about the workfare programme.
“And the amount of companies that have pulled out shows protests like this can succeed.
“We are calling on the government to start a programme of socially useful job creation, for example the £500 million that is being taken back from Barclays could be used to create much needed jobs and pay young people a decent, living wage.”
The protest is due to start at 11.30am today (Saturday 3 March) at the jobcentre in Edward Street.
It is due to march to MacDonald’s in London Road via Tesco in Jubilee Street.