Thursday, 12 January 2012

A test case

A young graduate called Cait Reilly is pursuing a legal case against the government which will be of great significance to all unemployed people. Read the story in the Mail Online first. Her case is that it was against her human rights to be forced, on pain of losing her benefits, to work for two weeks at Poundland stacking shelves. This meant that she had to stop volunteering at a museum, in a role that was related to the work she wanted to do. The comments which follow reflect the lack of sympathy of Mail readers, and the thuggishness of many of them. Then read the version in the Express. They have brought in Tory MP Philip Davies who was a senior manager at Asda, having worked his way up from shelf-stacking. Unsurprisingly, he is gung-ho about the system. There is a statement which no doubt the case will challenge: "Anecdotal evidence suggests Poundland is one of the best employers at converting work experience into jobs." The lawyers "are understood to be fighting separate rules under which the long-term unemployed can be required to do up to six months’ unpaid work. Her solicitor Jim Duffy said: 'The Government has created, without Parliamentary authority, a complex array of schemes that allow job centres to force people into futile, unpaid labour for weeks or months at a time.' "

If I had to bet on the outcome, I would think she will lose. It will be argued that the scheme she was put on by the Jobcentre, the "sector-based work academy", was voluntary and she knew what she was getting into. Anyway, the government can't afford to lose this one; too much hangs on it. Ironically, the Independent carries a piece about the firms (including Asda) which have signed up to new rules about interns. "The Government is sending out new guidance saying interns who do 'real jobs' must receive at least the legal minimum." Wait for the twist of logic which says that it doesn't apply if you're claiming benefits.


  1. I bet Philip Davies (doesn't he have form for this sort of shit? Or am i thinking of another Davies) didn't work his way up for £nothing an hour.

    They were discussing this on Radio Bristol this morning (don't ask why i was listening to it, local radio is depressingly lightweight). The presenter didn't even accurately put Cait's story forward until an hour of discussion, leaving out until the end that she wasn't being paid for this position. Predictably the callers were the usual curtain twitching suburan tabloid reactionaries.

    We've got a real fight on our hand against this kind of febrile propaganda. Most people don't seem to understand that workfare devalues everyone and puts people's jobs at risk.

    I believe the issue of the scheme's voluntary nature is not entirely true. Wasn't she not told that she could refuse the scheme within a certain time frame as well as that by simply expressing an interest she had been assumed to agree to the course (incurring the possibility of sanctions in lieu of said refusal stipulation). If you follow me.

  2. Her solicitor Jim Duffy said: “The Government has created, without Parliamentary authority, a complex array of schemes ..... "

    Well at the very least and on a legal technicality, there would appear to be a strong case.

    Good luck to her I say.

    PS There were over 2, 400 comments on The Daily Mail website. That's a lot!.

  3. The young woman in qestion was on BBC R5L this morning. There is a thread on this at:

    Plenty of uninformed comments esp from one person who sems to think that just because Poundland pays taxes, then such unpaid labour schemes are okay! Unbelievable!

  4. Good luck cait you have more backbone than the people who made the negative comments about you.

  5. If all you want to do is work in retail then poundland is ok, but if you want to do something else. like administration then what is the value of stacking shelves. If you get experience stacking shelves there is a chance that those may be the only type of jobs you get. Of course Tory MP Philip Davies who was a senior manager at Asda, is for it, guess who will have a lot of free workers from this scheme ASDA

  6. Of course its more complicated than this.

    Whilst being on this scheme she is statistically "Employed" and Section 17A is unlawful as the entitlement section of Jobseekers Act 1995 doesn't state about having to do unpaid work to continue to claim JSA.

    Under New Deal, although controversial, people were doing placements for "training" - the workfare legislation (Labours section 17A) is aimed as a punishment, not as a means of improving employability.

  7. If statistically she was "employed" then she should have had her JSA per hour upped to match the minimum wage .....

    (Historian you have changed the default font and posts are not as easy to read!)

  8. I haven't changed the font, Blogger has! I set Arial for the posts but it seems to be coming out as TNR. I have no control over the font for the comments.

  9. Some of the comments supporting this scheme defy logic. Not surprising really. I have have seen silly comments such as:

    "Poundland pays lots of tax. They have paid into the system so they deserve to get something out of it in the form of cheaper labour"

    "She is too lazy"

    "She is being too picky about the job she wants" (despite not actually being offered an actual job!

    "She needs to contribute something back to society" (I suppose the £1 tat Poundland sells ins a fantastic human achievement)

    "She does not need paying by Pundland. She is getting JSA"

    And so on.....

    I'd almost go as far as to call these arguments as STUPID as they are reactionary and dogmatic. Little thought goes into making them. Each of those 'arguments' are so easy to demolish, it's almost no fun challenging them.

    However, a more sinister tone has set in over the past couple of years.

    We seem to have the I'm all right Jack who is content with his lot but gives little thought to those around him.

    Then we have the "My job is crap so you should also have a job as crap if not crappier than mine" mentality.

    1. The ignorance of the masses never fails to cause dismay. She isn't lazy - she did the placement (iirc). The lazy party in all of this is Poundland for not paying her a wage. Free seasonal labour is outrageous. Why aren't other businesses making noises about this: it amounts to unfair competition!

  10. Quite right Ghost Whistler! You, I or anyone else working for an employment agency may be offered a weeks work at A.J. Bloggs and Son Ltd. Even though its 5 days work, we'd still expect to get paid for it, minus any deductions of course.

    The lazyness also stems from the ignorant masses failing to witch off freom auto pilot mode, spouting pre-prepared prejudice whenever the issue of unemployment rears its ugly head. The sad fact is that many of THEIR jobs are hanging by a thread as we speak!

  11. Just to add... Poundland doesn't pay a lot of tax (in real terms) - they don't even pay full VAT.

    Simone, thats the clever bit, as its a Government scheme... its exempt her (or anyone elses) entitlement to the National Minimum Wage.

    1. are Poundland big enough to play the tax avoidance game?

  12. Many ignorant individuals are commenting on the fact that Cait Reilly is looking for her "perfect" job and should accept anything else instead.

    I remember last year an episode of Undercover Boss on Ch4. You know the series, where the head of some company goes incognito and works in the kitchens, shop floor or warehouse of his business in order to see what works, what doesn’t work, how the staff operate, etc. There are American and Australian versions of this program.

    In this particular episode the boss of PoundWorld, a rival to Poundland did just this. He went in disguise as a regular member of staff to a few of his stores around the country. In one store a young manager of one of his stores recounted how he was on a low wage and on one occasion was the victim of an armed robbery at the store. It turned out that he had a computing degree.

    At the end of Undercover Boss, there is a segment where staff that featured on the program are called into the company’s he office where the boss reveals he / herself as the CEO/MD. In this episode the boss of PoundWorld congratulated the manager of this store. When the PoundWorld found out about his store managers computing degree however, he concluded that he was in the wrong job and offered him a position in PoundWorld’s IT dept.

    Of course, people can always say this was just for the cameras. And that working in PoundWorld did lead to better things. Perhaps the first point is valid. We were not offered a follow up to the program. However, just suppose this young manager had turned his nose up at working in a PoundWorld store. Just suppose he wanted to work in their IT dept instead and was holding out for that. He’d have been criticised to high heaven. Despite the fact that the PoundWorld MD effectively admitted he was in the wrong job within the company.

    Now don’t get me wrong. People should not be limiting themselves to just one arena of employment. However, a business should be trying to get the best out of its employees. This means finding the best roles for both them and the company. Or if this is not possible, at the very least treat them with the minimum of respect AND paying them at least the minimum. Failure to do this is highly exploitative and counterproductive as any company doing this will NOT get the best from someone treated in such a manner.

  13. Cait Reilly deserves a medal. I suspect many long-term unemployed secretly wish they had been able to bring this case.

    1. If nothing else, Pondland is getting plenty of publicity for all the wrong reasons! I have never bought the 'any publicity is good publicity' angle.

      I wonder if people will boycott Poundland. Let's hope so! I will not frequent thier stores again in the future.

  14. Here is a BBC radio interview with Cait Reilly and Jimm Duffy:

    I suggest a lot of ingnorant reactionaries (not here of course) listen to this!


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