June 2016        

Statement by the Work Must Pay Campaign

The struggle continues

The Work Must Pay Campaign notes the recent remarks of the minister of state for training and skills, John Halligan, and the minister for social protection, Leo Varadkar, where both outline their commitment to ending Job Bridge, the national internship scheme, launched by Joan Burton as minister for social protection in the previous Government.
     The Work Must Pay Campaign, a group of young political activists and trade unionists which was launched in late 2014, welcomes the remarks. We have little doubt, however, that huge forces will oppose their sentiments, including IBEC, ISME, and the state itself.
     The purpose of Job Bridge has been flagged consistently by others and the Work Must Pay campaign in particular: to exploit valuable, talented young people by making them work for a third of the minimum wage, that is, for those under 23 years of age €100 a week in jobseeker’s allowance plus a €50 top-up from the Department of Social Protection for 40 hours’ work. The employer does not hand over a cent. It is a form of modern indentured labour, pure and simple.
     Many will argue that Job Bridge had or still has a use, to integrate young, unskilled people in the labour market, etc. We would say that the recently published data in the Sunday Business Post, which showed that the scheme grew tenfold over five years since its inception to an eye-watering 50,000 interns, puts paid to this mistaken view. If employers, be they Google or the local hardware shop, are offered the opportunity to hire somebody at no expense, they will seize the opportunity. It was not uncommon for PhD graduates to be sought under the scheme, for instance. The state has been a rampant user of Job Bridge, with the HSE and every third-level institution in the country exploiting it numerous times, partly due to the recruitment embargo in the public service.
     The Work Must Pay campaign notes the growing opposition to the scheme among trade unionists, politicians and the wider community, from the current USI president to Impact, the largest public-sector union, which ran a motion opposing Job Bridge very recently. Many were appalled at the open abuses of the scheme reported in the Irish Examiner recently, where full-time jobs were clearly replaced by unpaid interns, with interns suffering verbal abuse and mental health issues due to poor treatment by management and colleagues.
     The Work Must Pay campaign notes the outstanding success of our vocal, noisy, effective protests placed outside numerous small businesses who have in turn agreed to remove their Job Bridge ads.
     We call on the minister for social protection, Leo Varadkar, to abolish Job Bridge, as well as the recently launched insidious “Job Path” scheme, modelled on Job Bridge but where private contractors will take responsibility, and payment, for finding suitable private and state companies willing to hire more unpaid interns. We demand legislation to ensure that no employer can subvert the state’s minimum wage by lawful means, including the abolition of all unpaid work schemes.

■ Refer to our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/WorkMustPay) for information on our recent protests, and note our petition calling for the abolition of Job Bridge as well.

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