An internal department audit carried out last summer showed that private operators running the Job Club Scheme, which the State funds to the tune of €6 million, are using JobBridge interns to provide cheap labour for their enterprises. In fact, the audit also found that in some cases all the positions in certain Job Clubs were filled by JobBridge interns.
In effect the government is allowing private business to profiteer off the state by exploiting desperate unemployed workers to train other desperate unemployed workers, without any certain promise of a job at the end. It is clear that the department’s failure to effectively monitor and police the JobBridge scheme is wasting taxpayers’ money on top of completely disregarding the welfare of the unemployed. This is the latest in a series of continuing failures by the Labour-run Department of Social Protection to look after the interests of those it has forced to engage in workfare programmes.
Eamon Ryan, leader of the Green Party, has echoed the Young Greens’ disgust at this situation; “Revelations that unemployed people are being used to train other unemployed people shows that we are drifting dangerously towards an exploitative workfare culture. Programs such as Job Bridge can have merit, so long as they are strictly monitored, and the work results either in employment or genuinely valuable work experience. Joan Burton’s hand is clearly well off the tiller given this latest revelation. She and her Department need to urgently review existing arrangements with private companies before any more unemployed people are exploited in this way.”
Once again, we are seeing that this government is more interested in lining the pockets of a few businesses than protecting people who are seeking work from exploitation, especially the Labour Party. Only a few short years after the centennial of the foundation of the Labour Party and the 1913 lockout, the seminal moments in the genesis of the Irish Labour Movement, Joan Burton and her party are helping big businesses to exploit the vulnerable worker for less than the minimum wage. When scandals like this arise, it also rings hollow that Labour really are able to keep their coalition partners, Fine Gael, in check. Indeed it looks as though Labour are happy to stand idly by and let their conservative coalition partners inflict suffering on the most vulnerable in society and that the spirits of Connolly and Larkin are long forgotten and ignored in today’s Labour Party.
Lorna Bogue – Chair of the Young Greens and Welfare Spokesperson for the Green Party