Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Work Is The Curse Of The Drinking Classes

According to a report in the Daily Mail a young graduate in museum studies is going to court to ask for a judicial review arising from her being obliged to undergo training whilst claiming benefits.

It is claimed that this is in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights and fundamentally questions the new regulations that mean unpaid training work for short periods can be enforced to ensure that the unemployed are gaining some form of experience and awareness of the world of work.

In fairness the claim that she was undertaking unpaid voluntary work related to her qualifications whilst seeking work is true. So another issue is whether this could be regarded as a substitute for the training recommended by the Job Centre.

The work was shelf stacking at Poundland. These are shops specialising in bargain offers. They are warm, if anything over heated, clean, provided with toilet facilities for staff and offer a wide variety of potential human contact on an everyday working basis. They are open for normal shop hours in the daytime.

It sure as hell beats unloading the Grimsby Fish train at 2 a.m. in five below with a light dusting of snow coming down. After you have finished that then you might have a short break before the Paper Train arrives at 4.30 to 5.00 a.m.

Then, you, together with a lot of other sweaty foul mouthed men from vans have between half an hour to an hour to unload all the days press and magazines for a large city and get them on the road. A stint cleaning the outside of trains at the carriage sheds by the canal was almost light relief.

But I was glad of the money, not being eligible for benefits because for two years I had been off work doing a sort of forced labour. Although “National Service” this did not count for national insurance and in any case someone going on to higher education had no chance of any benefits at all.

Back at the Job Centre they have to weigh up just what chance a person has of finding a job in the field they are qualified for. In many areas of higher education because of the numbers graduating against the jobs available there will be many who never will.

So people may have to be pointed in other directions and to work which they can do and which could provide contacts, leads and experience that would enable them to vary and widen their field of choice. Added to that is life experience, always invaluable in a difficult world.

I am sure the retail sector could benefit from entrants who have decent levels of education and the ability to progress to more demanding and senior work in time. One way of finding out if they really want work or not is to take them to see how they do in the real world of the present rather than the distant past.

But these days our graduates do not expect to start at the bottom. If the courts find that this offends their “human rights” then heaven help us all. So who will do these jobs and for what pay?

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