Cardiff Protests Against Workfare
27th February 2012
Cardiff's university and college students demonstrated outside Burtons in Queen Street, Cardiff on Saturday to protest against the government-backed workfare scheme, in which unemployed people are forced to work unpaid in exchange for a continuation of their benefits.
Trade unionists in shop workers' union Usdaw have publicised the failures of the programme, and socialists and young activists have taken the lead in building a campaign to 'name and shame' companies taking advantage of free labour.
Pressure from protests and demonstrations has led to the scheme's rapid near-collapse. In Cardiff, protesters distributed Youth Fight for Education leaflets to shoppers, many of whom turned back from the targeted store and did not enter.
The workfare scheme has put few, if any, unemployed people into paid work. Many shops making use of unpaid labour schemes are content to 'hire' unemployed people with the promise of consideration for a job in the unspecified future, only to dismiss them arbitrarily after a few months and begin the cycle anew by 'hiring' yet another desperate jobseeker.
While David Cameron's Big Society project, of which workfare is a part, has urged increased volunteering and unpaid work, it is utterly blind to the market's refusal to create jobs.
Wales has a huge potential for job creation both in traditional heavy and light industry and in green energy, making use of the country's plentiful wind and water.
Edmund Schluessel, a Youth Fight for Education-backed prospective candidate for the National Union of Students (NUS) national executive committee, took part in the protest.
He noted: "Over a million young people in the UK are out of work and being told to do menial jobs for free with no real hope of a paying job at the end.
"Meanwhile, highly skilled workers like teachers, lecturers, physicians and nurses are working 60-hour to 80-hour weeks, but only being paid for their contracted 35.
"The government are cutting funding to go to university so young people can become highly-skilled workers in these fields while tuition fees skyrocket and access to higher education implodes. This simply doesn't make sense.
"I and other Youth Fight for Jobs candidates will urge NUS to put its full weight behind ensuring that apprentices and university and college graduates have jobs, not dole, to look ahead to when they finish their courses.
"NUS's national student walkout on 14th March should link students up with workers and the unemployed to build the broadest possible class-based response to the cutbacks and to the crisis economy."
NUS Wales president and Labour Students member Luke Young, another candidate in the upcoming elections, has urged Welsh student unions not to take part in the walkout, despite education cutbacks and unemployment rates in Wales being of the same scale as those in England.
Youth Fight for Jobs Wales