It’s all about the money, money, money

23rd February, 2012 2:24 pm

David Cameron is very angry about Job snobbery. Very angry indeed. And almost certainly because he believes it (rather than because it rhymes and is therefore a good slogan). According to the Times, Cameron:

“will ask why it is hailed as a good thing to put a young person in college for unpaid learning, but slave labour to place them in a supermarket to carry out work experience?”

I must admit that this comparison made me laugh out loud. Really loud. Properly. Out loud. Having both been a recipient of “unpaid learning” (as we all have), and worked in a supermarket (which some of you will have too, but our esteemed PM presumably hasn’t), I should tell Cameron – who after all is an avid reader – that his analogy is fatally

It’s not so much comparing apples and oranges. It’s more like comparing an apple with a Hyundai i10. I mean they’re both red Dave, but…

That’s not to say that I didn’t learn anything from my time working at my local supermarket. I spent many evenings there, and weekends, and long, hot depressing summers that I thought would never end. Working at a supermarket wasn’t (by and large) fun, but it was a necessity. It allowed me to earn a wage that gave me a sense of independence and helped pay my way first through sixth form, and then university. You’ll have noticed a crucial word there – “pay”. I can gaurentee that none of the people I worked with in that Gateshead supermarket were there for job satisfaction. They were there for the money.

And it was the pay, and the necessity to keep on getting paid, that provided me with real life lessons. Frankly the actual mechanics of the job were and still are useless to me. The ideal way to slice ham, the proper temperature for a rotisserie cooked chicken or the appropriate price reduction for a bag of salad – those aren’t valuable life (or work) lessons. They were necessary for completing and retaining a poorly paid job. Poorly paid, but still paid.

What valuable life skills I did gain were the ability not to tell the bosses to go shove themselves when they treated staff appallingly (because I didn’t want to lose my job and my pay) and turning up on time and dressed appropriately (because I didn’t want to lose my job and my pay). You’ll have noticed that important word again – “pay”.

It’s quite crucial to the multi-billion pound enterprise that is the supermarket chain. I’m not sure I’d have turned up on time or taken the job seriously if I hadn’t been paid. I’m not sure any of my old colleagues would have been all that professional if they were there through coercion rather than sheer economic necessity. That’s not snobbery, that’s cold, hard fact. Or at least cold, hard opinion based on experience. (But far be it for me to suggest that the cabinet (and perhaps also the shadow cabinet) have rather more experience browsing the shelves at Waitrose than stacking them.)

The difference between studying with the eventual aim of bettering yourself and gaining some choice over your career prospects and being forced into work, for no pay, for a company with astronomical profits who can afford to pay you, is so clear, it’s depressing we even need to discuss it. Youth unemployment is rising, a generation are being left behind, and the alternative from this government? A job plan for young people? No. Unpaid work for conglomerates.

Is it any wonder David Davis thinks that the government are guilty of “crony capitalism”?


Incidentally, my stint working in a supermarket gave me a front row seat when it came to “predatory capitalism”, as well as shaping my politics in countless ways and making me a committed trade unionist. Everything was about squeezing out a few extra pounds – most often at the expense of staff. For a year I worked a shift of 3 hours and 45 minutes on an evening. Why? Because if I worked a 4 hour shift I got a 15 minute break. This way they saved £1 a shift. I worked the same length of time without a break. £1 extra for big business, £1 less for a minimum wage worker. That’s predatory capitalism right there. Or as it was described to me at the time “standard operating procedure”.

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  • Hugh

    You did it only to get paid. Since they were volunteers (you’ll notice the lack of “coercion” implicit in that word) on the workplacement schemes, they evidently didn’t; it follows therefore that they had another motivation.

    Taking that into consideration you’ll find it’s not impossible to imagine how those “valuable life skills” you identify – the ability not to tell the bosses to go shove themselves; turning up on time; and dressing appropriately – could in fact be acquired without pay. Simply replace “because I didn’t want to lose my job and my pay” with “because I didn’t want to get kicked off the programme (in the first week)/ lose my benefit (after the first week) and  lose the opportunity to boost my chances of getting a paying job.”

    And about half of those – long-term unemployed – who did it apparently had a job three months later.

    • treborc

       Who said they had work 3 months later, show me the fact of this not the Sun or the Daily heil.

      In Scotland and Wales of course going to College gives you £30 EMA  which is being lo0oked at to see if it could be £40.

      Which would be nearer to a wage because of the JSA young person wage.

      But yes these big firms should dam well pay a wage.

      • Hugh

        The government said it – Cameron, Grayling and IDS have all used the figure. If it helps, it was also reported in the Guardian and Independent as well.

        To be fair, as I made clear first time but not this time, the 50% is those not claiming benefits, so will also include those who went back into education. However, it was those who had been claiming JSA for at least three months before the scheme.

        • AlanGiles

           Cameron, Grayling and IDS  have all used the figure”

          So you automatically take it as gospel, Hugh?. Perhaps gthe tooth fairy will quote the same figures as them tomorrow.

          I don’t think many people realise how badly large supermarkets treat their staff – especially the younger ones. They are treated just as much as “units” and “commodities” as the baked beans and cornflakes.

          One of them (I suppose I had better not name them, just say in a telephone directory you would find them first among the supermarkets) in my local area makes a great thing of employing people with problems, of various sorts, and I once got into a row with a manager who verbally abused a young lad with learning difficulties, about 17, because of some trifling matter. Even if it had been a major matter there was no need to reduce the poor kid almost to tears by calling him a “useless bastard” (I suppose he felt he could get away with it because at the time there were only a couple of male customers around.

          These companies exploit their staff, and can you wonder that Mark, and all the other Mark’s who work on Sundays and late in the evenings only do it for the money?

          Perhaps you should get yourself a part-time supermarket job, and have to tolerate the behaviour of some customers, who treat the staff like dirt, as well as the managers and deputy managers..

          I left school at 15 and in those days we were lucky enough to have what were called “technical colleges” which was the making of me, and many others like me. You could work part-time and learn part-time, so you got the best of both worlds (and of course we didn’t have supermarkets back then).

          I have often felt a return of the old Techs would be one of the best thingsw we could do because it would help both with education and employment, because you are learning about what you want to learn about.

          • Hugh

             No, I’m not treating it as gospel; I’m treating it as the only figure I’ve seen. If it’s not true or the scheme can be shown to not work in some way to lower benefit claimants, that would be a good reason to scrap it. That Tesco might feasibly benefit in my view, isn’t.

            Incidentally, I’ve done plenty of crap jobs part time and otherwise, so I’ll pass on the job offer at this time, thanks.

          • AlanGiles

            I really wouldn’t place too much credence on what Cameron, Duncan-Smith and Grayling say – they would, wouldn’t they?. Like Cameron and Lansley think their NHS reforms are the greatest thing ever to happen to the NHS.

            With that gormless grin on their faces Smith & Grayling look barely able to go to the lavatory on their own, let alone understand statistics.

            Tesco make the biggest profits of all the major supermarket chains, and thanks to muscling in on all aspects of retail, they are probably responsible for more unemployment (small shops virtually ruined by them) than any other company, to take advantage of young people like they are doing is a new low even by their standards.

          • You’re keen to trumpet the success of the workfare initiative but as the link provided by lukewaterfield (below) shows – “people leave JSA at roughly the same rate, whether they’re doing workfare or not.” so why not instead trumpet the advantages of the cheaper option (as in not requiring the expense of workfare administrators like A4e*): i.e. JSA without workfare?

            You know it makes sense.


          • Incidentally, our old friend David Blunkett is an ‘adviser’ to  A4e, trousering £25,000 – £30,000 in 2008.


          • AlanGiles

            I didn’t know, but it doesn’t surprise me. Any man who would be cheap enough to boast about making another man’s wife pregnant, writing diaries about it for publication AND serialisation in the Daily Mail (Sept 2006) would stoop to anything.

            It concerns me that Labour politicians (and always from the right) are prepared to get themselves involved in organisations which exploit other people’s misery.

            I was somewhat taken aback (but thinking about it, why?) to discover that Alex Smith, late of this parish is a consultant to a company which has assisted an American company involved in “Workfare” at home (AmericaWorks) to gain a foothold in this country, boasting of the contacts it has with government officials.

            It is not confined to Labour, but there is something rather disturbing about the number of politicians and would-be politicians who get involved in some of these fly-by-night operations, often more than one at a time – it is hard to beleive they do this for purely altruistic motives.

            As we hear so often what a hard job it is at Westminster, they would be better advised to decide if they want to  be politicians and public servants, or if they wish to persue a career in business. If the latter, they should resign as an M.P. and follow that path, like pompous Pat Hewitt did. 

            What is even more concerning are people  like Alan Milburn who come and go, but are always hovering around think tanks and “Progress”.

            As a former Welfare secretary though, Blunkett’s participation seems even more sordid.

            As an animal lover, I have always felt sorry for the guide dogs that have had to accompany this rather unpleasant character through the mirky passage of his life.

          • treborc

             we all know the Job centre will place the long term unemployed to the front of the list, which they tend to do, but when you lose your job lets be honest how many use the Job center, it’s only since I became disabled I had to go to this group, then get farmed out to whom ever was doing the task which was the Shaw trust, or Remploy both pretty useless.

            I have always  found my own jobs even now I tend to stay away as I seek work sadly in my area we have lots of fit health Polish people willing to sell their mothers to get a job.

            Sadly the simple fact is would you employ a person who has been unemployed all his or her life, I would not.

          • Hugh

            Yes, I saw that. My only query was that they  seemed to be comparing those in the scheme (who had already been on JSA for 12 weeks on signing up and therefore would be more likely to remain than average) against general attrition rate for all those on JSA, even short term. I wasn’t therefore convinced it showed what it purported.

            However, if the evidence showed it doesn’t work, then, yes, as I’ve said I’d agree with scrapping it. It would indeed make sense. Scrapping it because I don’t like Tesco would not.

          • The absence of adequate qualitative data, which is very difficult to capture in statistical analysis,  (e.g. people offered workfare might be different to the people who aren’t) suggests that, as things stand, no advantage is offered by workfare. The rush to implementation may be indicative of the government’s presentational priorities rather than a resolve to address unemployment.

            It isn’t only Tesco who participate in the workfare scheme. Significantly, the list of corporations withdrawing from the scheme is growing longer.


          • Hugh

             It’s not actually very difficult is it? You simply compare those that take up the programme, who have to be at least 12 weeks on JSA, with attrition rates with those who have been on JSA for at least 12 weeks. 

            Curiously, though, I’m struggling to recall this same commitment to provable results when the New Deal and other similar Labour government programmes splurged billions.

            Finally, I’m not sure what signficance I’m meant to attach to the list of corporations withdrawing: that with very little sign of real damage to their businesses they’re nevertheless willing to immediately abandon a scheme which was – so I’ve been led to believe – bolstering their profits with slave labour, perhaps?

          • “this same commitment… ”

            But I assumed you are New Labour’s best friend! Many New Labour policies have been taken up by the Tories, which is why, I imagine, you now support them.
            Forgive me if I’m mistaken.

          • Hugh

             You’re forgiven. No hard feelings.

        • Dave Postles

          ‘ Cameron, Grayling and IDS have all used the figure.’
          Does that include the black sailor that Cameron met in Portsmouth Asda on the WP scheme who has since been taken on into employment by UK Walmart?

        • treborc

           Does not mean it’s true we all remember Labour 600,000 jobs just waiting for people, even after open doors and four million immigrants not a single job off that 600,000 went to anyone.

          I think when you look at fact coming from a group which is working for the government you have to be careful.

          In my area job offers are at a record low with Tesco laying off dozens because they intended to use the people from this benefits farce.

          Last week we had four tills open and the rest closed the supervisor was annoyed we wanted more open, she shout they sacked the dam workers what do you want us to do, the reply was nine of ten people walked out leaving full baskets. sadly they will be back since our Asda has  been on fire

        • Oh well if Cameron, Grayling and IDS said it then it must be true. How could anyone, even in their wildest dreams, suggest that such fine individuals might lie, exaggerate or make cheap political points in order to ensure that those who financed them before the last general election get a large dose of free labour? Perish the thought!

          • Hugh

             Oh, I see you did. Clearly your comment requires my urgent attention. I’ve replied above.

    • derek

      Your not on @HughPettit:disqus 
      , many of today’s terms and condition of employment weren’t just handed to people they were fought for over a very long period of time.

      Jeez! if I were the senior steward in one of these supermarkets, I’d take a flame thrower to any such suggestions. 

    • Dave Postles

       I don’t know about Tesco, but the official figure for those who convert from workfare to employment is 20%, whilst the official ‘target’ is 40%.  I’d be interested to know whether the supermarkets are still using apprenticeship schemes to ‘train’ their existing workforce. 

      In the work placements, is there training to appreciate interpersonal skills, team working, motivational skills, etc (I take punctuality as a given)?  

      • Hugh

         No, the official figure from the government about the scheme we’re talking about across all employers participating (not just Tesco) is 50% either get jobs or go back into training.

        • Dave Postles

          Only if you accept the figure used by Cameron and Smith as ‘official’.  My point was about people finding employment, not returning to training or falling out of the scheme – i.e. 20% in the scheme find employment.

          • GuyM

            So 1:5 chance of getting a job… far higher than a standard cold appplication.

            What this implies is the work experience scheme immediately gets you to interview stage. Not a terrible investment.

        • Dave Postles


          • Hugh

            These are three reports about a different scheme – “The Work Programme” rather than the “Work Experience Programme”.

          • Dave Postles

             They are the only ‘official’ data which we have about the success of any of the Coalition’s schemes.

        • Dave Postles


        • Dave Postles


      • treborc

         Then why is the employment numbers not dropping at all, who says it dropping and people are getting work. I went on a one hour a week training program in which the instructor did not turn up, yet I was classed as not being on welfare. Labour used a stroke of a pen to lower unemployment it seems the Tory are using a four inch paint  brush to do the same.

  • Sheenaconnor1

    Workfare = Money Trick…We the taxpaner pay our contributions to support those unfortunate to be out of work, then Mr Tory following of from Mr Labour introduces Workfare…The unemployed who we the taxpayers are rightly helping to support are then offered as free slaves to the rich employer who gets a free worker, no tax to pay, no national insurance contributions to pay, no pension contributions to pay and no wages for the worker = of no benefit to the unemployed person other than to turn them into a compliant zombie, no benefit to the economy as worker has no monies to spend, Benefit to the employer 100% swelling their already vast reserves of wealth!! and benefit to the Tory government as rich employer finacially supports the Party in return for more free slaves!!! So we can see who benefits!!!!

  • Re: the rate of people coming off JSA post-workface.  Some numbers: 

    • It turns out: “people leave JSA at roughly the same rate, whether they’re doing workfare or not.”
      The availability of jobs is probably the crucial factor. Cameron’s latest wheeze only provides an appearance of helping people into work. 

      Anyone for a growth plan… ?

      • treborc

         It did under labour, we were told 200,000 disabled people had returned to work due to welfare to work, but it’s the same number Thatcher got back to work without workfare or anything else, Labour took twelve years to do it Thatcher took one. The secret is of course people get better from illness or from sickness and return to their jobs which are kept open for them.

        The cost of the New Deal, Pathways to work, workfare must be massive just with the letter heads alone because it’s all the same, the same people do the same task yet a different name.

  • Jeff_Harvey

    As far as the Work Programme and Workfare goes it might be interesting to reveal a couple of details in respect to David Cameron’s “Families Tsar” Emma Harrison and her provider organisation A4e.

    As far as Ms. Harrison goes the Work Programme has certainly been a success:

    MPs call for probe into PM’s families tsar who pocketed £8.6m in one year
    Although her organisation which she purloined these monies from leaves much to be desired it appears:

    Four former staff at welfare-to-work company A4e arrested in fraud inquiry

    More to come later from other providers and provider organisations desperately trying to earn a crust from the “pay by results” Work Programme later no doubt.

    This IS the shape of things to come.

    David Cameron really ISN’T connected to the REAL world at all is he?

    • AlanGiles

      Ms Harrison announced she is stepping down from her “family tsar” role this evening, Derek, so every cloud has a silver lining!

      She says she is “still committed” though, and if I were a magistrate, she would be….

      • derek

        LoL @Alan, what has her company be up to? 

  • Slakah

    I worked a night shift at Tesco for quite a bit. Ridiculous staff turnover, loads of people off due to stress, one guy had a heart attack. Threatening to sack unless carrying out unpaid overtime, many of the managers didn’t take their break due being chronically understaffed and unprepared for illness.

    • treborc

        Yes not to long ago a retailer was on TV the boss was doing a week working on the shop floor, you must have seen the program, the boss did a night shift filling up the shelves.

       He spoke to his workmate who just looked at him and ignored him. During the canteen break the chap said sorry I did not speak to you during work, but you banned us from speaking to each other while we were working.

      The Boss said that must of been one of my stupid moments and the worker said yes well one of many. The next day a memo was sent around saying that people could talk while at work, it just shows how many of these people have no idea’s at all.

      • Slakah

        Was it undercover boss? Must have been one I missed. Also, sorry for the late reply only just found out how to use Disqus properly.

  • charles.ward

     You’ve hit the nail on the head here Mark.  The problem with the young unemployed is that they have no concept of delayed gratification.  Why work for 4 weeks for no extra money in return for the prospect of a job?  I want money now!  What do you mean I have to work my way up from the bottom?

    People who cannot endure any hardship (however small) in the present for a return in the future (however large) will always be poor.  Even if they get a job they will spend more that they earn and rack up huge debts because, like a child, they want everything now.

    As you pointed out there is quite a lot of training involved in even “low-skilled” jobs.  So much so that it makes no sense for Tesco to have a new set of unskilled employees every 4 weeks.  They want good permanent employees not workers they have to continually train, however cheap.  That is why so many of the trainees become full time employees.  The idea that these trainees are replacing permanent workers is just nonsense.

    Many companies are now suspending their participation in the scheme which can only result in fewer young unemployeed getting work.  I hope the protesters are proud of themselves and sleep soundly in their university digs, safe in the knowledge that they will never have to rely on the kind of scheme they have just destroyed.

    • derek

      This isn’t some kind of test to see who can sweat the most before their considered for paid employment?

      To my fellow workers in supermarkets, call a meeting with management and register a “Breach of contract” as well as a “Breach of European law” call a recess and a general shopfloor meeting, rely the fear of slave wages and on going wage negotiations and mention the health and safety breach of employing  workers without pay? what type of cover do they have for a potential accident? how would the compensation be worked out?

      Get in touch with surrounding supermarkets, call a local civic meeting and imply a work to rule situation.

      • derek

        And remember it’s your duty and in the interest of those unfortunates to refuse them training or to work along side them, it’s not the individuals your against but the government policy.

      • charles.ward

        This isn’t some kind of test to see who can sweat the most before their considered for paid employment?

        But that is how education and training work, you spend a short amount of time on low (or no) pay and in return you reap the benefits in the future.  I worked in a factory part time to help me through university and while I was a student I still had very little money.  Now I have a good job.  It’s not my dream job and if I didn’t have to work I wouldn’t.  I don’t expect the taxpayer to pay for me to sit around until my dream job magically becomes available.

        We are not talking about years working for no pay at Tesco, we are talking about 4 weeks.  The trainee is not giving up any benefits, only their time – which they have plenty of.

        • derek

          But this isn’t about dream jobs Charles? isn’t about slave labour and undermining a certain group within the employment sector.European law stipulates that’s there should be no differentials between what a woman or man doing the same job earns? it’s a breach of contractual agreement to have some carry out the same task without an hourly rate and throws up many unanswered health and safety issues?

          I’ve nothing against someone working from bottom down to top up earnings.

          Reality tells us that their are many who spend a working life in the low wage bracket and if there wasn’t the trade union support those terms would certainly have been much less.

          I’m F****D if I’ll tolerate this crap! I suggest we take this on and stop it in it’s tracks, pronto style! flex up and make some noise .  

          • charles.ward

            European law stipulates that’s there should be no differentials between what a woman or man doing the same job earns?

            But there is nothing stopping an employer paying someone with more experience more money (after all they should be able to do the same job better).

            Also there is nothing stopping a company paying a man and a woman different performance related pay (if a saleswoman gets more orders than a salesman, or vice versa for example).

            Training can also be considered a benefit meaning that during a training period you can pay someone less.

            Should a trainee teacher be paid the same wage as one who has 20 years of experience?

            I don’t believe that trainee is exempt from health and safety legislation (a cost borne by the employer by the way).

          • derek

            Well, if an employer say (tesco’s) what to give everyone who stacks the shelves a substantial pay rise then the fine by me.

            Pay related performance? how do you judge such a thing? does a fireman or nurse have to be measured by the amount of fires they put out? or the number of patients they save? ridiculous idea.

            Training is paramount!!!
            “Should a trainee teacher be paid the same wage as one who has 20 years of experience” more ridiculous stuff Charles.

            No one should be exempt from insurance cover? and companies must comply with health and safety regulations or face a term in jail. That’s the point.

          • derek

            Well, if an employer say (tesco’s) wan sto give everyone who stacks the shelves a substantial pay rise then that’s fine by me.

            Pay related performance? how do you judge such a thing? does a fireman or nurse have to be measured by the amount of fires they put out? or the number of patients they save? ridiculous idea.

            Training is paramount!!!
            “Should a trainee teacher be paid the same wage as one who has 20 years of experience” more ridiculous stuff Charles.

            No one should be exempt from insurance cover? and companies must comply with health and safety regulations or face a term in jail. That’s the point.  

          • Hugh

             Is there any evidence at all that they’re breaking health and safety regulations, Derek? Nor, since companies have coped with work experience for years, is insurance likely to be an issue.

          • derek

            I think you need to explain your thought there? work experience? as in school leavers getting a week experience in tesco’s, without manual handling experience and they just jump on a forklift and empty a delivery goods load?

            Employees sign a contract of agreement an hourly rate job for duties and tasks carried out. Each will be covered by the companies insurance scheme. It’s stupid to suggest that a no training programme and no insurance cover is a mandatory example of today’s business.    

          • Hugh

             No, it’s stupid to suggest that Tesco is breaking the law on the basis of things it might be doing, without any evidence at all that it is doing those things.

          • AlanGiles

            But this is about  so much more than the law. Surely, morality has to come into it?

            Tesco isn’t struggling like Comet or Argos are – they earn the highest profits of the big 4 supermarkets. Can it be morally right to take advantage of people in the way they are doing?

            Back at the end of the 80s when Marcus Seiff was head of Marks &Spencer, he was Mrs Thatcher’s best mate and he always signed up first for those dodgy “work experience” schemes. It seems Tesco are the new M & S.

            For a company making massive profits, I would suggest to you their behaviour is morally reprehensible, even if they are staying within the confines of the law.

          • derek

            Take a read at this article and especially the two named employees who were just thrown into work without any guidance or supervision or training.


          • Hugh

            You got all that from “”No one really knew what we were supposed to be doing. We were just put
            on the shop floor and told to tidy shelves,” she said.James Rayburn”?

            Derek, this is a silly discussion. The point the journalist is trying to make is they didn’t learn any skills.

          • derek

            Did you ignore the lawyers?

            , what is your point here? you asked for evidenceof exploitation and breach of employment rights, I supplied it, in the form of an article being followed through by lawyers.How would you explain if one of this used  workers was involvedin an accident or done something to cause an accident? without training or guidance? Look, a simply apology will do! thanks. 

          • charles.ward

            Pay related performance? how do you judge such a thing? does a fireman
            or nurse have to be measured by the amount of fires they put out? or the
            number of patients they save? ridiculous idea.

            If a fireman gains experience as he does the job and as a result is better at putting out fires (knows where to best direct the hoses, etc) why shouldn’t he get paid more money.  This results in less property damage and more lives saved.  And we do pay firemen more as they gain experience just as we do with all public and private sector workers alike.  As a nurse gains experience and becomes better at their job we pay them more.  This is not a difficult concept derek.

            “Should a trainee teacher be paid the same wage as one who has 20 years of experience” more ridiculous stuff Charles.

            Why is it ridiculous derek?  We pay trainee teachers less than experienced teachers and we also pay newly qualified teachers less too.  You seem to have difficulty understanding that not all employees are the same.

            You’re in a hole derek, stop digging for God’s sake.

          • derek

            No? you’ve moved the goal post and scored a spectacular O.G. of course a salary or wage should increase annually, no one is disputing that? you initially supported the notion of working for no pay to gain experience, I simply educated  and directed you to a common sense position.

            Glad you now support the idea that all work should be paid work. Not only did I led you to the water trough but I helped you to follow through and drink from the trough….good stuff.

          • derek

            Should have also said that an apprentice wont earn as much as a tradesman but an apprentice will still earn.

          • Jeff_Harvey

            This is really silly. Honestly.

        • AlanGiles

          Charles I don’t want to bore everyone here with my technical college days (anyone else on here who went to one? – just interested), but at no time did we ever work for NO PAY. The techs built up good relationships with local employers small, medium and large. The essence of the techs were that they were local, and we often found that, though the pay was low, we were well treated in other ways.

          Two acts of kindness stick in my mind: one very cold winter I was working in a really cold barn-like place and me and my mate from the tech were given a couple of warm donkey jackets and heavy shirts each, and this was done quietly so there was no embarrassment. At another place we worked, the canteen ladies were told to give us extra food and the odd cup of tea or drink “on the house” – again, this was done quietly and I only discovered it long after I left. We were paid though, and though the jobs were menial we were treated well. I don’t recall one place where we were exploited

          I was always grateful for the experiences I had and when I was in a position to do something to be able to pay the kindness back, I always did. I think most of us did. The fact we were paid, and given things in kind, gave you a sense of responsibility, both towards the employer and to want to repay the consideration shown towards you

          I would have been very uncomfortable to make these young workers work for nothing, and I would have felt, frankly, a ponce to have done so, hiding behind the fig-leaf of “respectability” that I was taking part in some government scheme to “help” these youngsters. The companies concerned are helping only themselves

    • DaveCitizen

       Charles – based on what you’ve said I guess you must be passionately in favour of major inheritance taxation to ensure that we avoid any ludicrous situations of some people being given more than most people could get even if they worked themselves into an early grave?

      To be fair, I think the Eton shower probably should be prepared to work for nothing in a supermarket for a few years to provide some sort of rounded education. While they’re doing that perhaps a few of the internships and bond trader positions they leave vacant could be used to apprentice already rounded individuals? 

      As for working free for Tesco, I’d say Tesco need to be reminded that they are allowed to operate on the basis that they are good for society. Unless the balance of bringing in chinese goods, promoting unhealthy imported food and exporting back office jobs overseas radically shifts in Britain’s favour I suggest we say cheerio.

      • charles.ward

        I’d say Tesco need to be reminded that they are allowed to operate on the basis that they are good for society.

        The fact that Tesco are good for society is shown by how many people choose to shop there.

        If we were to “say goodbye” to Tesco (and presumably all the other evil capitalist supermarkets that stock foreign goods) the customer would be poorer.  We would also destroy thousands of jobs.  Presumably you would be in favour of us paying higher taxes (in addition to our increased food bills) to fund the resulting unemployment or to pay for the employment of ex-supermarket workers in the public sector?

        •  ‘The fact that Tesco are good for society is shown by how many people choose to shop there.’

          Is abuse of drugs and alcohol also ‘good for society’ then, given that so many choose to do that?

          • Winston_from_the_Ministry

            You’re denying those people are addicted then?

          • Tesco shoppers aren’t usually addicted as such – just not fully aware of the social and environmental externalities of the big retailers.

          • DaveCitizen Mail

             And let’s not forget the economic externalities too – what’s good for international capitalism can easily be bad for wealth creation in Britain

          • DaveCitizen

             And let’s not forget economic externalities – what’s good for international capitalism can easily be bad for wealth creation in Britain

          • charles.ward

            At the moment I do my shopping twice a week at Tesco’s on my way home from work.  I spend about an hour per week shopping and I can get most of the things I need  in that hour.

            If out of town supermarkets were to close I would have to go into town to do my shopping on a Saturday.  This would take several hours going from shop to shop and travelling to the town centre (not to mention the issues with shopping only once a week).  Let’s call it half a day, or 7% of my time.

            Over a lifetime of shopping, let’s say 50 years, the supermarkets give me 3.5 years of extra time to spend with my family, socialise and do all the other things I want to do.

            I don’t want meddling socialists taking that time away from me (and people like me) because it doesn’t fit their idea of a good society, or, as I suspect, because of a irrational hatred of large companies (who got to be large by providing a service that people actually want).

          • Nobody wants to deny you shopping convenience, but that convenience comes at a cost that will not always be borne by you but borne by others. 

            We ‘meddling socialists’ find this somewhat unfair and inefficient (whether large or small companies are responsible). 

      • Hugh

         “they are allowed to operate on the basis that they are good for society”

        I think that shows a curious understanding of UK company law.

      • AnotherOldBoy

        Eton provides a rounded education: see

        • Jeff_Harvey

          Fagging, caning and recreational buggery have been omitted from the syllabus.

  • mikestallard

    For those of us who come from the traditional professional and middle classes, working as a lowly paid worker is vital. Otherwise we never get to meet the people who we are serving.
    Dismiss this as rubbish and think of the children of Jack Straw, Tony Blair and Malcolm Rifkind. Then ask yourself how much the children who go to our fee paying schools really know and meet ordinary people who cannot afford the £20,000 a year fees.
    Most people who get to the top of the tree in politics, journalism, the professions and Trades Unions have had a paid for education. It is important that they know how ordinary people live and think and work.

    • AlanGiles

      Euan Blair went to work as an intern for Bill Clinton, but resigned because he found Clinton’s administration “too left wing”!

      He must be as reactionary an old fart as his father.

      • Chip off the old block!

      • Hugh

         “resigned because he found Clinton’s administration “too left wing”!”

        Where did you get that from? It sounds unlikely.

        • AlanGiles

          Huigh: The trouble with spicing posts with humour (well at least I try!) is that sometimes things that are true sound like a joke.

          The story appeared in the Independent On Sunday for May 23rd 2006. This seems to have vanished into the ether but it is referenced here (about half way down the page):


          Though I dislike the Blair clan, I wouldn’t make something like that up. I plead guilty to referring to Micheal Gove as “the poor man’s Kenneth Williams”, but where the Blair’s are concerned, they are a long running comedy series that needs no artificial aids.

          • Hugh

            Fair dos.

  • ovaljason

    Those pesky supermarkets with their choice and low prices.

    If only these shops were run by the people for the people.  Obviously we’d need the State to actually operate the supermarkets on behalf of the people.  You know, otherwise it would be anarchy.Once we’ve achieved that, the State (on behalf of the people, natch) should then take control of the food supply chain. That’d put an end to those capitalist food manufacturers raking in exploitative profits at the expense of the people.

    I know exactly what you mean, Mark.  If only we could achieve something like this

    • Conrad

      Have you heard of co-operatives?

  • Hugh

    @c920a01fd617259ad2e458af2f290d52:disqus  (below)

    “Did you ignore the lawyers?”

    No, I just wasn’t sure of the relevance of a legal to challenge to a different scheme on grounds that have nothing at all to do with a health and safety breach or lack of EL insurance.

    “you asked for evidenceof exploitation and breach of employment rights,”

    No, I pointed out that there was no evidence of health and safety breaches or failing to cover workers under mandatory insurance – which there isn’t. The point seems to be that these workers were treated exactly the same as all the other staff, so they would most likely be covered by the employers liability and public liability scheme of the employer and be given whatever, if any was needed, health and safety training was given to any other new recruit.

    • derek

      Just left to get on with it? no supervision or training given?

      Can you provide evidence that these unpaid workers are covered? if their unpaid how do you calculated any potential lose of earning due to work related accidents?

      I think it’s really naive to suggest, that you can flood these supermarkets with unpaid workers who receive no guidance other than there’s a shelve go and stack it?

      I also believe it to be extremely worrying that multinationals can be so naive about health and safety issues.

      You’ll no doubt be aware that this government are doing their utmost to dilute health and safety regulations.

      Hugh, do you actually support these schemes?

      • Hugh

        Normally the burden of proof that a company is operating illegally is on the one making the accusation. You don’t really have any. Tesco might be doing all sorts of things, but it’s hard to conduct a sensible discussion on that basis.

        As to whether I support these schemes, broadly I support them if they can be shown to work, reducing the number of benefit claimants, and in the absence of better ideas for doing so. If they don’t, I don’t.

        • derek

          The vast majority don’t get a full-time paid job? their still effectively unemployed?

          They are in “breach of contract” and ignoring European law? while not providing an introductory health and safety manual handling guidance.

          Remember, “just left to get on with it”

          • Hugh

             Your questions marks are actually well placed in this case.

        • AlanGiles

          Hugh, with respect you seem to be one of those people who think it is not a question of wrong or right, but what companies can get away with.

          Just because you CAN do a thing, it doesn’t mean you should. There used to be a definition of a gentleman:

          “A gentleman is somebody who can play the banjo – but doesn’t”

          Just because this nasty little scheme is “legal” doesn’t make it morally correct

          • derek

            I don’t think it is legal? equal pay claims are costing Billions, companies must comply with equal pay?

            Just a brief link to an employers health and safety responsibilities.


          • Hugh

            Perhaps the scheme is illegal, Derek, but it seems an odd claim to make before a case has even been begun. One suspects there was the odd lawyer involved in drawing up the paperwork that underpins the scheme.

          • derek

            One suspects this government is just making it up as it goes along, rash ill thought out other legislation that can’t make it through the other place? seems to tell the story? 

          • Hugh ( See your initial remark)
            Well if Cameron, Grayling and IDS said it then it must be true. How could anyone, even in their wildest dreams, suggest that such fine individuals might lie, exaggerate or make cheap political points in order to ensure that those who financed them before the last general election get a large dose of free labour? Perish the thought!

          • Hugh

             Wouldn’t it make more sense to press reply under the comment to which you’re replying?

            No, it’s not necessarily true, but since it will soon be readily falsifiable, logic dictates they’d probably be unlikely to repeat it frequently – and in the house – if it was a straight forward lie. In any case, it’s about the only evidence we have of the scheme’s efficacy so it is worth considering. That’s why newspapers on both the left and right felt it worth reporting.

          • Yeah-it’s not true at all and the scheme isn’t efficacious in any way, shape or form. It’s just a means of enabling Tory party donors to get a supply of free labour until everybody realises that it’s a super-exploitative racket.
             But don’t place any weight on what I say after all I can’t be relied upon as much as those paragons of the objective and dispassionate dispatching of self-evident truths, namely,    IDS, Chris Grayling and David Cameron.

          • Hugh

             “Yeah-it’s not true at all and the scheme isn’t efficacious in any way, shape or form”

            Thanks for that William. Priceless investigative journalism. I hear the Sun are hiring.

          • derek

            Steady @Hugh, your acting like SNOB!!!!!!

          • Hugh

             Really, how’s that? I can’t really see anything in what I’ve said that has any class implications whatsoever.

          • What newspapers on the left?

          • Hugh

             The Guardian and Independent both reported it. Perhaps the Mirror did too, I don’t know.

          • AlanGiles

            To be frank Hugh, the Independent isn’t very left now – you have regular anti- E Miliband blogs by John Rentoul, and they are often supportive of the Coalition.

            The Independent has had so many redesigns and it changes it’s stance as frequently as  does Ms Toynbee, one of their “stars”

            I still feel that you are trying to defend the indefensible on this issue

          • OK.
             Well The Guardian recommended that people vote Fib Dem at the last election- you know the home of those tireless, left-wing, firebrand defenders of the oppressed and downtrodden, namely,
            Messrs Laws and Clegg. 
            The Independent- a left-wing newspaper? What planet are you on Hugh?
            As you well know The Mirror has never and will never give   this scheme  any credibility whatsoever.

          • Hugh

            If you want to insist the Guardian’s not a left-wing publication, go ahead. As for the Independent, if you trawl through its leaders you’ll discover it supports pretty much every centre left policy position ever devised.

          • AlanGiles

            There you are William – we agree. If you scroll down the page you will see I made the same point last night myself about the reliability of Smith Grayling and Cameron

          • Can’t believe it Alan!

          • AlanGiles

            I am no lawyer Derek, but I think that for the largest of the supermarkets, which has the biggest profits to  exploit people in this way is morally reprehensible, and if it isn’t illegal, it certainly should be made illegal.

          • derek

            I agree @Alan, after this shower kick the undeserving out of their homes, they’ll follow through with some illegal pact to force them to work for nought….workhouses and all that! 

  • markfergusonuk

    Thanks for that proportionate, considered and in no way totally ridiculous and counter-intuitive response….

  • AnotherOldBoy

    Indeed.  And they could sort out cars and plumbers too:

    • Jeff_Harvey

      One step up the evolutionary ladder from Jim Davidson.

  • Jeff_Harvey

    This article has encourage some ridiculous a comments OF ALL TIME. This comment is as dumb a Ronald Reagan’s YouTubed joke below – but at least I can forgive Reagan, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease at the time.

  • madasafish

    What valuable life skills I did gain were the ability not to tell the bosses to go shove themselves when they treated staff appallingly (because I didn’t want to lose my job and my pay) and turning up on time and dressed appropriately (because I didn’t want to lose my job and my pay)

    Given that most kids leaving school are unemployable for those reasons, you should thank your employer for teaching a few basic facts of life.

    Life is unfair despite socialist dogma. No-one owes people a living.

    • Great – a sweeping generalisation about millions of individuals without reference to any empirical data whatsoever. So according to you slave labour is just fine. People learnt ‘a few basic facts of life’ in Auschwitz but that didn’t make sending people there right.

      • treborc

         People learnt ‘a few basic facts of life’ in Auschwitz but that didn’t make sending people there right.

        You will have to explain that to me, the basic facts are? if your sick disabled or poor disagreed with a political view, or were from a minority race or Jewish, you would die. Hell of a fact of life would you not say, mind you except for being Jewish labour got pretty close to hammering the rest of us.

      • madasafish


        Godwin’s Law applies.

    • Jeff_Harvey

      No self-respecting cockroach could disagree with this.

    •  ‘No-one owes people a living.’

      Why not, exactly? Taking your statement as an absolute.

    • AlanGiles

      That sounds to me more like self-discipline, rather than discipline imposed – he knew how to dress and behave, he didn’t need some deputy-assistant-under-manager telling him.

      Why is it some people assume ALL young people are illiterate or dirty lor don’t know how to dress and behave.

      Perhaps you had to be taught these things, but that is not the case for everyone

      • Quite right Alan- it’s a ludicrous and sweeping generalisation about millions of young people. His argument has no credibility whatsoever.
        We must stop agreeing like this.

  • Oliver Milne

    This ‘workfare=slave labour’ comparison is silly and makes us all look bad. From e recipient’s point of view, workfare means changing the deal from ‘we give you money when you are unemployed’ to ‘we provide you with a low-paying job’. This is an improvement. Whether or not it leads to Tesco’s ripping off the taxpayer is another matter. But the recipient is not being wronged here.

  • “If only these shops [supermarkets] were run by the people for the people.”

    Some of them are, John Lewis Partnership’s Waitrose and the Co-op.

  • Saffronwaldenlabour

    If we could “like” by stars I would give this one *****

  • Dave Postles

     ‘So 1:5 chance of getting a job…’  No, that is what the current rate of employment is.  Every decision to employ or not to employ is 50:50 for each individual.  These employers do not have to recruit.  The prognostication is, in any case, if you read the NAO report, that the possibilities for employment will contract as the economy deteriorates.

    • AlanGiles

      If you recall, when Mrs Thatcher and her friends at  M & S and other specially selected companies had their “youth employment opportunities” scheme c 1987/8 the “jobs” tended to last as long as the subsidies did – i.e. 3-6 months. 

      I believe they were paid though, albeit poorly, whereas this lot are donating a month free to charity work for Tesco (every little helps when we’re all in this together)

  • Colin at Saffronwaldenlabour

    This is not just about supermarkets.  No-one in the Labour Party wants to know about the way IBM is trying to get round European and national employment legislation.  Lockouts new coemployments contracts are having a devastating effect in US and Canada.  

    What madasafish fif not learn is that everyone is entitled to a fair shair in the fruits of their labour and to equal respect as part of a nation state.

  • treborc

     I’d say the shop was run so well the public had bought up all the goods.

  • Jeff_Harvey

    ” ‘we provide you with a low-paying job'”

    British workfare pays NO wages, sport.

    THAT is the problem.


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