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Dublin: 18°C Friday 24 September 2021

Column: JobBridge isn't about helping people, it's about padding unemployment figures

Young people, and all of those who are unemployed, should not accept the choice the government is trying to offer us between emigration or life on the dole and in unpaid work, writes Kevin Coughlan.

Kevin Coughlan

LAST SATURDAY, a group of activists gathered at Daunt Square in Cork to picket a major city centre business which we believe has been attempting to engage in the use of free labour through JobBridge. Organised by the Scambridge Cork campaign, an initiative by young members of the Socialist Party, we placed this shop on our “Wall of Shame” where it – along with other Cork businesses – will stay so long as they continue to exploit the unemployed through the free labour scheme devised by Labour and Fine Gael.

The purpose of the picket was to highlight the displacement of real, paid jobs by businesses nationwide by labelling them as ‘internships’. For nine months, companies who apply to join JobBridge as a host organisation profit from the labour of an intern without having to contribute a single cent for the work they provide.

Wall of Shame

The latest business featured on our Wall of Shame has advertised for six positions so far – and is just one example among many in a culture where unpaid Labour is now a state backed programme under JobBridge. A quick look at the JobBridge website will show that the majority of positions offered are not internships but real jobs, with positions being offered for car valets, butchers and receptionists for example. JobBridge is also being used widely to circumvent the recruitment ban in the public sector, with Cork City Council taking on 64 staff through JobBridge since July 2011.

Our protest got huge public support, with people of all ages signing our petition and sharing their experiences of the JobBridge scam. The national scambridge.ie website, initiated by Paul Murphy MEP, has been deluged by accounts from those who have suffered exploitation on so-called JobBridge internships.

JobBridge is not real job creation scheme. In reality, it allows the government to massage the unemployment figures while giving the appearance to take action. The Government have trumpeted figures from the Indecon study on JobBridge claiming to show a majority of JobBridge interns have subsequently gotten paid employment. The reality is that the study showed that only 19.5% got employment with the host organisation, but crucially that 29% of employers using JobBridge said they were highly or fairly likely to have hired paid staff even in the absence of the scheme. JobBridge actually prevents jobs from being created; why pay someone when a company can get free labour subsidised by the state?

Portraying those on the live register as being idle and lazy

There has been a great effort in recent years by the government to portray the 450,000 people currently on the live register as being idle as a result of laziness, or inertia or a lack experience or training. This was the message from Labour and Minister Joan Burton in particular, when in the latest budget they introduced huge cuts to the social welfare of 66,000 unemployed people under the age of 25. Labour TD Eamonn Maloney referred to young people being “at home watching flat-screen television seven days a week”.

The reality is much simpler; there are simply not enough jobs. There are 32 unemployed people for every job vacancy (NERI, Quarterly Economic Facts: Autumn 2013). The Government’s desperate efforts to paint unemployed as being responsible for their own situation, is a cover for their own lack of any real strategy to deal with unemployment.

JobBridge is not about creating jobs or helping the unemployed, it is about padding the unemployment figures bailing out business, and normalising unpaid labour.

This isn’t good enough

Young people, and all unemployed, should not accept the choice the government is trying to offer us between emigration or life on the dole and in unpaid work. We need an end to JobBridge with a real jobs programme, based on state investment in education and real training and to create the jobs which the private sector is incapable of providing.

We at Scambridge will continue to expose companies that are attempting to profit off the desperation of the unemployed through this disgraceful scheme. We will picket a Cork city centre business again this Saturday at 1pm and draw attention to their unethical use of free labour. Scambridge and other groups are also planning to organise a series of protests nationally to highlight this scandal.

More information visit the Scambridge.ie or the Scambridge Cork Facebook page.

Kevin Coughlan is a 22-year-old special needs assistant and youth activist who’s a member of the socialist party.

Read: 58 teaching positions have been filled on JobBridge

Read: Protest planned against extension on JobBridge schemes

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Kevin Coughlan

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