Little sums up the vile double standards at the heart of Britain’s class ridden society than a campaign against unpaid internships for graduates which ignores the massive expansion of unpaid work for everyone else.
So entrenched has this contemptible hypocrisy become that some MPs – like Liberal Democrat Jo Swinson – are only too happy to condemn unpaid work for their own little Tarquins and Jemimas whilst inflicting the exact same thing on those they judge the lower orders.
Jo Swinson has today been launching a campaign against unpaid interns and is threatening to name and shame companies which do not pay the minimum wage. Yet, as spotted by @boycottworkfare, Swinson herself has been involved in promoting unpaid work in her constituency in a scheme she described as ‘fantastic’.
The latest campaign against unpaid work for the middle classes comes at a time that the coalition government is rolling out a huge extension of workfare. The latest ‘Traineeships’ involve five months unpaid work and are not even designed to help people get a real job. Instead the hope is that they will lead to people being given Apprenticeships – often at below the minimum wage. Or they could just lead to more unpaid Work Experience on a different government scheme. Young people are now to be expected to work for free or peanuts for not just months, but years in some cases.
These schemes are at least voluntary in theory, although whether they are voluntary in practice remains to be seen as Jobcentres are known to use benefit sanctions and other mandatory workfare schemes to bully claimants into unpaid work. The latest programme aimed at the long term unemployed however is far from voluntary and will involve blocks of forced unpaid work for six months at a time under threat of benefits being removed completely.
Interns of all kinds should be paid just like any other worker, including young people without degrees starting out in their first job or those who are long term unemployed. But the idea that there is some kind of inherent difference between unpaid work for the rich and workfare for the poor is as offensive as it is nonsense. About the only real difference between unpaid internships and work experience schemes is that internships usually lead to well paid careers in popular sectors like fashion, the media or entertainment. In contrast Work Experience generally leads back to the dole as grasping employers maintain a rolling stock of free workers instead of paying wages.
Swinson is not the only MPs who condemns unpaid work for the well off but actively supports workfare. Labour MP Hazel Blears is guilty of the exact same hypocrisy. It should tell us everything we need to know about the political class that MPs of all parties are now quite openly arguing that the middle classes – in other words their own children – should have different rights to those born without a silver spoon wedged down their over-privileged necks.
Swinson has so far ignored people challenging her about her grotesque double standards on twitter, you can tell her what you think at: @joswinson
In a further embarrassment, Sky News are reporting that despite Lib Dems MPs lining up to condemn unpaid work for graduates, the party is still recruiting unpaid interns.
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