Hugh Reilly: All about the greedy exploiting the needy
When they were impoverished students, my older lads, Chris and Martin, successfully applied for summer jobs at the local golf club as greenkeeping assistants. After an intensive two-minute training period, the new sons of the manicured soil were handed petrol-powered strimmers and kicked into the long grass. Life was rough – the plastic wire at the cutting edge of the machine did not discriminate between tall foliage and unsuspecting field mice. Walking around with overalls spattered with the body fluids of rodents could not have been much fun but at least the boys were satisfactorily remunerated.
Paul, an IT student, is aware that the Bank of Dad has lost some of its liquidity as a consequence of the institution’s owner accepting early retirement. Last week, he sought temporary employment with a marketing company by the name of First Class Concepts. Although delighted to be called for interview, he was somewhat confused when his interview lasted all of five minutes. He must have, erm, sparkled because he received an e-mail requesting him to take part in an unpaid “observation” day. From noon till approximately 8.30pm, he would watch employees go about their duties.
On arrival at the office, a car whisked him to East Kilbride, where he met up with door-to-door-salespersons – sorry, direct marketing executives – and accompanied them as they made contact with potential consumers, that is, rang doorbells.
After a few hours of tramping the streets in heavy rain witnessing less-than-slick salespersons being rebuffed and snubbed in a variety of ways, he expressed an earnest desire to terminate his participation in the proceedings.
Apparently, we are all in this recession together but this has not prevented elements of the business community using the economic downturn to exploit vulnerable young people. Recently, a pizza restaurant company invited a friend’s son to “shadow” staff for a day, despite the teenager having experience of serving tables and operating cash-tills. The remuneration package consisted of a pizza when the eatery closed. The poor sod was run off his feet and did not even receive his pizza. It’s an appalling sign of the times that he didn’t force the issue, as he thought doing so might hinder his chances of being recruited.
In a similar vein, a pal’s daughter desperate for a job in retail was given an unpaid “trial” shift in a city centre shop. For her efforts, she didn’t receive as much as a voucher or the chance to buy a slightly soiled top. My daughter recently applied for a job in Bristol and was over the moon when she took a phone call from the manager. He said he was very impressed with her designs but, unfortunately, there were no paid vacancies at present.
My princess could, the nice man told her, work for free “to gain a feel for the industry”. Not wishing to make a rash decision, she carefully counted the cost of: renting a flat, commuting to and from said flat to the office and any outlay for luxuries such as, say, food. The zero income on offer would, she concluded, result in something of a black hole in her finances.
If this concept of modern slavery takes hold, the New Testament parable of the workers in the vineyard will have to be revised in order for youngsters to understand the point Jesus was making. Kids of this generation will be puzzled why the vineyard owner paid any wages at all when trial shifts, observation days and chances to get a feel for the grape-growing sector were possibilities open to the hard-pressed businessman.
When I was a modern studies teacher, I often showed a video featuring the thoughts of John Boyle, ex-chairman of Motherwell and owner of Holidays Direct, on the minimum wage. “If a businessman can’t pay his staff a living wage, perhaps he shouldn’t be in business,” he stated drolly.
It’s outrageous that unscrupulous organisations are gaining a competitive edge over rivals paying the going rate. If government is unable or unwilling to act, those who exploit our young should be exposed in order that the public can make an informed choice whether to use an enterprise using unpaid labour. The weeds in the private sector garden are growing and need to be cut before their poisonous employment practices spread.
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Tuesday 18 June 2013
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