Benefit claimant forced to accept Jubilee steward position for less than minimum wage
A benefit claimant was told by the Jobcentre that she would lose her benefits if she did not accept work as a steward during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, despite being offered less than the minimum wage.
The claimant, who has asked for her name and the name of her employer to remain anonymous, told Corporate Watch that she had been informed by her Jobcentre that she must accept a position offered by a security company to act as a steward at the Jubilee, or lose her Jobseeker’s Allowance. The claimant said that her benefit advisers insisted that she accept the position despite the fact that she had an opportunity to find work elsewhere that was better paid and more suited to her skills and experience.
“I had only been signing on for two weeks. I arrived early to my appointment and was told to go and print out a couple of job adverts from the Jobcentre computer. When I showed them to the adviser, I was told that I must apply for at least one of them or lose my benefits.“
“The one I applied to was for £6 an hour.” She was subsequently offered work in London during the Jubilee. “I was told that I would be charged a further £10 a day to pay for transport, food and accommodation.”
“When I went back to sign on, I was told that if I did not accept the job I would lose my benefits”
The minimum wage is currently £6.08 an hour for workers who, like our interviewee, are over the age of 21. The wage offered by the security company was below the statutory minimum wage. In fact, once the £10 deduction had been made, the take-home pay was a meager £5.23 before tax. Despite this, Jobcentre Plus was willing to advertise this position through its computer system and penalise claimants if they did not accept the position.
“I was bussed to Central London to work as a steward over the Jubilee bank holiday. The shifts were at least 12 hours long and could be as long as 15 hours. Accommodation between shifts was on a campsite on the outskirts of London.”
When contacted by Corporate Watch, a manager of the company said that their workers were paid on a self-employed subcontract basis and were therefore not entitled to be paid the minimum wage.
However, less than two hours after being contacted by Corporate Watch, an email was sent out by the company to all their staff stating that those over the age of 21 would be paid £6.09 an hour, while those below the age of 21 would remain at the “original” rate of £6.00 per hour.
Other company employees contacted by Corporate Watch were unable to comment further due to a clause in their contract stopping them from speaking to the media, we were told.
This is the second example of workers being underpaid by security companies over the course of the Jubilee. On 4th June, the Guardian revealed that Close Protection UK had employed unpaid workfare staff and workers being paid an apprentice’s wage of £2.80 an hour as stewards over the Jubilee.
These conditions do not bode well for the thousands of temporary staff who will be employed in London next month to work at the Olympics.
If you know of further examples of employers paying below the minimum wage or employing people on workfare schemes, please contact us at contact[at]corporatewatch.org.