The PCS National Young Members Committee condemn’s the TUC’s recent statement on “Traineeships”. At a time when across the UK, young people, activists and trade unionists are fighting back against unpaid work in all forms, the TUC signing a joint statement with the CBI, a group who represent employers and often directly against trade unions and our members interests, supporting unpaid work placements undermines our campaigns. Their statement tacitly, if not explicitly, shows that trade unionists can support unpaid work, a position we feel is unacceptable and sets a bad precedent for future exploitative work schemes.
Traineeships are a government scheme where unemployed young people are given 6 weeks unpaid work combined with some class based learning with no guarantee of employment at the end of the period. Our collective experience of these schemes is that often benefit the employer with free labour, prevent the employment on staff on a genuine basis, undermine terms and conditions for existing staff and ultimately give the young person little to show for it. Even where they can be positive outcomes, young people who cannot afford to work for free are the least likely to be able to accept such placements.
Additionally, though Traineeships on paper is not sanctions based, experience from these schemes shows that pressure will be bought against young people to take up these roles, regardless of suitability, under the threat of sanctions in order to meet arbitrarily imposed targets on staff.
As trade unionists, our position should to be first and foremost to support young people and call for all work to be paid to be paid a living wage, regardless of age, and for an end to exploitative work schemes such as these. All apprenticeships should be subject to the same pay and terms and conditions of those they work with and a guarantee of a qualification and employment at the end of the placement.
Finally, it is worth pointing out that at no stage were the TUC Young Members Committee, representing young trades from across the UK, or any young people were asked their opinion. The TUC YM Forum (the annual motion conference of the TUC Young Members) has consistently voted for all work undertaken by young people to be paid and has rejected to support any unpaid work schemes. If the TUC wants to represent and support young people, in the future it can do well to ask their opinion as opposed to arbitrarily speaking for them.
The PCS Young Members Network condemns all forms of Workfare and unpaid work. We believe that all work should be paid a minimum living wage and that the only answer to unemployment into investment into public services to create socially useful work for young people.
We ask that young trade unionists join us in condemning this statement and calling for the TUC to reverse its position, call for all work to be paid and work with young trade unionists to create a real alternative for young people.