Apprentices used as cheap labour

Young Socialists and WRP members lobbying the TUC last year demanding ‘No Zero-Hours Contracts’ and ‘End Slave Labour for Youth’
Young Socialists and WRP members lobbying the TUC last year demanding ‘No Zero-Hours Contracts’ and ‘End Slave Labour for Youth’

THE Tories have no plan to stop youth on apprenticeships being ‘exploited as cheap labour by unscrupulous employers,’ Mark Serwotka, general secretary of public services union PCS, said yesterday.

PCS was responding to the the National Audit Office report released yesterday which the teachers’ union ATL says is further evidence that the government’s apprenticeship programme is a ‘free-for-all’ where employers are getting away with providing sub-standard apprenticeships which are not in any way useful to young people.

Serwotka added: ‘Government bodies responsible for apprentices, including the Skills Funding Agency and the Department for Education itself, have suffered massive cuts that must be reversed if they are to be able to devote the proper time and resources to this policy.’

The Tory government plan to drive three million youth onto apprenticeship schemes where young people are put to work on a minimum wage of just £3.30 an hour. The National Audit Office says the government’s plans for three million new apprenticeships focuses on how many youth can be driven on to apprenticeships rather than which sector actually needs them. The report argues that ‘there is a clear risk that the drive to deliver greater numbers is delivered at the expense of delivering maximum value.’

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said: ‘The government’s trailblazer apprenticeship programme has been implemented far too quickly and without fully involving all the relevant groups. And we are concerned about employers being responsible for setting the standards that apprentices are expected to meet.

‘Currently, it is a free-for-all allowing employers to develop apprenticeship standards, irrespective of whether there is a skills shortage in their sector or at the level at which the apprenticeship is being developed.’

Joshua Ogunleye, National Secretary of the Young Socialists, said: ‘We urge youth to join the YS lobby of the TUC Congress on Monday to demand decent jobs with trade union rates of pay. We refuse to work zero-hours contracts. We will not be driven onto slave labour apprenticeship schemes. Youth will not work for free! We demand the TUC call a general strike to bring this government down!’