LORD Prescott has demanded an inquiry into appalling treatment of unpaid ‘volunteers’ on the government’s slave labour ‘work programme’.
They were bussed up to London from the West Country on Saturday night to work as ‘stewards’ during the Queen’s Jubilee on Sunday.
Prescott has written to Home Secretary May after becoming ‘deeply concerned’ by revelations about the treatment of 30 unpaid ‘jobseekers’ and another 50 people on minuscule ‘apprentice wages’ who were taken to London by coach from Bristol, Bath and Plymouth on Saturday to steward the event as part of the government’s work programme.
They were dumped in the freezing rain at 3am in the morning, told to sleep under London Bridge, female ‘volunteers’ had to change their clothes in public, and they had no access to toilets during their 14-hour shift.
They then spent the night in a ‘swampy’ campsite after their 14-hour shift, leading Prescott to accuse the government of presiding over the development of 1930s style labour camps.
Molly Prince, managing director of Close Protection UK (CPUK), the security privateer involved, described the situation as ‘exaggerated’, and claimed: ‘We’re not in the business of exploiting free labour.’
CPUK said the unpaid roles at the Jubilee were a trial for paid positions at the 2012 Olympic Games, for which it also has a contract to provide stewarding.
Prescott said: ‘My main concern is what we’re witnessing here is the development of cheap labour as a model to be used for the Olympics.’
He asserted: ‘They were told actually, and that’s why I want the inquiry, that you could lose your benefits unless you take this situation.’
In his letter to May, Prescott wrote: ‘It is totally unacceptable that young unemployed people were bussed into London from Bristol, Bath and Plymouth and forced to sleep out in the cold overnight before stewarding a major event with no payment.
‘I am deeply concerned that a private security firm is not only providing policing on the cheap but failing to show a duty of care to its staff and threatening to withdraw an opportunity to work at the Olympics as a means to coerce them to work unpaid.’