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Row over pay for work experience at Barrow supermarket

A SUPERMARKET has been accused of exploiting unemployed people by offering 30-hour-a-week work placements – with no pay.

ASDA: Accused of exploitation

Asda’s Barrow store is advertising the placements on its website, claiming they offer unemployed people the chance to get on the jobs ladder, boost their CV and gain qualifications.

But the scheme, run in conjunction with Jobcentre Plus, has been criticised by one young woman who was out of work for five months.

Under the government’s work experience programme, jobseekers are exempted from national minimum wage laws for up to eight weeks, which Millom woman Natasha Cosgrove claims allows companies to benefit from “free labour”.

Miss Cosgrove, who was out of work until last month after completing her childcare qualification in November, said Asda was taking advantage of jobseekers.

The 19-year-old, of Albert Street, said: “They’re just doing it for free labour. When I was looking for work in a nursery after qualifying, they all just offered voluntary places.

“I was working for £2.50 an hour, because it was all I could find, but they’re getting away with it because there are so few jobs about and people are desperate. Asda is a private company and makes profits, but they’re exploiting people and making money out of their misfortune.”

Under the scheme, there is no guarantee of a job, only an interview, although Asda said they only had placements at stores where jobs were likely to be created. Other large stores including Argos and Tesco are also offering work experience placements.

A spokeswoman for Asda insisted the scheme was voluntary and added: “It is aimed at people who want to do it (and) who are after experience. They get a certificate at the end of the placement.”

Others have defended the placement scheme, which offers a City and Guilds-accredited certificate – An Introduction to Retail Knowledge.

Harry Knowles, chief executive of Furness Enterprise, said: “I can understand people being cynical but if it’s voluntary, it improves employment prospects and people don’t lose their benefits., I can see how it would be beneficial. If there is a proper training programme in place which can genuinely enhance someone’s ability to get a job, then it’s a good thing.”

Carol Pugh, education and training co-ordinator at Millom Network Centre, agreed but said jobseekers who took up the placements could find themselves out of pocket.

She said: “If they’re not given any travel expenses they’ll have to pay to get there and back, so they could end up having to pay to work.”

Barrow and Furness MP John Woodcock said: “I am not going to criticise any organisation for offering people the chance to do short-term work experience that helps them get a foot back into the world of work. But the heated debate over supermarket placement schemes has helped to obscure the fact that there is no coherent government programme to tackle unemployment – either by giving people the support they need or helping create jobs for them to take up.”

Have your say

I find it ironic to say the least that the Job Centre are perfectly willing to let people work in a supermarket for 30 hours a week on the one hand but when I wanted to go and do a part-time college course they made me go to Jobclub which just happened to be at the same times as all my classes and I had to leave.

Posted by Mark Blanshard on 16 May 2012 at 22:45

Get in there if you have no job.There is a high chance if you show you are willing and capable you will be offered a job.Lets be right here,they are not working for nothing, they still get their benifits.If they refuse stop their benifits. I thought that was the rules i/e if you refused work your benifits were stopped?

Posted by billymac on 16 May 2012 at 11:44

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