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Unemployed bussed in to steward river pageant (Queen's diamond jubilee celebration)

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Unemployed bussed in to steward river pageant

Coachloads of jobless people brought in to work unpaid on river pageant as part of Work Programme

Call for inquiry into use of unpaid jobseekers as jubilee stewards


Some of those hired as stewards had to spend the night before the pageant sleeping under London Bridge.

A group of long-term unemployed jobseekers were bussed into London to work as unpaid stewards during the diamond jubilee celebrations and told to sleep under London Bridge before working on the river pageant.

Up to 30 jobseekers and another 50 people on apprentice wages were taken to London by coach from Bristol, Bath and Plymouth as part of the government's Work Programme.

Two jobseekers, who did not want to be identified in case they lost their benefits, said they had to camp under London Bridge the night before the pageant. They told the Guardian they had to change into security gear in public, had no access to toilets for 24 hours, and were taken to a swampy campsite outside London after working a 14-hour shift in the pouring rain on the banks of the Thames on Sunday.

One young worker said she was on duty between London Bridge and Tower Bridge during the £12m river spectacle of a 1,000-boat flotilla and members of the Royal family sail by . She said that the security firm Close Protection UK, which won a stewarding contract for the jubilee events, gave her a plastic see-through poncho and a high-visibility jacket for protection against the rain.

Close Protection UK confirmed that it was using up to 30 unpaid staff and 50 apprentices, who were paid £2.80 an hour, for the three-day event in London. A spokesman said the unpaid work was a trial for paid roles at the Olympics, which it had also won a contract to staff. Unpaid staff were expected to work two days out of the three-day holiday.

The firm said it had spent considerable resources on training and equipment that stewards could keep and that the experience was voluntary and did not affect jobseekers keeping their benefits.

The woman said that people were picked up at Bristol at 11pm on Saturday and arrived in London at 3am on Sunday. "We all got off the coach and we were stranded on the side of the road for 20 minutes until they came back and told us all to follow them," she said. "We followed them under London Bridge and that's where they told us to camp out for the night … It was raining and freezing."

A 30-year-old steward told the Guardian that the conditions under the bridge were "cold and wet and we were told to get our head down [to sleep]". He said that it was impossible to pitch a tent because of the concrete floor.

The woman said they were woken at 5.30am and supplied with boots, combat trousers and polo shirts. She said: "They had told the ladies we were getting ready in a minibus around the corner and I went to the minibus and they had failed to open it so it was locked. I waited around to find someone to unlock it, and all of the other girls were coming down trying to get ready and no one was bothering to come down to unlock [it], so some of us, including me, were getting undressed in public in the freezing cold and rain." The men are understood to have changed under the bridge.

The female steward said that after the royal pageant, the group travelled by tube to a campsite in Theydon Bois, Essex, where some had to pitch their tents in the dark.

She said: "London was supposed to be a nice experience, but they left us in the rain. They couldn't give a crap … No one is supposed to be treated like that, [working] for free. I don't want to be treated where I have to sleep under a bridge and wait for food." The male steward said: "It was the worst experience I've ever had. I've had many a job, and many a bad job, but this one was the worst."

Both stewards said they were originally told they would be paid. But when they got to the coach on Saturday night, they said, they were told that the work would be unpaid and that if they did not accept it they would not be considered for well-paid work at the Olympics.

Molly Prince, managing director of Close Protection UK, said in a statement: "We take the welfare of our staff and apprentices very seriously indeed.

"The staff travelling to the jubilee are completing their training and being assessed on the job for NVQ Level 2 in spectator safety after having completed all the knowledge requirements in the classroom and some previous work experience. It is essential that they are assessed in a live work environment in order to complete their chosen qualifications.

"The nature of festival and event work is such that we often travel sleeping on coaches through the night with an early morning pre-event start – it is the nature of the business … It's hard work and not for the faint-hearted.

"We had staff travel from several locations and some arrived earlier than others at the meeting point, which I believe was London Bridge, which was why some had to hang around. This is an unfortunate set of circumstances but not lack of care on the part of CPUK."

The company said it had spent up to £220 on sponsoring security training licences for each participant and that boots and combat trousers cost more than £100.

The charity Tomorrow's People, which set up the placements at Close Protection under the work programme, said it would review the situation, but stressed that unpaid work was valuable and made people more employable. Tomorrow's People is one of eight youth charities that were supported in the Guardian and Observer's Christmas appeal last year.

Abi Levitt, director of development services at the charity, said: "We have been unable to verify the accuracy of the situation with either the people on work experience or the business concerned.

"We will undertake a review of the situation as matter of urgency. Tomorrow's People believes strongly in the value of work experience in helping people to build the skills, confidence and CV they need to get and keep a job and we have an exemplary record going back nearly 30 years for our work with the long-term unemployed."


I thought I was disgusted with the royal wedding charade... :sick:

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Sydney's homeless to be removed for Olympics

By Mary Beadnell

3 February 2000

Despite public criticism following leaked media reports of their plans, the New South Wales State Labor Government and the Sydney City Council are proceeding with measures to rid Sydney's streets of homeless people in preparation for the Olympic Games this September.

In response to a front-page report in Sydney's Sun Herald on January 16 revealing the new procedures, government spokesmen denied that the scheme had anything to do with the Olympics. But their measures bear a striking resemblance to those used in Atlanta four years ago to clear the streets of the poor.

A city council task force will draw up a dossier on every homeless person in the city, detailing all aspects of their lives. The dossiers are meant to include information that can be used to induce people off the streets and into boarding houses or hostels. A "flying squad" of social workers will have first contact with the homeless and then rely on police to remove those unwilling to cooperate. Among homeless people, hostels and boarding houses throughout the Sydney metropolitan area have the reputation of being more dangerous than the streets, because of the increasing frequency of violent assaults, theft and food poisoning that occur there.

Sydney City Council Rangers and private security guards employed by various local and Olympics authorities have been handed new powers to remove "by reasonable force" anyone deemed a nuisance. "Offences" ranging from drinking alcohol to demonstrating, begging, or camping in The Rocks, Circular Quay, Darling Harbour and Olympics sites will be subject to the new measures.

Police will use the Bail Act for the same purposes. The Act allows police to set conditional bail for people charged with minor street offences such as causing a "social nuisance". The result is that people are temporarily removed from an area. These measures are already being used in tourist areas like Kings Cross. In addition recent legislation introduced by the Carr government has given police "move-on" powers. This legislation particularly targets youth, and is used by police to "move on" those considered by them to be "obstructing, intimidating or harassing" people.

In addition, the government is planning to bus homeless people up to 200 kilometres from Sydney to Wollongong, Newcastle and the Blue Mountains, and house them in disused hospitals, government buildings and caravan parks, in an attempt to triple the amount of emergency housing during the Olympics.

Some of these measures were first mooted last August when Sydney Lord Mayor, Councillor Frank Sartor announced a $1.2 million offensive to rid Sydney of homeless people. In reference to the anticipated increase in the number of people being attracted to Sydney seeking jobs during the Olympics, Sartor commented: "The city is not a financial nirvana, and people need to make sure they have enough money to care for themselves and to get home again. Also, people need to make sure they have somewhere to stay before coming." When asked about the planned dossiers, Sartor commented "We want to know what it will take to get these people off the streets."

Showing his utter contempt for the homeless, Sartor added: "You could shine lights on them to make life uncomfortable, but they will only move to another hole somewhere else. There has to be a solution. We cannot afford to be a world city, with fantastic fireworks and the Olympics without also showing that we are dealing with our problem of homeless on the streets."

Apart from making tens of millions of dollars from visitors and tourists during the Olympics, federal, state and city authorities, together with the tourism industry, regard the Games as a gigantic public relations exercise to showcase Sydney and Australia as a major tourist destination for the next several decades. Any intrusion by the homeless—one of the most visible signs of the city's immense social problems and inequality—will damage the advertising image.

While state government politicians have been more guarded than Sartor in their comments concerning the issue, it is clear that their perspective is the same. After years of ignoring the plight of the homeless, the government recently formed a Homelessness Action Team (HAT). One of its briefs is to deal with homelessness in the period preceding and following the Olympics. HAT has the role of finding permanent accommodation for chronically homeless people, particularly those with complex problems like mental illness or drug and alcohol related conditions.

Denials by Sartor and Premier Bob Carr that their measures are timed for the Olympics fly in the face of the fact that the government has conducted detailed studies of all aspects of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Four years ago, 9,000 homeless people in Atlanta were arrested during the eight months leading up to the Olympic Games for begging and loitering. Homeless people were shunted up to 300 kilometres out of Atlanta for the two weeks of the games.

Rising rents, falling working class living standards and chronic unemployment have produced rising homelessness in Australia. The Australian Bureau of Statistics recently reported that, according to its 1996 census, 105,000 people were classified as homeless nationally, more than twice the previous estimate. Of these, 30,000 were in Sydney.

The main government response to homelessness historically has been the Commonwealth/State funded Supported Accommodation Assistance Program (SAAP). SAAP-funded services are meant to provide crisis refuges, as well as referral assistance, for young people, single men and women, families and women escaping domestic violence

you guys are bussing them in , 10 years ago we were bussing them out .

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