On first glance this title may appear to be a bit extreme. Especially for those of you with the fantastical view of Ireland as a green lush country over-populated with mystical little leprechaun’s, where we dance our way to the pub to battle our on going love affair with the ‘black stuff’. A more likely story reads closer to these lines. The green has long been washed out of our lands thanks to the almost non-stop year round rainfall. Also we do not dance our way to the pub for two reasons. One being that the literal meaning of the term ‘slip jig’ would be put to the test with our abundance of rainfall. The second, and more plausible, reason being that the cost of a ‘night out’ in our recently nominated ‘happiest country in the world’ would amount to a bill equaling a weekly spend on groceries. And what about the slaves I hear you ask?
Ok, so Ireland may not be leading the way in terms of conventional slavery, by which I mean that there is not a great deal of human trafficking carried out in this country. Not to say that it does not happen. But in terms of this article I hope to highlight a new form of slavery which has actually been spearheaded by our very own Minister for Social Protection. Ironic right? Well welcome to Ireland. The land of 1000 welcomes and all that. But at this point I suppose you want to hear about this legal brand of slavery?
Here in Ireland our devout ministers and government officials, looking for a solution to the great unemployment epidemic which is spreading through the country, have come up with a ‘flawless’ amendment to the problem. In a genius moment of clarity they have decided that the main problem surrounding employment is money. Well salary and wages to be precise. So to counteract this problem, they decided to stop paying workers. But of course this would be illegal, so they opted to pay workers 5o euro per week instead and have label it as the ‘National Internship Scheme’. But let me clarify this a little bit. Of course the entire working population takes home more than a measly 50 euro per week. I should have specified earlier that the scheme only applies to educated workers, who have obtained a formal College/University degree.
The aim of the National Internship Scheme is to assist in breaking the cycle where job seekers are unable to get a job without experience, either as new entrants to the labour market after education or training or as unemployed workers wishing to learn new skills. The scheme will also give people a real opportunity to gain valuable experience to bridge the gap between study and the beginning of their working lives.
The government claim that the scheme will help to provide work to over 5000 Irish people. They say that the scheme will help the intern to gain valuable experience and gain new skills. This is all well and good as it encourages people to get up and do something during these tough times. I myself am currently on a College work placement scheme at the moment and even though I am receiving no payment whatsoever I can say that the experience has been more then beneficial. But this minor collection of benefits is greatly outweighed by the negative and potentially harmful aspects of the scheme.
Participants will receive €50 in addition to their existing social welfare payment and they will retain all of their secondary benefits. The Scheme will not displace existing workers.
Although there are current limitations in place which regulate the amount of interns that can work for any one company and the internship period is limited to 9 months there is still more than enough room for exploitation and abuse. The Irish government, especially Joan Burton the minister for social protection, have made countless assurances to Irish people that the scheme will not effect existing workers. But it does not take a genius to realise that 5o euro per week is much lower than a standard weekly wage. Also the scheme is now accessible by any company, including fast food restaurants, bars and supermarkets. This in turn means that there now is a readily available army of high skilled cheap labour to be ‘used’ as a major cost saving device.
EMPLOYERS have tried to exploit the Government’s new €20m internship scheme to get free labour.
The department monitoring the scheme has been forced to take down at least 28 job offers from its website that “did not meet required standards”.
One of the ads removed was for a delivery driver and another for a night porter, according to sources close to the internship scheme.
The scheme has already sparked fears that the candidates would replace existing staff on higher wages, or that they would not get the opportunity to develop their skills.
The scheme is open to those on the Live Register for more than three months.
Employers have to pay nothing to the interns — who get less than €2 from the State for up to 40 hours work a week, on top of dole payments.
The fact of the matter is that the precedent has been set. It is no longer customary to pay staff for their work in Ireland. It is accepted as part of the economic recession, paid jobs no longer exist and we should be honored to be given the opportunity to work regardless of pay. The situation has been turned on its head to the extent where job seekers have to grovel and beg, just so they can work for free in the hope that they may gain some ‘experience’. You may not agree that Ireland is currently a slave capital. But give it a few years, I’m sure your mind will be changed by then.