Friday, 28 March 2014

Local 'jobs' with no pay

the3towns can reveal that the website to which local unemployed people are directed to look for work is still carrying ‘commission-only’ vacancies and other adverts that do not name employers or list a salary.

In 2012 we reported how Jobcentre-advertised vacancies in the local area, mainly for sales positions, recorded that people would be required to work on a “self employed” basis. The adverts added, “The company has given an assurance that this vacancy enables workers to achieve a wage equivalent to the National Minimum Wage rate”. However, as income was entirely dependent on commission accruing from sales, it was possible workers could be taking home much less than the hourly minimum wage.

The UK Department for Work and Pensions then privatised the Jobcentre website, paying Monster, an American corporation, £17m to establish a new web presence called the Universal Jobmatch site. In addition to the set-up cost, Monster is paid around £6m a year to operate the site.

Jobseekers are told they must sign-up for a Universal Jobmatch account, which involves using their own computers at home and agreeing to ‘cookies’ being placed on their system. ‘Cookies’ record activity on a computer and report it to the organisation that placed them on the system. It is then possible for Jobcentre staff to monitor an unemployed person’s activity in searching for work. Under a strict system introduced by the UK Tory-Lib Dem Government, if a Jobseeker is deemed not to be doing enough to find employment, they can be ‘sanctioned’ for anything up to 3 years. A sanction means all benefits are stopped, leaving people with absolutely no income.

However, despite what many Jobseekers have been told, singing-up for a Universal Jobmatch account is not mandatory, nor can a person be compelled to use their own computer and broadband to look for work. However, as of this month, Jobcentre advisers can, “if giving a good reason”, require claimants to use the site through a Jobseeker Direction. The unemployed person still does not have to allow their own personal computer to be used, but may be directed to use a pc at a public library or internet cafe. If the Jobseeker refuses, they can be recommended for a benefit sanction.

Despite the new element of compulsion to use the Universal Jobmatch site, the3towns can reveal there are still many adverts for jobs that pay ‘commission only’ and others that do not even reveal the name of the company to which a person should apply.

As of this week, a search of vacancies in the Three Towns area included one for a ‘self-employed’ driver, starting at 3.00am every morning to deliver newspapers to shops. Another sought a ‘self-employed’ door-to-door salesperson, selling the products of satellite broadcaster Sky, a company owned by Rupert Murdoch, one of the richest people in the world. Another ad, for a Retail Development Executive to promote the products of Imperial Tobacco, listed no salary details. In addition to no guaranteed income, ‘self-employed’ workers are responsible for paying their own National Insurance and tax.

Also listed in the Three Towns area was a vacancy for a Leaflet Distributor, which stated “income is based on leaflets distributed”. Employment for this position is on a zero-hours contract, which does not guarantee any hours or pay. Despite this, the company say, “Due to the high number of applicants for each position we are currently receiving, you may not hear back from us if unsuccessful”.

The Universal Jobmatch site, which can be searched without singing-up for an account, also lists many vacancies that do not reveal the name of potential employers. Such adverts simply state “CV Library (Job Warehouse only)”. CV Library is a separate, privately-run ‘jobs board’. The company behind the site last year posted profits of £3.3m.

North Ayrshire continues to have some of the highest unemployment and poverty in the country.

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