MP Swinson urged to ‘show consistency’ on unpaid workers

Jo Swinson reservoir fencing
Jo Swinson reservoir fencing

MP Jo Swinson is under fire for railing against the use of unpaid workers - despite her party offering non-paying internships.

Campaigners have called on her to show consistency on the issue - and have accused her of promoting unpaid work through her Get East Dunbartonshire Working campaign.

They also accuse her of criticisng non-paying internships while backing the govenment’s Workfare scheme which forces people into unpaid work.

Ms Swinson backed a campaign against the exploitation of interns - even though it was recently shown that the LibDems are the only party offering unpaid work experience.

Her stance was criticised by the Dunbartonshire Green Party and Campsie Scottish Socialist Party (SSP).

Ross Greer, from Bearsden, convener of Dunbartonshire Greens, said:“Young people in Scotland are being hammered by her government’s policies and Workfare is a perfect example of this. Instead of investing in the economy to create more jobs, Westminster forces our young people into unpaid work experience.

“This system allows companies to hold back from employing new, paid staff as they can take on these young people for no cost instead. This creates a vicious circle of lost opportunities for young people in need of real, paid employment.”

Neil Scott, also from Bearsden, spoke for the Campise SSP, saying: “While Jo Swinson’s constituents pay hundreds of pounds for her heating bill we have to endure damaging policies, all coming from a Tory-led government that we did not elect.

“Jo cannot campaign against unpaid internships on one hand whilst advocating unpaid work placements on the other.”

Ms Swinson responded: “The work experience young people do as part of the Youth Contract is voluntary, for two-eight weeks only, and anyone can choose to leave the placement before it is over. Vitally, people continue to receive financial support through the benefits system while they gain this experience.

“The placements proved to be a successful way to improve confidence and skills when I ran my Get East Dunbartonshire Working initiative last year. Out of a total of 109 opportunities that local businesses offered we went on to create 77 jobs and nine apprenticeships – the successful figures speak for themselves.

“It is ridiculous to compare the illegal actions of employers expecting people to work for free for an unlimited time with targeted and time-limited work experience placements, where people receive financial support from the Government while they develop their skills to improve their chances of finding a job.

“I’m delighted to be leading the Government’s crackdown on rogue employers who do not pay their staff properly.

“As well as more resources for the enforcement team, I’ve also introduced powers to name and shame those guilty of underpaying, on top of the existing powers to demand arrears be paid and impose penalty fines.”