The latest manifestation of the government’s “workfare” schemes sees not only jobseekers being exploited, but also hospital patients put at risk.
Sandwell and West Birmingham hospital trust has piloted a scheme whereby unemployed people worked, unpaid, for six weeks, cleaning wards and helping to feed patients. They were given just two weeks of training.
This scheme is not only exploitative to the jobseekers themselves but an insult to NHS workers and a risk to patient safety.
Union representatives at the trust’s hospitals said that they had been consulted about the scheme and has consented, but only if the participants were not involved in direct patient care.
That they consented at all is a worrying sign; trade union activists must fight to ensure that the labour movement takes a firm line against “workfare” schemes and fights to decent unemployment benefits for all who need them, and a shorter working week (with no loss of pay) to create jobs.