Jubilee workers 'had to sleep rough in London'
THE city's council leader has said that he will investigate a claim that workers bussed to London were left to sleep rough.
Cllr Tudor Evans tweeted yesterday that he would be seeking a report from Plymouth City Council after it was claimed a number of long-term unemployed and apprentices, were sent from Plymouth to the capital to work for less than £3 an hour during the Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
Some of the stewards, who were said to have been involved as part of the Government's Work Programme, voiced a range of complaints, including that they were left to sleep under London Bridge ahead of going on duty at the £12million river pageant on Saturday.
"I have asked @plymcc officers for a report into how Plymouth work programme members ended up sleeping rough in London," said Cllr Evans' tweet last night.
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The comment was re-tweeted more than 35 times last night.
The revelations – made in a national newspaper – have been condemned by Labour's former deputy leader, Lord Prescott, as "totally unacceptable".
In a letter to Home Secretary Theresa May, he has called for an investigation into the allegations, which surfaced in The Guardian.
It said up to 30 jobseekers and another 50 people on apprentice wages of £2.60 an hour, spent a long day working in the soaking wet weather.
One woman said: "London was supposed to be a nice experience, but they left us in the rain.
"They couldn't care less … no-one is supposed to be treated like that, [working] for free."
A 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 had been told they would be paid for the Jubilee job, but were later told it would be an unpaid role.
They also claimed that if they did not accept they would not be considered for well-paid work at the Olympics.
The security firm Close Protection UK has defended its role, saying the under-25s in the group were paid the Government's standard rate for apprentices.
The remainder either accepted the same rate or refused because they were concerned about the impact this would have on their benefits.
The firm said it paid the expenses of the staff at the event, including their licence fee.
CPUK managing director Molly Prince told The Guardian: "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 company said the early morning drop-off was due to a misunderstanding on the part of one of the coach drivers.
The charity Tomorrow's People, which set up the placements as part of the Government's scheme to get the long-term unemployed into work, told The Guardian it would review the matter, but emphasised the value of voluntary work.
Mr Evans was unavailable to comment further last night.
Were you one of the workers involved? Contact The Herald newsroom on 01752 765529.