Our town will see a much awaited (has only taken 15 years in planning and developing!) retail park that is due to open in March. There is the promise of 300 jobs with the big name retailers, but as my son can verify there are some sinister things afoot if you are aged 18+ looking for a job in this sector.
I'll start with the minimum wage - a flagship policy the Labour Party can be proud of, a much awaited and heralded wage that protects the low paid. However, probably in order to appease employers it is not without serious flaws. It segregates workers seriously by age. Age 16-18 you recieve £3.68 ph,
18-21 £4.98 and 21+ £6.19. Shockingly apprentices aged under 19 get £2.68 in their first year.
Prestatyn is a small seaside town. Many people know each other or know someone through a friend of a friend. The following week Vincent received a rejection email. He was upset, but that quickly turned to bewilderment when via facebook he learnt that indeed the Full Time positions had gone to older people aged 30+ but ALLof the part time posts had gone to females aged 17. One of the females was the non contributor in his group. He could not understand how she had got the job. He did some research and asked round and soon a pattern was emerging. More and more people he knew of his own age who had some experience in retail had not even reached the interview stage, yet Employers were taking on unprecedented numbers of Under 18 year olds. It also emerged that a few retailers who were closing shops in local towns like Rhyl were having to bring existing staff to the retail park to their new shops and so these "new jobs" did not exist. To further compound matters after I did some research, I ascertained that of these 300 jobs approximately 85% of them are Part Time. Part Time starts from 10 hours pw and seems to average out at around 16 hours in most cases.
Two employers are not advertising jobs at all. One was heavily involved in the WorkFare fiasco. This employer has gone through the Job Centre for recruitment. Vincent asked his Job Centre advisor if he could apply for one of their posts but was told he could not as he was not one of the long term unemployed and these posts were being offered to them only. He was understandably annoyed when he overheard someone nearby being told " they had to apply" for these jobs. The man was not interested so the advisor told him he would fill in the application on his behalf and send it to the employer himself! The man replied that the advisor could do what he liked but he would turn up for the interview as he did'nt want to be sanctioned but he would "make sure" he didn't get the job. Sat in the next seat to him is Vincent who would dearly love that job, but could not apply, as he hadn't been unemployed long enough to fit the criteria for application. There are indeed those who know the system and seek to cheat it, but there are those like my son doing everything possible to get a job and beeing denied open opportunities to apply. WRONG!
The second employer went a different route through the Job Centre and Vincent has applied as they have heavily vetted who is able to apply. Vincent had an interview at the Job Centre and filled in the application form to see if he could be put forward for an actual interview with the firm. He has been put forward and will go to the formal interview next week. Lot of rings to jump through but he has at least succeeded to interview stage.
But after several interviews and getting through to final stages, he feels it is not what he wears, not what he says, not even how he comes across, but his age is holding him back, as from later this spring he is 21 and will be on the adult minimum wage, and employers can make huge savings in employing younger people.
Solution: Get employers round a table. Scrap the Minimum Wage which is tiered and either have a wonderful opportunity in bringing in a Living Wage for all Workers, or scrap this ridiculous tiered system for the Minimum Wage and bring in a flate rate for all Workers at £6.19ph. Whether you are 16, 21 or 45 you are a worker who should be valued for the work you do by your employer. This would end the employers seeking to take advantage of ofering 16-18 year olds a vastly inferior minimum wage. This Government will not entertain it, but the next Labour Government must look into it and "root out" these employers who are taking advantage of the minimum wage age apartheid system we have currently.
Vincent for the record although initially deflated, has irons in the fire. He has been provisionally accepted to go on "Camp America" his seasonal employment starts back in March should he wish to go back, he has an interview for one of the retail park part time positions, and after badgering his Job Centre Advisor he is starting a LifeGuard course on Feb 11th. There are quite a few pools and jobs available on the coast and places are always looking for qualified lifeguards. As he says, it also looks like he is not wasting his time while being unemployed and he can add the course to his CV. Again these courses are routinely offered to the Long Term Unemployed as these people keep coming up on the stats for the press, yet the newly unemployed are not offered these courses unless they pester a bit. All unemployed people, regardless of how long and how old they are, should be offered courses and help to get back into work immediatley and not just for those whose stats "embarass" the Government of the day.
If any MP influential person reads this blog, please take these points on board and act upon them or we will end up with another young generation on the scrapheap. A Living Wage for all please.