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Youth :: Apprenticeships
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In October last year I began my apprenticeship as a spray painter. This has not offered a route out of poverty. With an hourly wage of £3.52 an hour, it has just been a route to super-exploitation.
At the age of 20, I want to move out of my family home and get a place of my own, but with a tiny income and entitled to no benefits, this is near impossible.
Young apprentices are seen as a good source of cheap labour that can be easily replaced if we step out of line and start to demand better pay, working conditions and an end to bullying from management.
Many friends of mine have started work in the construction industry, only to be sacked within a year.
I work in a factory alongside skilled joiners and sprayers. Around half of the workforce lost their job after the onset of the economic crisis.
Double pay for overtime was slashed to time and a half. Even the Christmas night out was something that the bosses wouldn't cough up money for.
With 50 hour weeks common, some of the joiners joke that they may as well build themselves a bed as it feels as if they barely leave the factory! This is a complete scandal when thousands of joiners and construction workers are unable to find lasting employment.
On my first day I approached the shop steward to ask for a union registration form and quickly joined the GMB.
I am known among the apprentices at my tech college for being an active socialist. Some have come to me recently asking me to sign them up to a trade union as they want protection at work.
The unionisation of apprentices is important and I will continue to encourage it. Some argue that unions aren't for apprentices, but as one of the lowest paid and most precarious sections of the working class we urgently need to organise to protect our interests as much as any other worker has to.
The scandal of sub-minimum wage pay for apprentices must be taken up by socialists and trade unionists.
The campaign led by Socialist Alternative (co-thinkers of the Socialist Party) in the US for a $15 dollar an hour minimum wage has struck a chord with many workers struggling to make ends meet.
A campaign in Britain for a £10 an hour minimum wage, the ending of the pay freeze and a maximum working week of 35 hours without loss of pay, would resonate with the working class the length and breadth of Britain.
We must also continue to campaign for a programme of public works to end the scandal of youth unemployment.
We cannot allow the bosses to drive us into the dirt in their attempt to drag their system out of crisis.
It is also crucial that the TUC now names the day for a 24-hour general strike. This must involve workers in the public sector, but also the private sector.
Private sector workers coming out on strike would allow the labour movement to strike a decisive blow to the bosses where it really hurts - their profits!
■ The civil servants union PCS has pointed out that cuts recently announced to England's Skills Funding Agency will mean a 40% reduction in the number of staff working on apprenticeships.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "with youth unemployment remaining high it makes no sense to take an axe to the staff who provide vital help and support for skills and apprenticeships.
"Cuts on this scale would not only be a tragedy for the individuals who lose their jobs, but also for school leavers, students, apprentices and businesses."
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Article dated 5 February 2014
The Socialist, weekly newspaper of the Socialist Party
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