Students protest expansion of JobBridge scheme

Socialist MEP Paul Murphy has described the extension of the government’s JobBridge scheme as “super-exploitation” of workers, claiming that the scheme should be phased out altogether as it “normalises people working for free.”Murphy was speaking as students took to the city centre streets on the 5th of October to protest against the expansion of the scheme by Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton.The protestors, consisting mainly of student union groups, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) Youth, the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), and UNITE Youth voiced their frustration at the Minister’s decision to extend the length of time a worker can remain on an internship from 9 months to 18 months.The organisers of the, a campaign focused on exposing the JobBridge scheme, were also present in support.JobBridge started in July 2011, with the Department of Social Justice describing the programme as an opportunity for unemployed young people to up-skill in order to be desired candidates for future permanent positions of work. A system of monitoring was to be introduced in order to ensure interns were not being exploited and were gaining valuable skills and experience.According to Murphy there is not enough man power or money to ensure the positions are monitored. He claims that you can “look at any of the jobs on any given day and see that they aren’t really internships.”UCD Students’ Union (UCDSU) President, Micheal Gallagher said, “The JobBridge scheme is something that may have been abused by certain employers in the scheme. UCDSU believes that the scheme is something that must be closely scrutinised so as that there are not internships that are simply doing menial unskilled work without training.”Since the scheme became effective, 5,000 people previously unemployed for more than three months were given internships of either six or nine months. The aim of the scheme was to assist in breaking the cycle where jobseekers are unable to get a job without experience. Participants on the scheme could continue to claim their unemployment benefits and would receive a €50 upskilling bonus in addition .Minister Burton hailed the project as “a job interview for a longer period of employment,” hoping that “some employers who, through JobBridge, find talented and motivated interns can make the decision to offer employment to their intern.”The recent protest and emergence of anti-JobBridge websites highlights the growing discontent among many at what they see as the failures of the scheme. Still, Gallagher adds that, “If the extension of the scheme is structured and monitored that there’s real opportunity to have a job at the end of it, then that’s something that UCDSU is in favour of.”