UK Politics

Cait Reilly and Poundland

Cait Reilly is taking legal action after being forced to take a two week unpaid ‘internship’ in Poundland or lose her benefits.  Reilly, a geology graduate, was undertaking voluntary work in a museum in the hope of improving her chances of getting a job.  She is being portrayed by some as an over fastidious middle class scrounger who thinks a low level job is beneath her.  Here’s Jan Moir writing (well, sneering mostly) in the Daily Mail:

I would argue that a little perspective might not go amiss, even from a typical 22-year-old graduate who knows everything and has big ideas about what she wants to do in the world.

I would also argue that her stance is deeply insulting to those whose jobs actually do entail sweeping floors and stacking shelves. And who do so without complaint to feed their own families and to help to pay Cait Reilly’s benefits allowances. For nobody owes this girl a living. Least of all those who work for a living.

But her case is very different from that of someone who was offered a legitimate, if uncongenial, job at the minimum wage and then turned it down. She is being paid nothing on top of her benefits for her work, and Poundland is getting a worker on the cheap, potentially depriving someone of a proper job, and subverting the whole principle of the minimum wage.  In a different economic climate one might wonder whether Cait Reilly was doing everything she could to track down a (real) job. But with an unemployment rate of 8.3% or so, there simply aren’t enough jobs to go round.  I can’t say for sure, obviously, that she was making every reasonable effort to find a job, but plenty of people are clearly trying, and failing, to find work at the moment. If you want to pick on someone who seems happy to get something for nothing – pick on the corporations who are getting cheap labour, enabling them to increase their profits.

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