IBEC and the government, as part of their ongoing campaign to undermine the wages and conditions of workers in Ireland, have teamed up to create the Gradlink scheme.

By Richard O’Hara

This scheme allows social welfare recipients, who have recently graduated from college, to work on placement schemes for private firms and multinational corporations, while maintaining their dole payments. Its apparent aim is to provide participants with work experience and to improve their employment potential. However, the real experience these highly skilled young workers will get, is that of capitalist exploitation as they work for sub-minimum wages and are used as part of the relentless attack to drive down wages in Ireland.

Companies who participate in the scheme can hire as many interns as they like, and are not required to pay these employees. Thus, they can undercut the minimum wage with state-provided cheap labour.

Amongst the companies who are taking part in the scheme are Microsoft Ireland, Baxter Healthcare Ireland and IBM Ireland, whose parent companies made global profits of $17 billion, $2 billion and $12 billion respectively in 2008. This in itself shows the farcical and unfair nature of the scheme, with hugely profitable global companies being allowed to take advantage of the economic crisis to undercut wages.

Since the beginning of the current recession, IBEC have been to the forefront of the campaign to persuade us that wage levels are too high, that we’re living beyond our means. They, along with the government, have used the recession to try to force down living standards, repeating the mantra that we’ve lost wage competitiveness, despite the evidence to the contrary. Everyone knows that the government, in league with property developers and bankers, caused this crisis, and now backed up by big business and its representantives, are using it to attack workers and the unemployed.

Youth unemployment stands at 32.4% in Ireland. Many young people are being forced to emigrate in search of employment. Providing temporary cheap labour jobs to private companies will not solve this appalling unemployment crisis. Young workers and students need real jobs, not state-subsidised slave-labour for rich multinational companies.


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