Uproar at JobBridge scheme escalates

  • Weekend protests over exploitative practice at car repair company
  • Minister for Social Welfare defends advertisement for PhD candidates
  • JobBridge “broken beyond repair” – USI

Controversy over the latest JobBridge scandal culminated in protests in Dublin and Cork on Saturday, two days after the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) declared that the national internship scheme is “broken beyond repair”. The demonstrations held this weekend in Dublin and Cork were organised by Socialist MEP, Paul Murphy, the founder of “ScamBridge”, a website that highlights abuses of the national internship scheme. They took place at the main offices of Advance Pitstop, an Irish car repair company, in Dublin and Cork.

The company in question recently announced  its decision to seek 28 interns from the scheme. Advance Pitstop claimed that the interns would “gain practical experience”. However, Murphy claims that the firm is only interested in saving of ¤400,000 in wages that will be made through hiring such a large number of interns. The garage franchise previously hired 20 people on the scheme but failed to offer employment to a single intern after the completion of their nine month placement.

Advance Pitstop has defended itself against claims that it is responsible for undermining the scheme. “All JobBridge participants benefit from the investment in training by Advance Pitstop, and are trained and supervised by staff to the high standards dictated by our customer care policy,” the company said in a statement on Wednesday. “Many participants have subsequently progressed to permanent employment. Indeed, over 10% of our current full-time staff initially joined the company on such a scheme, including two of our branch managers.”

The Facebook event page created by Murphy’s ScamBridge campaign to promote Saturday’s protests disagreed, claiming, “These are jobs not internships! JobBridge is a scheme based on slave labour and the exploitation of the unemployed and should be scrapped.”

It was revealed last week that the JobBridge scheme had been allowing companies to advertise positions for candidates with “minimum” of a PhD degree.

The company in question, ClaroChem Ireland, noted that although “no experience (is) required”, any applicants should be “keen to develop their industrial experience in a busy pharmaceutical/chemical manufacturing plant.” A prospective intern would be expected to work a 39-hour week for six months, being paid only 50 euros per week.

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has condemned the advertisement, stating in a press release on Thursday that, “JobBridge is broken beyond repair”. The union added that, “We need proper internships, training opportunities and upskilling in Ireland. But they need to provide adequate monitoring, oversight and regulation. Clearly, in far too many instances, JobBridge is failing in that regard.” USI recently called for JobBridge to be phased out in its policy document, “Vision for Post-Bailout Ireland”.

However, minister for social protection, Joan Burton, defended ClaroChem, noting that JobBridge can include job advertisements for candidates with all kinds of qualifications. There is no reason, Burton noted, that graduates with a PhD cannot use JobBridge to further their employment prospects. “If a PhD (graduate) is unemployed, of all the people we should expect in this country to be in a position to get good employment, they are the people who have qualified with PhDs,” she said at the “Feeding Ireland’s Future” conference in Dublin. “If doing this helps them get back into the workforce, and I know a number of cases of people who have degrees and post-graduate degrees. . . well then it’s all for the good.”

Fianna Fail job spokesperson, Dara Calleary, meanwhile, has described Burton’s attitude as “dismissive” towards PhD graduates. He said that ClaroChem’s advertisement was an example of companies abusing the JobBridge scheme to their own advantage, all the while “undermining” its purpose. Calleary told the Irish Independent that, “JobBridge should be about giving people experience and a feel for the workplace. It should never have been designed to be targeted at PhD students. People are getting very suspicious of all of the Government’s job creation claims and this is just compounding that suspicion.”