We are shocked and outraged by revelations that a green energy firm, Becoming Green, has been using prisoners to staff its call centres. The company, based in Cardiff, has been bussing in prisoners from nearby and paying them as little as 40p an hour (£3 a day). After this was revealed, HMP announced it had plans to move entire call centres into prisons. This is a form of 21st century slavery, where rehabilitation is scrapped in favour of hyper-exploitation. It is, in the words of the Unite union, dickensian. If Becoming Green is a test case for this, we should be very concerned. As well as using inmates as almost free labour it has sacked 17 fully paid workers since December, with prisoners now accounting for 15% of the workforce. At the moment in Britain 1 in 12 people are unemployed while more than 20% of young people aged 16-24 are without work. The scheme proposed by HMP will only accelerate this trend as firms outsource operations into prisons in a bid to boost profits. It will also, no doubt, create a competitive downward pressure on wages. In the midst of a recession, with GDP and living standards tumbling, these measures will not aid recovery but lead the economy further into the quagmire it’s in. As with the governments workfare scheme, ‘prisonfare’ is a policy aimed at massively increasing the profits of a handful of people while entrenching poverty for the majority. It is vital that the trade union movement acts to stop this attack on jobs and incomes – and to defend those who are suffering at the sharp end of this exploitation. We offer our full support for action which calls for Becoming Green to withdraw and for the government scheme to be scrapped. Bob Crow – RMT General Secretary Andy Richards – Unite Wales General Secretary Belinda Robinson – Unite Wales Regional Women’s and Equalities Officer Ian Hodson - National President, Bakers Food & Allied Workers Union Seb Cooke – Right To Work South Wales Marianne Owens – Vice Chair PCS Wales Steve West – PCS DWP Group Executive Anne Greagsby – Green Party Wales Campaign Co-ordinator Daniel De’Ath – Cardiff councillor Celia Love – Cardiff councillor Glenn Page – Plaid Cymru Ifanc (Plaid Cymru Youth) Richard Morse, Secretary Torfaen Trades Council Dr Liza van Zyl, UCU Wales vice chair Andrew Wilkes Wales Rep, Unite National Construction Rank and File Committee Cerith Griffiths Wales FBU Chair Ramon Corria, Secretary Cardiff Trades Council Clive Taylor, Branch Organiser, PCS South East Wales Branch Andrew Jinks, Plaid Cymru and Unite community member Jon Gamble – Secretary, Watford Trades Council Sean Wallis – Branch secretary, UCL UCU Adam Johannes, Cardiff Unemployed Daytime Disco Mark Dunk – Right to Work and Unite community member Andy Parsons PCS Jaime Davies USDAW Charlotte Bence Unison Amelia Barker Sophie Roberts
Following last weeks protest Right to Work South Wales has initiated an open letter challenging the use of prison labour to replace call centre workers in Cardiff.
Activists are also building for another demonstration outside the offices of Becoming Green this week.