A Cardiff solar panel company, Becoming Green, has sacked workers in favour of getting inmates from a nearby prison to work for just £3 a day – 6% of the minimum wage.
The Ministry of Justice has confirmed that dozens of workers from Prescoed prison inSouth Wales have done “work experience” for at least two months at the rate of 40p an hour in the company’s call centre.
Becoming Green has said they are proud to be supporting [- and profiting from] prisoner rehabilitation. The company also confirmed that since it started using prisoners, it had fired other workers.
Andy Richards, Unite Wales secretary, said: “This looks likes a disgraceful and worrying development which follows the UK government’s already discredited Workfare scheme.
While we support rehabilition of prisoners, including providing useful training and help finding jobs, it’s clear that the company motivation is profit not philanthropy. While some prisoners appear to be paid minimum wage, would the company be so keen to employ loads of prisoners if they couldn’t get them on the cheap?
It is crucial that prisoners are given the opportunity to learn new skills and the chance of rehabilitation, but this shouldn’t be at the expense of other workers jobs and shouldn’t involve them being taken granted and paid peanuts.
Instead the government should be investing in schemes to retrain and employ ex-prisoners, providing them with a secure economic and social basis to restart their life. The cost of this would be more than saved by the reduced rate of re-offending.