Supermarket Checkout Blues

A few months ago, the Irish government announced the implementation of a new employment scheme named JobBridge. As its name suggests, the scheme provides a link between unemployment and permanent employment and offers people out of work the chance to gain experience in the workplace and give them a better chance of future employment. The main criteria for jobseekers are that they are unemployed and seeking work, are receiving specific social welfare payments, and have been signing on for at least three months. The internship lasts for either six or nine months and the successful applicants will receive a payment of €50 on top of their social welfare payments. This extra payment is paid by the government and not by the employer. The rate of social welfare is €188 per week, though this drops to €100 or €150 for those between the ages of 18 and 24

The minimum requirement for businesses is that they have at least one person in their employ who works at least thirty hours per week. The organisation may not offer an internship to an existing employee nor may it be used to replace an employee. Similarly, the internship may not be used to fill any current vacancies within the company. Internships are used all over the world to provide experience for students and young people seeking employment. There is often no payment for these positions, though the role may lead to full-time employment within the organisation. In contrast, Irish applicants are not only allowed to keep their social welfare payment, but they also get an extra €50 in their pockets. Of course, that extra payment would most likely be eaten up in travel and meal expenses. Nevertheless, the scheme offers those out of work the opportunity to enhance their future job prospects and maybe even give them the chance to impress their lucky employers

The scheme has also drawn its fair share of criticism from those who suggest that it’s merely a form of cheap labour for the companies involved at the expense of the interns and the taxpayer. Further criticism has been levelled at a number of opportunistic businesses and the type of placements that they are offering. Yesterday, I was appalled to read in about a fast one pulled by one of the biggest retailers in Ireland. Despite the economic downturn, the British supermarket giant, Tesco, made a profit of nearly €4 million in the twelve months up to the end of February this year. Well, it seems that in an attempt to further maximise profits for next year the company has decided to use the JobBridge scheme to take on more than a hundred Customer Service interns in their stores across Dublin. You can read the full text of the (poorly-written) advertised position, which no longer seems to be available on the Job Bridge site, at

The intern will gain practical experience in retail excellence in an exciting and fast moving environment. The role is to help our customers get what they want by filling shelves according to merchandising plans and ensuring that Customers do not have to queue. The intern will gain skills such as rotation of stock, customer service skills, management of waste and damages, merchandising to plans routines. The intern will receive a full induction, Department specific training and Tesco Options training.

So, essentially this Customer Service internship will include such skilled tasks as shelf-stacking and cleaning up spillages. I’m not sure how interns will ensure “that Customers don’t have to queue”. Do they distract them by telling them about the “exciting and fast moving environment” in which they’re employed? No, I think it’s more likely they’ll gain further experience by learning how to gauge the most effective method of inserting the customers’ purchases in their grocery bags in as efficient a period of time as possible. The position would seem to begin around the middle of November and lasts for six months. This coincides with the busy Christmas period, a time when retail outlets will all be taking on new staff to cope with the extra business created by the festive period. Surely, it doesn’t take a genius to see that this contravenes one of the central tenets of the JobBridge scheme. This is obviously a brazen attempt by Tesco to get the Irish public to pay for extra staff for the busiest retail time of the year and to save them around €300 a week for every intern they take on. My local Tesco is only five minutes away from where I live, but I think it’s time to start looking elsewhere. Check out today’s special offers below that begin with an ode to Tesco workers by Carl J Jackson

Tesco Workers – Carl J Jackson

Supermarket Nightmare – Johnny O’Donnell

Slave Driver – Bob Marley & the Wailers

Supermarket Checkout Blues – Forget-Me-Nots

Slave To The Wage – Placebo

Lost in the Supermarket (Clash cover) – Afghan Whigs


2 thoughts on “Supermarket Checkout Blues

    • Yes, there have been instances in Ireland where Tesco launch an aggressive price campaign for a while. Local small businesses can’t compete and have to close and then Tesco push the price back up again. I have also heard from people that work there that new staff are often made to work past their scheduled finishing time to complete their task, but do not get paid for this. Fortunately, the Irish government is going to look into this latest JobBridge incident, though that may not do much good

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