Local MP Diane Abbott has urged Government officials to prioritise jobs for East London youths during the construction of Olympic facilities.
Highlighting ‘high levels of unemployment’ and poverty in the five Olympic ‘host boroughs,’ which include Tower Hamlets and Hackney, Abbott this week tabled a Commons motion to draw attention to the paucity of employment opportunities offered to local people in the build-up to the 2012 Games.
The Hackney North and Stoke Newington representative called on lawmakers to improve efforts to recruit local employees for Olympic construction works, arguing that East London workers are not currently benefiting from the building projects.
In the motion, Abbott suggests that the Government ‘set targets to encourage recruitment of unemployed youngsters locally between now and 2012,’ insisting that ‘further prioritisation by officials is needed in order to leave a true legacy for host boroughs.’
At present, only around 20% of workers on the Olympic sites are from one of the five host boroughs – which also include Waltham Forest, Newham and Greenwich – and only 53% are Londoners.
Olympics authorities have maintained that measures are in place to encourage local recruitment, including apprenticeship opportunities and exclusive early access to advertised vacancies.
They also claim that ‘community relations’ and ‘equality and inclusion’ are high on their list of priorities, stating that their aim is to: ‘promote inclusion and have a significant impact on reducing historic and long-standing inequalities [in the host boroughs].’
Yet, as Abbott has pointed out, only four of the apprentices on the Olympic site are from Hackney, a borough which last month was declared the UK’s worst ‘unemployment blackspot’ in a report by the Trade Union Congress.
Jane Holgate, Secretary of the Hackney Trades Union Council, told EastLondonLines: “Trade unions have been concerned since London won the bid to host the 2012 Olympics to ensure that a percentage of the many thousands of jobs involved in constructing the site should be made available to local people.”
“Hackney has one of the highest rates of unemployment in the country and it would have really benefited these and many young people to have been provided with apprenticeships in order that they can get into work.”
“The Olympics should have provided this opportunity but unfortunately this has not been the case,” she continued. “Although the Olympic Delivery Authority set targets for the employment of workers from the host boroughs these were set far too low – such that only a tiny number of local workers have benefited from this huge development project.”
“Hackney TUC has been calling for the numbers of local workers to be increased but the call has been unheeded. It is a real tragedy that this opportunity to provide young people in Hackney with the skills to gain a trade have been lost.”
In a speech on the subject published on her website, Abbott said: “For the Olympics to be a genuine success for this country, for London and for the five east end host boroughs, the people who live in Hackney, Newham, Tower Hamlets and the other Olympic boroughs must believe that they really will benefit from hosting the event.”
“Otherwise, the people of the east end will be like children pressing their noses against a window when something exciting and glamorous is happening on the other side.”