Nyttejobs. Community service jobs. Emergency jobs. The positions, brought in as part of the government’s job package to get the unemployed back into the workforce, have been called several names.
Councils have been forced to get creative at coming up with work for the unemployed, but Horsen’s council may have stepped over the line
Workers put into a nyttejob in Horsens were asked to clean private vehicles belonging to the staff at the jobcentre in Horsens. A sheet was hung on the wall at the centre where staff could sign up to have the interior of their cars vacuumed and polished.
Betina Steufer, a member of the Horsens city council, was appalled when she was informed of the practice.
"It amazes me that there was not a single person at the job centre, who realised that this is fundamentally wrong,” she told Jyllands-Posten.
Steufer questioned the centre’s management about the practice – which she felt it had the connotation of masters and servants. The management halted the practice in June.
A bad idea
Section head Peter Poulsen confirmed that one or two workers cleaned about 12 vehicles belonging to jobcentre employees over a period of about one month.
“They were trying to find a way to put people to work,” said Poulsen. “It is a really bad idea, but that is what happens when you try to find ideas; some of them turn out bad.”
Poulsen said that as soon as he heard about the practice, he pulled the plug, and he sees no reason to blame the rank-and-file employees for jumping on the chance to have their cars cleaned.
“If an employee is offered a service, they naturally assume that the offer is acceptable,” he said. “It is up to the management to make those assessments.”
One employee said that the sign-up sheet was full of employees willing to pay the 60 kroner fee to drop off their keys and have their car cleaned when it was their turn.
Unions and politicians are asking employment minister Mette Frederiksen to look into abuse of the nyttejob program. They fear not only that workers are being asked to do unacceptable jobs, but that they are often doing tasks that normally would be performed by regular employees, saving the councils money, but forcing regular employees out of work.
The nyttejob program is part of government reforms that came into force at the start of the year. They require that the unemployed and those not in school do some sort of community service job in order to receive their unemployment benefits.